This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Something is wrong with the jury process when there is $276,000 available to pay artists for public art and not one of the artists selected to create something is from Orillia, or even Atherley.

Of the artists chosen to make art intended to be installed in 6 locations around town, 4 of them aren’t even from this province.

This is like having a process to pick 6 songs representing Orillia and Gordon Lightfoot not making the cut. Could you imagine it? Do you think the community might be in a bit of an uproar if all the songwriters chosen were unknown in this community and Gord couldn’t get past the door?  That we couldn’t find 5 other songwriters from Orillia who we do know of, and people elsewhere know of, and none of them got chosen? It’s absurd.

Some unknown entity gave the City the money for the project and we effectively sent it right back out of town.

I have had this issue with these kinds of contests in the past when the municipality is involved in sending word out we need something. It doesn’t have to be art related, but could be, say, be a school building, or a library, or new pickup trucks.

Wait, we interrupt this rant for a moment to remember the City does shop locally for vehicles because we have dealerships for all the brands and it would be embarrassing if they went to Paul Sadlon Motors for quotes when Jim Wilson’s is right down the street.

Turns out it’s not an interruption but figures into my argument. When the criteria for selection is drafted there ought to be points (all tenders and projects like this use a scorecard to make sure there is no aspect of the benchmarks missed) awarded for being local – like 10 points and 9 if you’re from Washago, zero beyond that.

Water Plant Mural by Soon Cho

But, that’s’ not fair I’ve been told by the people who get paycheques from the City. Somewhere in bureaucrat school they’ve been taught if you buy from your neighbour and don’t allow Wally from Dildo, NFLD to bid you’re not doing the best for property tax payers. They put that into the purchasing by-law and procedures and council went along with it. This is dumb and the policy is dumb. Well intentioned from their perspective, I guess, but dumb.

This is how local contractors who hire local tradespeople get shutout of building many of our edifices when they build exactly the same kinds of buildings elsewhere. We have two such contractors which come to mind. I’ve read the reports on bids and tenders and sometimes the locals are not the cheapest by a lot (which is usually the deciding factor) and sometimes off by only 2 to 5 %. I argue that small difference at least stays in the community and shouldn’t matter.

Some people, and I am one, might even think it’s hypocritical of the City to pay lip service to the Shop Local campaign (which memory tells me originated with the chamber of commerce) and to have other marketing campaigns (See You on the Patio) to encourage you to spend your money with local merchants when they think they have no such obligation to spend your tax dollars at home.

I’ll run out to Rama and put all your money against not one single artist in town, or from Price’s Corners submitted a concept. (we’ll split the wining 70/30, OK?) Frankly there is no way in hell the process is fair when that much money is on the line and none of your neighbours got selected.

I’m embarrassed none of the dozen or so artists I know personally, and you do too, who are imaginative and capable of meeting the specifications for workmanship weren’t on the selection list – and everyone connected with handing that much money out should be too. I just couldn’t look any of these people in the face knowing I had a hand in giving the business to someone I never heard of, who has no involvement in our community.

Change the policy so this kind of stuff doesn’t happen again.

Concert Reviews

Saturday kicked off the Christmas season with the Orillia Concert Band’s Christmas Prelude At St. Paul’s Centre. The band is sounding better each time out of late. They did many of the usual tunes, the Orillia Vocal Ensemble was along to perform and the audience did their best to sing in tune when the band played the sing-a-long bits.

The highlight was a completely unexpected contribution from Blair Bailey. The band did a reading of ‘Twas the night Before Christmas. The band’s contribution was comical and maybe only a little less so than Blair doing the reading. He came out dressed like a Tennessee hillbilly and affected a voice and cadence of the same. His dramatic pauses and inflection served to leave many people gasping for air from laughing too hard.

I never knew Blair had the ability to play a comedic role, and many people I spoke with were equally impressed. The OVE did A Few Of My Favourite Things, which is I think the first time in decades I’ve heard it done live. It’s not like I’ve suggested it as something to include in the next Christmas concerts, but I usually get quizzical, sideways looks when I do so. It is a Christmas tune. In fact I know of a killer arrangement done by Ken Norman, an arranger the Orillia Silver Band used for Christmas medleys the two previous Christmas concerts they performed.

The next afternoon Brassworks was the anchor of a Christmas concert held at the Salvation Army Citadel. They had a new group called the 4ht Street Jazz Project along to play, and Christina Bosco as well as another new group – the combined choirs of Twin Lakes and OSS.

About 4th Street. The info I had said a small group, so I said they were a jazz combo, which most people would take to mean 4 or 5 players on different instruments. I was wrong. There were 7 just in the trumpet and rhythm section. It was closer in size to being a big band with 5 saxes and 4 trombones included.

I liked all the charts they played, good jazz arrangements of Christmas tunes. They also played In The Stone and Night In Tunisia. Both well done, though I would have counted in Stone at a bit faster tempo.

Christina has the power of two voices and good sensibility and interpretation of jazz idiom. The choir was singing pretty strongly. Both bands played for equal time and combined for a runthrough of a fresh arrangement by Curtis Metcalf of the Game of Thrones theme mashed with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Everyone was on stage for a reprise of Copacabana from October’s Orillia Jazz Festival.

Concerts Ahead

The Cellar Singers’s Christmas concert is Sunday, December 11 at St. James’ Anglican Church at 4 p.m. They will do music old and new written by Elmer Iseler, Eleanor Daley, Brian Emery, and Albert Greer. The centerpiece of the concert is Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria. For that they have soloists Alexandra Teske, Autumn Debassige, and Mary-Jayne Van Pypen joining them. You can get tickets online. They’re $25, or $10 if you are under 30.

Tom Hutchinson

The Orillia Silver Band once again holds the last date for a Christmas concert December 18 at the Opera House at 2 p.m. They have a guest, Tom Hutchinson, performing with them. He’s from the U.K. and is principal cornetist with the Cory Band.

In the U.K. brass bands are a big thing and the Cory Band the biggest of them because they compete nationally and in Europe. The Cory Band is the current European champ. You may be more familiar with the Black Dyke band because they used to occupy the position Cory has taken over. Black Dyke was the king of the hill for so long their reputation precedes them, but Cory is it now. They won the European championship 7 times in the last 15 years and Hutchinson is the top horn tooter, so this is kind of a big deal to have him here in town.

Hutchinson will be featured on three tunes and the band will play stuff by Holst, Sparke and Tchaikovsky. The band also takes requests at the end of their program. Don’t be surprised if you hear someone shouting for Sleigh Ride. Yeah, yeah, the OCB played it last week, but it’s the best Christmas tune and hearing it done by the OSB on repeat wouldn’t be a bad thing because they play the heck out of it.

You can find tickets online for this concert, or get them at the door.

If you don’t mind people talking between tunes, maybe going to a reading of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is for you. Blair Bailey is organizing the musical interludes between staves. Dressed for Success and Green Haven Shelter For Women are using this as a joint fundraiser. It happens December 16 at 7 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre. The readers will be Don McIsaac, Marci and Kyla Csumrik and Krista Storey. You can get tickets online.

The Shorts

  • Congrats to Doug Bunker for winning the Gord Blake Visionary Award at the Boating Ontario Conference held at Deerhurst November 29.  Of course that’s for all his pioneering work with our boat shows and the Perch Festival. Too bad Santa doesn’t have one for being a good Elf and organizing our Santa Clause Parade, but I’m sure he knows we all appreciate him.
  • Duck Soup Productions has created a musical revue of Broadway show tunes called Love Yourself and they’ll perform it December 10 and 11 at the Opera House. Tickets are available online.
  • Ian McRae and Ralston Harris are hosting a show, Brighter Days: A Night Of Ho Ho Hope at the legion Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. Performing are the Old Dance Hall Players, Anthony Mignella, Alex Black and Greg Martin, and Brian Adams will have some words to say. Tickets are $20 at the door and it’s a fundraiser for The Snaring Place.
  • Jay Fallis wrote a book of humourous stories called Ireland Awakening: A Post Covid-19 Travel Story. It tells the tale of a young man wandering the Emerald Isle and the adventures ensuing with the people he meets. It’s available now at Manticore Books.
  • You can still take the DOMB’s survey to give feedback about your experience with the See You On The Patio program of last summer. Orillia council got an interim report on the results from over 700 contributions and you can see read some of the highlights here. The survey period is extended so more businesses can contribute. It doesn’t take long to do and you can find it online.
  • Mariposa House Hospice has New Year’s Eve fundraiser happening at Hawk Ridge Golf Club (guess the date). You can get a table for 8 ($1200) by calling 705-327-1610; extension 104, or email
  • The City and the DOMB have a contest happening called the Orillia Discover Downtown Goosechase Scavenger Hunt. It uses the Goosechase app which you can get from Apple, or with the Google Play Store. There are 50 missions to choose from to complete, such as uploading a receipt from a Wednesday night date, finding the Elf and getting a photo, or a photo of your favourite store, etc. There are weekly prizes worth $300 and a grand prize of $1,000 of Downtown Dollars good at most stores. The contest runs to December 31.
  • The Coldwater Studio Tour isn’t until next June, but if you are an artist and want to participate visit their website to find out how to apply.
  • OMAH’s annual Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition is up; also up is Sylvia Tesori’s The Man Who Could Fly; The Girl Who Flies In Her Dreams solo show and The History Of Orillia In 50 Artefacts exhibit  – which is being turned into a book; the late Phil Jackman was instrumental in putting the exhibit together and the content for the book; the book launch is Dec. 15 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.; OMAH also has Music and Mocktails every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. (music by Sydney Riley Dec. 15 and Sammy Dec. 22)… Hibernation Arts guest artist this month is MJ Pollack… Cloud Gallery has a new artist on their roster. Jodi Miller is a Saskatchewan resident, and Cloud will have 7 of her pieces on hand today – and they’ll have her in the gallery too.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Cassie DaSilva playing Dec. 10; Ronnie Douglas is in Dec.16 and Run With The Kittens are back Dec. 17;  Get tickets online for New Year’s Eve with Rocksteady playing; Reay is playing Jan. 28, it’s a fundraiser for the Sharing Place Good Bank and tickets are $15… Mark Stewart plays the Grape and Olive Thursdays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. … Quayle’s Brewery has Jojo Playing Dec. 11; Alex Barber is Dec. 15; Ron Whitman plays Dec. 16 and Sammy is in Dec. 17… stop into the Hog N’ Penny to get tickets for their New Year’s Eve party; Dec. 10 they have Metsaema, a European folk duo playing music… Washago Lions Jam Night is happening Dec. 14 at the Lions Hall from 7 to 10 p.m. – and Dec. 21 from 7 to 11 p.m.

(Photos Supplied) Main: The Orillia Concert Band at last Saturday’s Christmas Prelude concert (Photo by Brady Aubin).

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