This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Last Sunday’s Orillia Silver Band concert was awesome. The main floor of Gord’s Room at the Opera House was almost full with about 340 people on hand. I didn’t expect that.

The band played on a level a few steps above their last outing. There was one point during Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival (a medley), the cornet’s were playing the Deck The Halls section, with mutes, and they were playing so softly, in the pocket as meant to be against the mid and lower brass, I had to concentrate to pick them out of the sound.

As I’ve remarked a few times, trumpet and cornet layers as a species often play louder than they need to, sometimes a lot louder. Anderson’s piece was the last on the program, but I noticed much earlier in the show how controlled the cornets were (afterward speaking with others who are musicians, they noticed too).

That was mostly because overall the whole band was controlling the dynamics (loud and soft) of each piece, hardly getting really loud. That let them shape the music much better than some professional bands and orchestras I’ve heard.

Playing like that also makes the execution of the music easier to achieve. That’s starting and ending notes together. When even one person in a section doesn’t begin playing at the precise instant in time as the others it’s noticeable. Many music ensembles with say 6 people per instrument type half of them might be together and the others real close most of the time, so it’s not bad. When you hear clean playing and it carries on throughout a program, it elevates the listening experience. People who aren’t musicians notice these things, but just chock it up to it sounds better. When you hear a musician talk about a band playing clean, what the OSB did on Sunday is what they mean (some musicians have lower standards of what clean means, mine is pretty high) and they marvel when even 5 people in a rock band are razor sharp and in such control of their sound, let alone when there’s 40 people playing.

Tom Hutchinson

This could have been because they had Tom Hutchinson along as a guest soloist. He comes from the U.K.’s Cory Band. Over there brass bands compete in the U.K. and in Europe. There are several really great brass bands and the Cory Band is the current European champion (7 times since 2008). Hutchinson is the lead cornetist. It would be like having Winton Marsallis along, it makes everyone focus and play their best.

As good as the OSB was, Hutchinson was stupendous. When you hear many brass players often It Will Sound Like They Are Hitting The Beginnings Of Notes Hard, Like Capitalizing Every Word In A Sentence. Many spend their whole playing careers trying not to do that.

With Hutchinson’s playing the notes just came out of his horn and existed in the air. I didn’t hear one harsh note attack. He was so smooth all day and when he finished his last piece, Harry James’s Concerto for Trumpet, the audience sprang out of their seats cheering. Really. They did that.

As a concerto, the music alternates between the soloist playing and the band. So part of the success of that particular tune is because the OSB was exceptional with their part of the load.

On top of all that, Neil Barlow (conductor), picked tunes for the program which demanded all the things I’ve been referring to. Congrats to the band for playing so well and to the cornets for blending in the best they ever have. I’m glad the audience was so large this time out so more people could hear what I’ve been raving about for the last couple years. The OSB is truly the standard to meet, not just here in Orillia, but I’d say more than half of the name ensembles from the GTA should try to be as good.

New Year’s Eve

There are a couple more events to add to last week’s rundown.

The City of Orillia is having a New Year’s Eve party again. This time it’s at the Orillia Recreation Centre. It’s geared toward family participation so it happens from 5 to 8 p.m. They’ll have face painting, crafts, arcade games, and bouncy castles – and swimming! They also have two magic shows, popcorn and doing their part to make sure your rugrats are begging to stay up until midnight, cotton candy. If you are into skating that’s happening at Brian Orser Arena.

To get there, or anywhere New Year’s Eve, Orillia Transit is free starting at the 7:45 p.m. run through to 1:45 a.m.

The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 34 has the Renaissance Band playing starting at 8:30 p.m. Tickets include a light lunch and you can call 705-325-8442 to reserve your seats.

ODAS Park has a New Year’s party. This year they have DJ Scott Stanton and a midnight buffet. Get tickets online.

Couchiching Craft Brewing has a New Year’s Eve event with Rocksteady doing the music. Get tickets online.

Mariposa House Hospice has New Year’s Eve fundraiser happening at Hawk Ridge Golf Club. You can get a table for 8 ($1200) by calling 705-327-1610; extension 104, or email

Dan Bazinet is playing Studabakers. Get tickets at the Hog N’ Penny for their New Year’s Eve party;

The Quality Inn (Highwayman Inn) used to be the place to go for a comedy show New Year’s Eve. It still is, but it used to be too. Kevin Christopher and Jeff Elliott are the comics. Dinner and the show is $99. Call them at 705-326-7343 for reservations.

Merry All That

Look at that, this miserable year is almost over. I still, and many others, think it doesn’t feel like things are back to normal. In some way it shouldn’t be because the pandemic is still on, people are still getting sick, very sick, and dying. Our politicians have all gone nuts doing things that affect our daily lives negatively and removing hope for tomorrow of improvement on several fronts and billionaires have learned new tricks to soak us.

On top of that it looks like we’re all going to be stuck in our driveways, which in light of the pandemic, the flu, and other viruses being so active might be a blessing in disguise.

Some of you are going to experience a Christmas that still feels like the last two, not being able to be with your extended families and friends. It sucks, but it is the reality we have.

If there was one thing I could send to each of you as a gift, it would be a box of wisdom under your trees. Not for you, you are here reading this, so you already have superior wisdom, but I’m thinking in a Halloween mode, wisdom to share with those around you.

I am not filled with an abundance of wisdom, but I sure can see there are many running around who have less than I do. It seems to me if society upped it’s game we’d all be better off.

I hope you all recognize the things you can’t change (the weather, being separated) and keep your frustration to yourselves, and recognize what you can change as we race toward 2023.

I can be better, we all can be better. So I hope Santa’s visit to you Christmas Eve leaves all of us in a better frame of mind.

Have peace in your households. Find something to laugh at (your kids are usually good for that), eat too much (you’ll burn it off with the shovel), drink (don’t drive) and be merry.

Happy Holidays everyone.

The Shorts

  • The Mariposa Folk Festival’s February Blues is on for Feb. 4 at the Opera House. Lance Anderson is once again the center of gravity and with him will be Bobby Dean Blackburn, Verese Vassel-Brown, Thomas Nelson and Mike Sloski. You can get tickets (better hurry, it sells out every time) online.
  • Roots North has their first artist locked up for April’s festival and it’s Juno Award winning Michael Kaeshammer. You can get festival passes now online.  
  • 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.
  • 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 artists who want to participate can visit their website to find out how to apply.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Liz Anderson in to play Dec. 23; John Hamond is in Dec. 29; Cam Galloway Dec. 30; 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. … Chris Lemay plays Studabakers every Friday night.

(Images Supplied)

CORRECTION: An earlier version referred to the initialism, OCB when it should have been OSB.

Rants & Raves

Support Independent Journalism