This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Wasn’t that a trip? just yesterday it seemed like there was all kinds of optimism Even though January and early February brought another stay at home order 2022 was going to somewhat like it used to be. Vaccines were available, the new variant of COVID looked like it was going to be less lethal.

As we got into spring things started to open up again and by summer it kind of felt like we had some kind of freedom to roam again.

By the time the Mariposa Folk Festival happened most people were ready to venture forth and mix with others. The common theme of the festival was, and I’ll quote Liz Anderson, “I’m just so happy to be here.”

Mariposa max’d out their attendance and despite the acts on stage most people were excited to see each other than they were having been present for Mavis Staples’s out of the park set.

As summer faded in the rear view mirror things began to pick up with other events, fewer people felt it necessary to wear masks, more people started to attend events

Sometimes I was the only person wearing a mask, most other times mask wearers were a distinct minority. Most often heard, “I had COVID last week’, or, “I had it twice in the last couple months.”

While I was glad to hear so many people had only minor run ins with the virus, to me it signalled we aren’t out of the woods. I continued, and will continue to wear a mask because though I might not get really sick, there is the possibility is it could be otherwise – and I like the taste of coffee and remembering things more than I value not wearing a mask.

Despite the lack of news stories to keep the pandemic in mind, except for a tiny few weeks the weekly death toll exceed 2021. I’m just not a gambler – unless I know the preponderance of evidence is on my side.

I noticed the fall concerts and annual events were under-attended compared to before times. This changed with the Christmas concerts. All of them had greater audiences than I recall there were in the good times.

I expect in 2023 the trend of people dropping their misgivings and going to events will continue. Let’s hope the virus, which appears to be here to stay, remains weak compared to how it used to be.

Orillia Silver Band

The best attended concert was the Orillia Silver Band’s Christmas concert at the Opera House. I had a conversation with a friend of mine on Boxing Day. He’s an accomplished trumpet player (who held his own on stage with Al Chez of Letterman’s World’s Most Dangerous Band) and an arranger. He’s someone I can talk to about music in depth with my limited knowledge of theory and expertise playing instruments other than things you can hit and he gets what I mean.

I was telling him of how excellent the OSB was at that concert, and has been for a few years. His response was to ask me to send him concert dates. Why? My friend was born here and will be making a couple trips north for business and wants to be able to time those trips so he can see the OSB.

I bring it up because if someone like my friend will go out of the way to see the OSB, why wouldn’t you? It doesn’t matter whether you like brass bands or not. If you appreciate superior musical performances and haven’t been going you are missing a truly great experience. The OSB’s next concert is March 5 and you can get tickets online.

Rocky Horror Show

Since this is turning into a highlights of ’22 in some fashion, I have to revisit Mariposa Arts Theatre’s Rocky Horror Show. This was one for the ages. MAT has been consistently raising production values each outing and Rocky was a giant leap upward.

All the technical aspects (lighting, staging, choreography, set design – the set design! – costuming and etc.) were fantastic and the cast delivered two great performances I saw.

I heard from many others who saw the show and were equally as impressed. It’s not easy to comprehend a community theater company in a small town can do what MAT does. Waiting for Guffman wasn’t just a comedy, it was a documentary about small town theater. MAT is more like Mirvish (on a scaled budget) than it is anything else.

Next up, MAT is doing Noel Coward’s comedy Blithe Spirit for two weeks starting April 13. You can get tickets online.

I won’t continue recapping each group’s successes in 2022, simply because, even though it’s the internet and there’s room to do so, this is not a test of your reading patience. Just know that each group exhibited signs of improved the quality with their effort, and I hope that was clear as I wrote about them during the year. I want to thank all of you for making my life better.

Getting back to the original intent when I started typing. Happy New Year to each of you. Thank you for looking in during 2022. It’s been a great year at this end. The traffic on this website is up an average of 4,000 per month over 2021 and we’re very near an average of 100,000 pages served (there have been many months during the last two years over 100,000 pages). It turns out this little project isn’t so little.

The financial news looks gloomy. It’s overstated to get eyeballs in my opinion. I’ve lived through a few recessions and wondered what all the fuss was about when they ended (which doesn’t discount some people did suffer, but with hindsight, in general things never seemed to be as bad as the messengers said it was).

On that note I have a wish for 2023 directed at council. I have followed Orillia’s for 33 years, and followed the councils in the places I lived in before that. It’s budget time right off the bat for them in January. There is one phrase I have heard every year, even in good financial times and its, “I can’t support spending this money in these tough financial times.”

Not always, but usually it’s in regard to spending money on culture and arts related items, which usually get the axe. Despite arts and culture being a significant portion of our local economic activity, people in general still think of arts as a frivolous expense. So I extend a wish of enlightenment to our councillors to not think like that. Don’t spend willy-nilly, but consider the economic effect beyond arts; a little help can pay dividends.

On that note, specifically I hope council sees the wisdom of continuing the patio program in 2023 and puts a little more money into the pool for artists who aside from the food variable, are a draw to getting people to come downtown. They did have a budget for artists the last two years, but to me it’s token amounts and not compensation for what artists bring to the table.

I also hope the process for public art acquisition gets sorted out equitably for our artist neighbours. There is a solution. It’s been offered and it works.

I want every arts group and individuals to have their best year as performers and for attracting audiences. Aim high.

And for you, may all your days be filled with laughter and you get to the other end of 2023 in good health.

New Year’s Eve

Over the years I have been doing this, I have never seen the amount of New Year’s Eve events like we have this time around. In case you missed last week’s rundown, her it is again.

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 little angels are begging to stay up until midnight with 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.

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

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.

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. There is no cover charge, but I’d make a reservation.

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.

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 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 Cam Galloway in to play 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)

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