This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Last Saturday’s Mariposa Folk Festival Blues and Gospel concert was stupendous. First, it was the first time since the before times the Opera House was completely sold out (for an event I attended). Second, the program bandleader Lance Anderson put together rolled out like a textbook example of how to put show together. Third, the players were outstanding.

There’s not much more to add to the first point, except when I took my seat (I was very on time) I had a bad thought. You see, I had been saying for weeks to get tickets right away because this concert has always sold out. Of course, the previous concerts were in smaller venues (I’m not counting last year’s in the Opera House, because I can’t remember, but I recall seating was limited). So my thought was, I’ve been typing Opera House for weeks, but my head was still on St. Paul’s Centre (400 seats max), how well is my prediction going to work out? I don’t know the word for the distinct feeling when you realize, despite how wrong you’ve been, it turns out you are right, but I had it.

On the second, there’s a way to put a show together and there’s a way not to. Lance has developed a formula for this particular event he doesn’t always use with his other productions and that is to put performers on stage in stages. And as each player enters it’s their turn for the spotlight. Another thing is the structure of the music selections.

Matt Weidinger

The concert started with just Lance on piano and Matt Weidinger on Hammond B3 playing a mashup of Have A Little Faith In Me and That’s The Way God Planned It, then half way through Mike Sloski on drums and Thomas Nelson on bass came on stage and joined in. The tune gained weight as it played out.

Then Lance brought Verese Vassell-Bowen on stage and they started with Still Waters Run Deep, which segued quickly into Bridge Over Troubled Waters. I hadn’t heard that particular combination before, but Lance told me afterward it was an Aretha Franklin version.

Thomas Nelson

Thomas Nelson had the spotlight next and the tune was Ray Charles’s Hallelujah I Love Her So. This was a moment for the ages. It’s happened to every musician at least once, and Lance forgot how the intro went. He said it was weird because he’d been playing the song since he was 10-years-old. You have a moment of panic, realize you’re not playing the right part, stop, breath, and if you are seasoned and comfortable on stage make a joke and move on – all of which Lance did.

Nelson sang that one, and later in the concert also did a great rendition of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.

Weidinger covered two other Charles tunes, Mess Around and You Don’t Know Me.

On the matter of which tunes get played when. The best productions have tunes placed for tempo and energy, rising and falling, but rising more toward the end of the night. Each successive tune compliments the previous and points the way to the next. To me it’s a case of, well, this song isn’t exactly doing it for me, but I’m still stoked from the last one, and ‘oh boy, what have we here’ with the next. You don’t get time to be bored or have your mind wander too far for too long.

Bobby Dean Blackburn

When Bobby Dean Blackburn was brought on stage he did B. B. King’s Why I Sing The Blues. Blackburn brought homegrown blues and jazz to the Yonge Street strip 65 years ago and is the father of the brothers who make up the great blues band Blackburn. In the second half he sang Swing Low Sweet Chariot in a way you’ve never heard it before.The first half closed out with Verese leading the band through the old Edwin Hawkins Singers version of Oh Happy Day, which was a great way to send everyone to the green room with lots to talk about.

At half time, while out getting some fresh air, I chatted with a fellow who remarked about the show. I said you can pay a lot more for tickets to this kind of show in Toronto and it won’t be any better. There is nothing small town about the concert from the musicianship, to the sound they produced (all EQ’d and balanced right), to the art of bring a performance people won’t forget to the stage.

Coming back, the program repeated itself in how the players and tunes rolled out. Lance and Mike Sloski covered a Dr. John tune from their Footwork CD, before bringing out each member of the band in succession to lead a song.

Verese Vassell-Bowen

Lance even put a couple Bob Dylan Tunes into the mix with one of them, The Times They Are a Changing, led by Weidinger.

This 11th Gospel and Blues concert kept the quality of the previous ten. As Lance said, how do you top last year? It’s knowing who the best musicians are, knowing their strengths, picking the right tunes to work inside the frame of the show and having the confidence everyone on stage is going to deliver something great. Lance’s bands could play Chopsticks and make the audience roar.

Next years’ gig is booked, for February 3. Stay tuned and pounce on your tickets as soon as they are available.

Meanwhile, Lance is in Windsor February 11 because the Windsor Symphony Orchestra is playing his arrangement of Oscar Peterson’s Canadiana Suite. They are only playing 5 of the 8 segments, but Lance said the whole thing is scheduled for a performance in 2025, which is the 100th anniversary of Oscar’s birth. Lance isn’t playing, the Thompson Egbo-Egbo Trio is. He also said he’s been working with other orchestras to perform it in 2025, along with his arrangement of Hymn To Freedom.

lance anderson
Lance Anderson

More meanwhile, tickets are on sale for the March 25 Mariposa-In-Concert event at St. Paul’s Centre with Union Duke, James Gray and Josh Kvasnak (of The Doozies). Remember, only 400 seats.

And it’s time to apply to volunteer for the summer festival and if you are in the food biz, apply to be a food vendor now. I saved this one for last because, if you are musician I don’t want you to panic, but you only have 17 days left to apply for the audition concert.

Sam Johnston

Sammy has a gig coming up March 16 at the Lone Wolf Café. She’s doing it as a representation of a radio program based on sharing a history of women in music. She’ll have stories, recordings to play and she’ll perform a few as well. It’s a fundraiser for the Orillia Youth Centre. It also counts for her degree because she needs to do a community project.

Tickets are $25 and you can get them online. If you can’t go you can still donate to the youth center.

Sammy is playing at Couchiching Craft Brewing February 11 at 6:30 p.m. she is also playing the next Pub Night at St. Paul’s Centre February 17 at 6 p.m. they start their Friday evenings early on Peter Street. There’s a $10 cover and there will be food and a cash bar.

Public Hangings

So I went to the big opening last Saturday for all the new exhibits at the Orillia Museum of Arts and History, and just now realized I didn’t take a look at the new Franklin Carmichael sketch, Kleinburg 1928. It’s the 4th Carmichael OMAH has in their permanent collection.

On the other hand I did seem some cool stuff like Chris Mack’s prints (the Beyond the Fence exhibit). She photocopied flowers (some of the pieces). You might wonder how that works, but if you ever sat on a photocopier at work during a moment of boredom – like that.

I also found the Great Tait: The True Story of Orillia’s First Millionaire interesting. Learned a few things. Did you know that Mackinaw Jackets were first commercially produced here in Orillia? Everyone around the world knows what Mackinaw Jacket is and we don’t even make them here anymore.

Amanta Scott, Portrait of Margaret Atwood, at OMAH

You’ll spend some time looking over Amanta Scott’s Eyeing Medusa (Paul Shilling also has some work up in that gallery, and I had a great conversation with him –always do), and Gary Blundell and Victoria Ward’s Burner Herzog.

The monthly History Speaker’s Night February 17 at 7 p.m. features Paul Barber telling the tale of his family’s role in the migration of Blacks from Virginia to here. It’s an online presentation and you can register online.

Creative Nomad is having a spring market in May. Artisans can apply to participate online. Hibernation Arts guest artist for February is Bob Broom. Hibernation also has a workshop with Deby Melillo about making bookmarks and cards February 16 at 6:30 p.m.; it’s $40 and there will be refreshments. Peter Street Fine Arts has new work by February guest artist Sue Emily.

The Shorts

  • The Old Dance Hall Players have a show at the Opera House Feb. 11. Love Is A Cattelfield. I’m told there will be love, cattle and fields represented in the show. You can still get tickets online. Also happening at the Opera House are concerts with Pavlo March 11 and Digging Roots March 16.  Get those tickets online too.
Meredith Moon
  • Roots North Music Festival only needs one more act to fill out the menu at St. Paul’s Centre Apr. 21 and 22. Meredith Moon was added this week. She’ll be on stage with Kellie Loder and Michael Kaeshammer the Saturday night. The Ronnie Douglas Blues Band, Tommy Youngsteen and one more will play Friday night. Get tickets online.
  • The Orillia Public Library has a couple things happening in February. On the 18th they have Mosaic of Black Culture for Black History Month; it’s from 2 to 4 p.m. with steel drum music and Debbie Opoku-Mulder speaking about local history. It’s free, but you need to register. Also, on Feb. 25 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. drop in for the grand opening of their Maker Space. They’re cutting the ribbon at 10:30 and there will be cake. They’ll be showing off their new gear from 3D printers, to laser and vinyl cutters, and VHS to digital converters.
  • Zachary Lucky will be playing at Picnic February 17. Meredith Moon will be joining him. She has a new album coming in March and She recently posted a video of one of the tunes, Constellations, on Youtube. Get tickets for the picnic gig online.
  •  Couchiching Craft Brewing has Will Davis and Chris Robinson in Feb. 12; Vinyl Night with DJ Wilverine is Feb. 16; Jacob Pearce and Dave Hewitt play Feb. 17 and Run With the Kittens are in Feb. 18… Quayle’s Brewery has Genevieve Cyr in Feb. 17; My Missing Piece is in Feb. 18 and Cam Galloway plays Feb. 19… the Legion is hosting a jam with The Back Up Band Feb. 12 at 2 p.m.; admission is $5…  Alex Rabbitson plays the Hog N’ Penny Feb. 11… The Cellar Singers are doing Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem Feb. 25 at St. James’ Anglican Church, get tickets online.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied)

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