By John Swartz
Long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me cry. Music class that is. It sucked. That was in the early 70s. Of four high schools in Sarnia, only one had band that was decent. We weren’t the only place with terrible music programs. (I realize Orillia seems to be the outlier).
It was so bad I walked away from my music class after the first report cards (trimester) came out in Grade 9, never went back, never got reported for skipping class and still got a passing grade at the end of the year. The teacher of my class knew what was up.
It’s a long story but the music department head, fancied himself a drummer. I used to daydream of challenging him to a drumming contest, offering to let him break one of my arms first so it would be a fair fight.
In my travels through Ontario and south of the border I noticed how much better the music programs were in the U.S. Vastly better. They’re still superior, especially in the richer school districts. At both of the last concerts for the Silver Band and the Concert Band there were pieces played which were originally commissioned for high schools in the States. When I was in school there is no question bands in Ontario could not handle those charts.
There are several reasons why. In many American school districts the number of music teachers can be a dozen or more. The high school band directors are involved with music programs starting in elementary school, using assistants for the day-to-day instruction, with an eye to having their Grade 9 students playing at levels many of our Grade 12 students are at – and then the real woodshedding begins.
Things have changed in Ontario during intervening years. The quality here has gone up considerably thanks to an influx of good quality teachers and support from parent groups beyond the budgets set by the province. Over the last ten years I’ve seen quite a few high school bands perform, some from the GTA, some from the Hamilton area and other places that are quite good. And of course ours are pretty good.
So I’m looking forward to seeing as many of the bands competing at the Orillia Sunshine City School Music Festival happening at Orillia Secondary School March 29 – 31. It’s sponsored by the Ontario Band Association and Musicfest Canada and class winners will go on to compete in the National competition.
Day One starts at 8 a.m. with the OSS Hawks Jazz Band and ends at 8 p.m. with the Twin Lakes Secondary School Thunder Jazz Band. In between OSS has several bands competing along with Patrick Fogarty and Collingwood Collegiate.
Day Two bands from Kitchener, Belle River, Bolton, Oshawa, and Tottenham will compete during the same time period as Wednesday.
Day Three Dan Austin returns to Orillia (Twin Lakes grad) with his Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute symphonic and jazz bands, along with bands from Caledon, Port Elgin, Midland, Uxbridge, and Huntsville.
Each will present a half hour program and I’m encouraged about what I’ll hear with composer names like Robert Buckley, Robert Smith Richard Saucedo, John Mackey and Randall Standridge attached to some of the charts.
The competition is open to the public.
Music, Music, Music
The Orillia Silver Band is playing at St. Paul’s Centre March 19 at 2 p.m. Look at the calendar. What kind of music do you think they are playing? If you guessed it’s an all Tango program, look at your calendar again. The OSB has many marches on their dance card, with a medley of tunes from Porgy and Bess for contrast. The OSB tends to have at least one of Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s tunes to play in their concerts. This time it’s Fire in the Blood. Some day they should do a whole program of his music. You can get tickets for the show online.
The Roots North Music Festival schedule is filling in. The Friday/Saturday events at St. Paul’s Centre are the hub of activity. The main stage menu is Friday – Tommy Youngsteen / The Ronnie Douglas Band and on Saturday – Meredith Moon / Kellie Loder / Michael Kaeshammer are going to play. Both nights are going to be really good. You can get tickets online.
The participating venues and performer schedule looks like this. Thursday night Sammy is at the Lone Wolf Café; Scott Olgard is at Picnic; and Couchiching Craft Brewing has their Vinyl Night happening. Friday Chris Lemay is at the Sunken Ship; Jakob Pearce is at the Kenzington; Rebekah Hawker is at the Lone Wolf; Alex Barber is at Quayles Brewery; Cam Galloway is at Couchiching and Terry Savage is at Picnic. Saturday Johnni X is at the Kenzington; Jake and Millie are at the Sunken Ship; Errol Lee is at Creative Nomad; Rob Watts is at Quayle’s and Shawna Caspi is at Eclectic Café; Shawn Patrick hosts a jam at the Hog ‘N Penny (those are all afternoon gigs); Steven Henry is at Quayle’s; Steph Dunn is at Lot 88. The Black Suit Devil plays at Picnic after the main stage show is done.
Sunday Will Davis and Chris Robinson are at Couchiching; The Griddle Pickers are at the Common Stove; Loud and Veldboom are at Alleycats; Claire Coupland is at Picnic and Steve Parkes and Pete Sanderson host a jam at the Sunken Ship.
There is no need for tickets for any of the non-main stage gigs, but you should make reservations.
The Cellar Singers’s annual gala/cabaret fundraiser is April 15 At St. James’ Anglican Church. At this event the focus is on individual and small group performances that are more toward the fun side of serious singing. You can get tickets online.
You can get tickets online for Tangents’s headlining a gig at Creative Nomad Studios May 6. Battlescarred, The Therapists, The Latest Issue are also playing. It’s an all ages show and admission is $10.
Anne Walker has organized a summer concert series taking place at her family’s Coulson Church. The Coulson Concerts are all at 2 p.m. on Sundays and she has an interesting mix of familiar musicians scheduled. The line up looks like this: April 30 – Anne Walker, May 28 – Boreal (Tannis Slimmon, Katherine Wheatley and Angie Nussey), June 25 – John Prince and End of the Road, July 30 – Rick Fines, August 27 – Alison Lupton, and September 24 – Paul Mills (produced Stan Rogers’s albums) and Anne Walker. You can get tickets online.
- Sam Johnston’s Lone Wolf Café show Thursday night was sold out. It was a fundraiser for the Orillia Youth Centre and they got at least $1,500.
- The 2023 Orillia Scottish Festival committee is now accepting vendor applications. You can find them here.
- Students of Twin Lakes Secondary School are working on their annual theatrical production. This year it’s called Thunder Years. It’s a revue of the previous 49 student productions, kind of a 50th anniversary event, if you will. It happens April 27/28 at the school and you can get tickets at the school office.
- The Kiwanis Music Festival starts March 20. Most events / performances will happen at St. Paul’s Centre. You can find a complete program here.
- The Lakehead University Student Union is hosting a Drag Bingo with Crystal Quartz hosting March 31 at St. Paul’s Centre. Lakehead and Georgian College students get in free, everyone else pays $5, or they’ll take a food donation. There are prizes and there will be food available.
- ODAC and Arts Orillia are sponsoring a night of Reggae music at Couchiching Craft Brewing April 1 at 7 p.m. Appearing are Juno Award winning singer Liberty Silver, Merlene Webber, Errol Lee and Quammie Williams. There’s a $20 cover and you should make reservations.
- Ronnie Douglas’s new album, Music Is Medicine, is out and you can listen to it on Youtube.
- Bob Hawkins put up a video of him, Ron Hill And Pete Sanderson playing some of his music. See it here.
- Ethan Mask just put some new music on Bandcamp you can listen to, or buy.
- The Leacock Museum has two things happening. The submission period is now open for the K. Valerie Connor Memorial Poetry contest. You have until May 8 to send something in under three categories – adult, teens and children. The total prize pool is $2,000. You can find the nomination rules and registration online. And, the museum has a new exhibit, A Leacock Love Story. It’s about Stevie and Beatrix. You can see it Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until May.
- Arts Orillia invites youth under the age of 25 to participate in their Theatre & Cross Creativity program April 23-27 at the Opera House. They are also inviting people over 65 to participate in this program about storytelling. It’s a workshop kind of thing with a performance in the Studio Theatre. The program is led by Iain Moggach, artistic director of Theatre by the Bay and Clara McBride, faculty at Toronto Metropolitan University’s acting program. Send them your details here.
- OMAH shifted their Music & Mocktails Thursdays to the last one each month; they’re from 5 to 7 p.m. and a trio of Twin Lakes music students will be playing; OMAH’s main floor has portraits of famous and should be famous women by Amanta Scott called Eyeing Medusa (Paul Shilling also has some work up in that gallery); in the smaller just-off-the-lobby room is work by David Alan Hill and Christine Mack called Beyond the Fence; upstairs see Gary Blundell and Victoria Ward’s Burner Herzog; and in the other second floor room find out the fascinating story of Great Tait: The True Story of Orillia’s First Millionaire; the next History Speaker’s Night is with Judy Humphries, head of the Gravenhurst Fire College archives, who will speak about the history of the now closed college; it’s going to be on Zoom April 19 and you can register online soon… Hibernation Arts guest artist for March is Patti Campbell… Peter Street Fine Arts has art by Norman Robert Catchpole featured this month… Cloud Gallery’s next Meet The Artist event is March 25 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with Lori Meeboer.
- Couchiching Craft Brewing has Paige Rutledge in March 18; Rob Watts plays March 24; The Terry Savage Band with Bobby Dove play March 25; Will Davis and Chris Robinson are in March 26; the comedy show Beauty and the Beast (tickets) happens March 29… Quayle’s Brewery has James Gray in March 18; Cam Galloway March 19; Ron Whitman March 24; My Missing Piece March 25 and Burke Erwin March 26… the Opera House has the Orillia Concert Association’s event with the Weston Silver Band March 26 at 2:30 p.m.; Ian Thomas is in April 28; get tickets online… Mariposa Art Theatre’s next Film Night is March 22 with Living (Bill Nighy and Aimee Lou Wood) March 22; showtimes are 4 and 7 p.m. at the Galaxy; tickets are $15 only at the door… Steve Parkes and Pete Sanderson host a new jam at The Sunken Ship (Tammie’s Place) Sunday’s from 6 to 9 p.m. starting March 19… The Bogeys play at the Army Navy Air Force Club Saturday evening.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied)