This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

The Gathering Festival of First Nations Stories continues this weekend. Saturday night the focus is at St. Paul’s Centre for a concert by Tomson Highway at 8 p.m. Appearing with him are saxophonist Marcus Ali and singer Patricia Cano.

Tomson Highway

Tomson is a beautiful and accomplished pianist. He writes interesting tunes (not to mention plays like Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing). He’s also a novelist and children’s book author.

He’s amusing, and having seen him three or four times my impression is the person he’s amusing most during a performance is himself. He doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously. In a way it’s like he’s surprised to be on a stage and that people want to see him perform, and while he’s there he’s bloody well going to enjoy it.

Cano appeared in Highway’s musical, The (Post) Mistress, and has performed with Highway in concert since 2001. Ali is a Montreal Jazz Festival Grand Prix du Jazz Award winner. If you were wondering, yes, he’s related to Brownman Ali. They’re brothers.

While you’re at St. Paul’s you can visit the Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery and see the third installment of the Call to Action #83 Art Project.

You don’t need a ticket to see the art and you can get tickets online for the concert, or at the door ($25)

There are events at St. Paul’s, Couchiching Beach Park and the Rama Community Hall on Sunday. See more info about those here.

Tom Wilson at the 2022 Mariposa Folk Festival

Friday night Tom Wilson was in concert at St. Paul’s. This show was under-attended in my opinion. Tom is a dynamic performer who establishes a connection with an audience right away. This performance also featured him reading a passage from his bestselling book Beautiful Scars: Steeltown Secrets, Mohawk Skywalkers And The Road Home, and one from his forthcoming book.

He also told some stories, one was about finding out his cousin was actually his mother, the revelation of lead to writing Scars. Another was about Gord. He started out saying he had wanted to play one of Gord’s tunes, but while rehearsing it he couldn’t get through it because he would choke up every time. So he told a story about Gord and the time Tom was producing an anniversary concert for the Sundown album. In short, Gord said he was going to the concert, but just to listen –he wasn’t going to play. Twice he said that to Tom. Day of, he shows up with his guitar, but he’s still not performing. Midway through the concert he shows up in the wings and tells the stage manager, “Ok, I’m going on.’ And proceed to do 20 minutes with the band Tom assembled. Of course Tom told it with a lot more humour.

Musically, the highlight for me was hearing him do Shine. I’ve now heard three versions of it; the original from his band’s (Junkhouse) album Fuzz, once when he did a solo concert at the Opera House and Friday night. There’s likely been others because I’ve seen him perform a number of times, but it remains my favourite tunes of his.

Author, Author

The Leacock Associates announced the long list of 10 authors who made it past the reader’s committee stage to advance toward being chosen winner of the 2023 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.

There were 71 books submitted this year. The authors clearing the first hurdle are:

Cody Caetano, Half-Bads in White Regalia

Rod Carley, Grin Reaping

Michael DeForge, Birds of Maine

Bobbi French, The Good Women of Safe Harbour

Emma Healey, Best Young Woman Job Book

Wayne Johnston *, Jennie’s Boy

Susan Juby **, Mindful of Murder

Thomas King **, Deep House: A DreadfulWater Mystery

Zarqa Nawaz, Jameela Green Ruins Everything

Miguel Syjuco, I Was the President’s Mistress!!

* Previously shortlisted

** Past medal winner

Recently the Leacock Associates announced the Dunkley Charitable Foundation has increased its financial sponsorship of the medal from $35,000 annually to $60,000 annually. It is likely medal winners ($25,000 in 2022) shortlisted finalists ($4,000) will receive a larger prize amount this year.

The shortlist will be announced August 1.

Brass Tacks, And A Contest

If you are going to be a band doing a show of only music by Chicago, you’d better be a bunch of sharp musicians. If you read Friday’s story about Brass Transit’s upcoming concert June 24 at the Opera House, or visit their website, you’ll see each member of the band has loads of experience at the top of the food chain. You can get tickets online.

The band has played all over the continent over the last 15 years. One of the original band members, Neil Donnell is now a member of Chicago and you can listen to some of their renditions online.

Brass Transit Horns

So, I’ve left one trivia morsel, here’s some more. Chicago was not the band’s original name. Wrong. It was not Chicago Transit Authority, it was The Big Thing. If you ask a guitarist to name three great guitarists, almost all will drop Jimi Hendrix’s name and most will say he was the best. But, Jimi Hendrix thought Chicago’s Terry Kath was the best. Brass Transit’s Don Breithaupt wrote a song that was included on one of Chicago’s Christmas albums.

Ok, so now we’re in trivia mode, here’s the deal. SUNonline/Orillia has two tickets to give away to the June 24 concert. Answer these three questions:

  1. What does the title of the song 25 Or 6 To 4 refer to?
  2. How many band members are there in Brass Transit?
  3. What is the name of the first tune on Side One of Chicago’s first album?

Entries with correct answers will be ordered according to timestamp received, assigned an order number and a number will be randomly chosen from the SUNonline/Orillia contest hat – and I do mean randomly, I’m not even going to pick the number. The selection will be made Wednesday June 21 and the winner will be notified by 6 p.m.

You must use the email, you must include your phone number with your entry, and you must use the email subject header Brass Transit Tickets. Good luck.

The Shorts

  • The Orillia and District Arts Council is having a screening of the documentary Steadfast: The Messenger and the Message. It’s about Dr. Jean Augustine who is the founder of Black History Month in Canada. It happens at Georgian College June 8 at 1 p.m. Admission is free and so is the parking. RSVP by email to
  • Here’s the the Mariposa Folk Festival, July 7, 8, 9 in Tudhope Park, main stage line up:  Friday night – Wild Rivers, The Wood Brothers and Matt Andersen & the Big Bottle of Joy; Saturday – Tim Baker and All Hands, KT Tunstall, The Rural Alberta Advantage, and Tegan and Sara; Sunday – Jeremy Dutcher, Judy Collins, Rufus Wainwright, and Feist. As of Friday there were only 200 tickets left. Get them online. And, the festival is nominated for a Canadian Live Music Association Major Festival of the Year Award. We’ll find out next during Canadian Music Week how they did.
  • Creative Nomad Studios is running a contest in which one charity will win the use of the studio for a fundraising event. The Nominate to Elevate  winner will get an all-inclusive package (5-hour for dinner for 80, including bar setup, linens, napkins, full table settings, coffee/tea/water service, bar staff, and event coordinator) valued at $1,800. The charity with the most nominations wins and you can nominate your charity online.
  • The folks at St. Paul’s Centre are going to do a play. They have a history of putting on musicals geared toward a general audience. This time they are doing The Music Man. Performances are not until January 2024, but auditions are June 16 to 20. They have a specific audition package outlining roles and audition requirements and you can see it – and book an audition time – online.
  • The Leacock Museum opened a new exhibit in the boathouse. Boating Old Brewery Bay will be a permanent exhibit. The museum also has the return of the Great Gatsby Garden Party happening June 17. There will be entertainment, games and you can attend the awards ceremony for the K. Valerie Connor Memorial Poetry contest at 2 p.m. Get tickets here.
  • Summer theater at the Opera House is around the corner and you can get a deal on tickets for all three plays right now. The plays are Moving In (Norm Foster), Bed and Breakfast (Mark Crawford), and Halfway There (Norm Foster).
  • Derick Lehmann has a fundraising event for the Sharing Place Food Bank happening at the Roller Skating place at ODAS Park. Derick is the one behind the annual Ugly Sweater Bowling fundraiser. It’s called Back to the 90s Video Dance Party. It’s modelled after the Much Music events of the same nature and features three 15 foot screens and a concert sound system. It’s a licensed, 19 and up event.  It’s happening July 29 and you can get tickets at Alleycats Music or online.
  • OMAH has a fundraising event happening June 10; Choose Your Wheels is an art rally, taking a nice drive around town to see the 6 newly installed sculptures; tickets are $50, which includes a box lunch from Mariposa Market, a pollinator plant and a bit of a party at OMAH when you’ve made the circuit; there’s door prizes and an auction (see current items here) and Steph Dunn will be playing some music; the monthly history speaker’s night is June 21 and it will be on Zoom and Mike Hill will be speaking about the 60 year history of the Mariposa Folk Festival; register onlineHibernation Arts has guest artist Ron Regamey’s work on display for the month of June; June 3 Hibernation is hosting an open mic poetry night at 6:30 p.m. ($10)… the Coldwater Studio Tour is June 24 and 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days; there are 31 artists participating at 7 venues.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Matt Allen in June 3; Will Davis and Chris Robinson are in June 4; Cam Galloway June 9; Jeff Young June 10 … Quayle’s Brewery has Stephan Barnarad playing June 3; Burke Erwin June 4; Jakob Pearce June 9; Kyle Wauchope June 10; Cam Galloway June 11… the Hog ‘N Penny has Liz Anderson playing June 3 at 8 p.m. … the Griddle Pickers play the Common Stove June 4… The Griddle Pickers play the Common Stove June 4 for brunch… Sean and Dale Patrick are playing Picnic June 3 at 8:30 p.m.

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

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