This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Blair Bailey is retiring from his post as music director at St. Paul’s Centre. He’s been playing the organ and waving his arms for the choir since August 1984.

“It will be exactly 39 years. (It’s a) a long and wonderful time there. It’s a wonderful congregation,” Blair said.

Blair Bailey at a 2019 concert.

“I hit that age where officially for sure you can get your government pension, a combination of that and you sort of feel it’s time and you need to let someone else come in with new ideas. For sure it’s going to be a younger person with a different perspective, shake things up a bit.”

I’m sure most of you know Blair from his involvement in other musical projects outside of his duties with the church. He was the accompanist for the Cellar Singers for 35 years, which meant playing at rehearsals and many of their concerts. Last year he took over arm waving duties (music director) with the Orillia Vocal Ensemble. He was also the music director of the Kiwanis Music Festival for a very long time, there’s been some one-off projects and he has also been involved with the Mariposa Arts Theatre since it began.

“I was involved with Mariposa Arts from those early years and a lot of them (original members of the company) are gone now.”

There have been a few musicians who have given up their regular, long-term gigs the last couple of years and this writer has noticed most of them are still taking on projects. What will Blair do with his new found spare time?

“It’s the last thing I’m worrying about.”

“I’m actually looking forward to more practice time. People don’t realize it’s a lot more than going and showing up and playing a service and showing up for the choir rehearsal. You have to do a lot of preparation, you’re planning all the time and you’ve got put it out there every week, different stuff every week,” Blair said.

His handiwork will be evident with MAT’s fall production.

‘I’m in the process, we’re putting together a show for Mariposa Arts’s 50th anniversary. I’m music director for that. That’s going to be in November at the Opera House. Fifty plus years of Mariposa Arts shows, it’s pretty hard to condense them into one, hopefully not a ten hour show, hopefully a two hour show. It’s quite a challenge,” Blair said.

“The anniversary would have been 2020 because MAT started in 1970. I saw the very first play they did, as a little infant I’ll say. Of course with COVID, it couldn’t be done in 2020.”

The anniversary show is a revue of MAT’s productions, certainly a lot from the musicals, but there will also be scenes from some of the comedies and bits from the Oh Really, Orillia years.

Blair began his musical journey here in Orillia.

“I did start bagpipes when I was a kid. I never got past the chanter because my lungs would have come right out the other end of it. You’ve got to have a lot of wind power.” Blair said. “I was in the Kiltie Band when I was a kid. That was the town band when I was growing up. I still have the uniform. I ended up playing trombone.”

Blair Bailey and Don Atkinson with the new to St. Paul’s Steinway grand piano.

Though he’ll be on the books until the end of August, Sunday June 25 will be his last regular Sunday service. Following that there will be a going away party at the church. This conversation took place a couple weeks ago and the story about a party then was:

“I’m hearing things, but they’re all supposed to be kept a secret from me. I know nothing.”

“For my 20th year there was a big surprise party, it was just amazing. My 30th year there was another that was completely a surprise. We’ve already had those, so.”

However the church has published notices about the party. It’s a lunch after the Sunday service on June 25 and you can attend. There is no charge, but they will take a donation for the lunch part, but you need to stop by the church and get a ticket by June 21. If you want to forego lunch and still attend the programmed part at 1:15 p.m. (there will be music, but I think Blair will be listening instead of playing).

Leslie Is At It Again

Leslie Fournier has another public art project happening.

“The plan is to do a whole Gordon Lightfoot themed (display) downtown and I’m calling the project A Painter Passing Through. It’s just the perfect name for an art project,” Leslie said.

The project title is borrowed from Gord’s 1998 album. This will be the return of the world famous guitars, but different.

“The biggest sort of visual will be 60 guitars with painted coroplast and with wooden necks similar to how we did the Easter Eggs.”

There will be two on each light post painted side out, the back side of each piece will be a solid colour, ”just like the back of a guitar.”

“It’s going to cover the whole main street, all 5 blocks,” Leslie said.

You may recall the Easter Egg project used Bruce Stanton’s election signs, painted over of course. Did he have that many left over from his last a campaign for this project?

“These ones were donated by Steve Clarke. He was just about to take them to the dump.”

“The timing was perfect, I think before I knew I was going to do this project. He asked me if I had a need for these coroplast signs. I said yes even though I hadn’t thought of this project yet, but I knew we could use them at some point,” Leslie said.

“Originally I was thinking more of a fall project and then with Lightfoot’s passing I thought, “Oh no, we’ve got to do something right away.””

“It (this project) came to mind for sure after his (Gord’s) passing. In the weeks after he passed away I thought it’s so important to do some sort of tribute. By the end of May I basically had enough ideas to pull it together so it would look meaningful.”

At the moment, it looks like people can start picking up a guitars to paint on June 21.

“It’s an open call. As soon as I say the guitars are ready (on the Streets Alive Facebook page) for pickup anyone can come down to Jack and Maddy’s and grab their guitar.”

“I don’t think it’s necessary to have Gord himself painted on the guitars. I think people will take inspiration from his albums, a song, something of the lyrics will suggest some sort of art, whether it’s nature or whatever.”

Leslie Fournier with guitars from the 2010 project.

Leslie hopes to have all them up by the time the Mariposa Folk Festival happens, which is closer than you think.

“We’re really tight for the timeline. I would like to start getting some up at the very end of June, the first week of July. The goal is to get them all up by the (Mariposa Folk) festival. They’re going to be on the street all summer right ‘til Thanksgiving,” Leslie said.

Some of you might be wondering about some of the pieces from  past projects which relate to Gord. We’ll be seeing those too.

“In addition to the 60 guitars we’re also putting out sculptures from past projects that feature Lightfoot or connect to his music. Some of the Maples, some Hippy Vans, some of the big guitar sculptures.”

I don’t know about you, but I think these art projects every year are great. We certainly look better than a lot of other places, and when Mississaga Street is closed on Friday and Saturday nights (starting June 30) these guitars and all the other pieces just makes the night out better.

Win Brass Transit Tickets

Do you like the music Chicago made? Of course you do. There are still a few main floor tickets left and some great seats in the balcony to see Brass Transit June 24 at the Opera House.

Brass Transit plays the Opera House June 24.

As far as tribute bands go, this crew of 8 musicians is top notch. Paul DeLong (Kim Mitchell’s former drummer) is in the band. Their former lead singer, Neil Donnell, is now a member of Chicago. The rest of the band members resumes show a ton of gigs on stage and recording with lots of popular A list bands. They do a great job playing the music of Chicago, and they do most of the hits – as much as time allows. Chicago had a lot of hits.

The horn section is kicka$$. Can I say that here? In short you will have a great time. And, you can win a pair of tickets to see the show.

Just open up a blank email, use the address, put Brass Transit Tickets in the subject line, include your phone number and answer these 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?

Answers to those questions can be found online (there’s even a link to an answer in the first paragraph of this section), so it’s not final exam hard. You have until 5 p.m. Wednesday June 21 to send you answers and the winner will be notified by 6 p.m. Why wait until then? Do it now, we’ll still be here when you are done.

You can also read our feature story about Brass Transit

Art House

The annual art show of work by students of Mike Howell’s Orillia Parks and Rec program happened at the Opera House last week. There were about 200 pieces to see at Spaces and Faces contributed by 42 students.

Many of them were portraits. They were all pretty good and some were exceptional. There were also some landscapes a few of which I’d take home if no one was looking. In the Studio Theatre there were examples of this year’s cube art exercise hanging around. It made for an interesting view looking across the stage with all the cubes twisting around.

Spaces and Faces Art Show

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It’s amazing there were so many good pieces from what is essentially a beginners program, though some of the students were on their 3rd or 4th go round.

The Shorts

  • June 24 is Christmas in June. They should have tagged it Boxing Day Edition. It’s a little different this year. The docks will be open, but only from 1 to 5 p.m. There is a Christmas Market from noon to 7 p.m. and there will be live music. Bunker got Santa to make a visit to judge the best decorated boat and Santa will be there at about 3 p.m. just so the little boaters can get a pic with him.
  • The legacy of Jim Kelly (Speedy) keeps coming. Robert Gronfors and Phillip Lalonde debuted a new concert video Sunday June 18 on Youtube. This time it’s the June 18, 1976 Rush concert from Oshawa. They did a great job syncing up concert audio with Speedy’s 8 mm no sound footage. See it here.
  • 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-hours 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 Mariposa Folk festival has released the schedules for the main stage performances and those in the pub. The rest of the schedule for the daytime stages should be out this week. The festival opens at 5 p.m. Friday July 7 and the first act is being called The Way We Feel – A Lightfoot Celebration. It’s a band pulled together by Jory Nash with Burke Carroll, Jason Fowler, Anne Lindsay, David Matheson & David Woodhead (most of whom were the band for a similar daytime event at last year’s festival). Other performers joining them are Matthew Barber, Lori Cullen, Dala, The Good Brothers, Meredith Moon, and Kevin Fox. Jory was one of the organizers of the annual Lightfoot tribute evening at Hugh’s Room in Toronto along with David Newland (who is the host of the set) and Aengus Finnan.
  • St. Paul’s Centre has a great concert happening Nov. 24. They are pairing Danny Michel with Steve Poltz. If you haven’t seen either before I guarantee you will have a fantastic time. It’s a fundraiser for the Orillia Youth Centre and you can get tickets now (which is a very good idea) online.
  • When you get to that link for the Michel/Poltz concert, you’ll see there are a few other concerts benefitting the Orillia Youth Centre happening soon. Meredith Moon, Big Bad Jug Band and North River (with Nick Keays) will be at Farm Fest (Sebright) July 1 (all proceeds to the Nelson Bell, Jake Beers, and Vern Herron Dental Fund); The Sadies, the Ronnie Douglas Blues Band and Jerry Leger will be doing the Roots North annual fall concert Sept. 23; and Roger Harvey is returning to Orillia for a gig at St. Paul’s Centre September 29 and in Collingwood Sept. 30. Saving you some scrolling, tickets here.
  • Summer theater opens very soon at the Opera House 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).
  • The Orillia District Arts Council and the City of Orillia are teaming up again to events in neighbourhood parks this summer. June 21 Charlotte & the Dirty Cowboys are at Homewood Park; July 5 Pat Gowan will be at Clayt French Park; July 19 it’s a dance program at Walter Henry Park; Ronnie Douglas, Mike Dobransky and Alex Andrews will be at Hillcrest Park Aug. 2; Deb /brown will lead a drum circle at High Street Park Aug. 16; and Jakob Pearce will play music while the kids make art at Lankinwood Park Aug. 30. It’s all free.
  • 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, 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 and it happens July 29. You can get tickets at Alleycats Music or online.
  • OMAH is opening submissions for  the 22nd annual Canadian Landscape Show, the deadline is August 11, the theme is Tradition Transformed and you can find submission details here; 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… 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… Peter Street Fine Arts has Sue Emily as the guest artist in June.
  •  Zain Campbell has a new tune and video to go with it to watch.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Kalyna Rakel and Dan Gurman in to play June 23; Valerie Burns and Dave Chun are in June 24; James Gray plays June 29; Even Steven is in June 30… Quayle’s Brewery Josh Piche in June 22; Patti and Mick play June 23; Kevin California playing June 24 And Chris Lemay is in June 25… the Offcuts play the Sunken Shipp June 24… Cards and Coasters (55 Mississaga Streete) has Geek Love, a drag show by House of Stich, happening June 23; get tickets online… Brassworks has a gig in Wasaga beach you might check out; July 11 they do the Jazz in the Park with Alex Dean guesting; July 23 they have the 4th Street Jazz Project, Alex Dean and the OSS Dixieland Band along at  2:30pm at the Orillia Salvation Army Citadel.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Blair Bailey at an October 2022 concert at St. Paul’s Centre

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