This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Congrats to Leslie Fournier and all the artists who whipped together the guitars you see downtown. Leslie also brought in a few of the sculptures from the original 50 Guitars project.

It was put together pretty quickly and the project is called Painter Passing Through. that was the title of one of Gordon Lightfoot’s songs and album. Consequently Gord is the theme of the new guitars.

You know there is never too much that can be done to make downtown look better (sweeping and washing the street would help too) and for over a decade Leslie has been making it happen.

It just gives the downtown a sense of place. Having the buses meet up at Mississaga and West does too, but most people only see a traffic jam.

I was downtown Thursday afternoon and the amount of people on the street should make other communities jealous. Really, for all the moaning about downtown we have a great one. Sure it could better. My beer could be colder too. Complainers miss the point and maybe could switch to offering ideas to make it even better (like washing/sweeping the street from time to time, it’s a small thing, but it would make a difference). Leslie’s Streets Alive projects have been the window dressing finishing touches on our fantastic downtown.

Top Brass

Sunday at 2:30 p.m. there is a free concert at the Salvation Army Citadel on Coldwater Road. Orillia Brassworks and the 4th Street Jazz Project are performing and their guests are Alex Dean (sax) Christina Bosco and the Orillia Secondary School Dixieland Band (they’re great). Well, they’re all great, but the kids will surprise you.

Orillia Brassworks

They doing this concert to replace the one they would have been doing if the Sunday Evening concerts were happening at the Aquatheatre. Both Brassworks and 4th Street are big bands, a little different instrumentation in each, and they play some good (and sometimes their own creations) arrangements of pop tunes just like the old bands of Kenton, Rich and Ferguson used to do.

Brassworks will play Wave (Jobim) and St. Thomas (Sonny Rollins) and 4th Street (they call themselves a garage band) will play September (Earth Wind and Fire), Times Are Gettin’ Better, Trofeo de Bolos and The Chicken (James Brown/ Buddy Rich/ Jaco Pastorius)

The short list of people Dean has played with includes Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole and Harry Connick Jr.  Christina is going to sing Fly Me To The Moon. The OSS band recently picked up a gold medal at Musicfest Nationals and will play Hello Dolly (I’ve heard it, they do it very well) and Wade in the Water (traditional – Ramsey Lewis and Staples Singers).

The concert may be free, but bring a couple bucks, they’re collecting to send kids to summer camp.

Sometimes You Just Don’t Know, Especially When Media Fails To Tell You

Earlier this week I caught a news story the CBC and the Hamilton Spectator published.  Some guy was convicted of running down a person in the street after a wild spree of dangerous joy riding through Hamilton.

Normally it’s not the kind of story I would pay any attention to, except the few lines Google serves up to tease the story contained the name Boris Brott. So I clicked the link.

Boris Brott

As I read I thought, “Boris Brott died? When did this happen? How was this not the biggest news of the day when it happened?”

What was kind of maddening was the way both news media treated the story; as if the victim was just some guy who conducts orchestras who also lives in Hamilton.

The CBC did mention he was the director of the Orchestre classique de Montréal. I’m going to bet the general assignment reporter at the CBC who wrote the piece picked out the Montreal group because it had a French name and had no clue otherwise who Brott was.

Here’s a short list of orchestras he waved his arms in front of, Regina, CBC Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Kitchener-Waterloo, Halifax (Symphony Nova Scotia) and Hamilton.

So you’re thinking, OK, he was kind of big in that world, but those are only the Canadian orchestras. He also conducted the Toronto Symphony, Quebec Symphony, The Vancouver Symphony, The Montreal Symphony, the Bari Symphony – Italy (principal guest conductor), Jerusalem Symphony, Haifa Symphony, Israel Chamber Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Ballet – Covent Garden, the Rome Opera and the Mediterranean Festival in Rome.

The big events he led were Leonard Bernstein’s Mass for Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, a production of the Marriage of Figaro with the Rome Opera, opened the Mediterranean Festival in Rome in July 2002 and he conducted a concert for at the Vatican for Pope Francis.

This is the sorry state of our news media when virtually no one recognized a giant of the classical music world was run down in the street and killed.

I have vinyl I’ve owned for decades with Brott conducting. In fact when I was searching out music to buy I would choose the albums of the same music but with him conducting because the recording and playing was always better.

Brott was not just anybody in the music world and his passing barely got noticed by the very people who are charged with informing us. Had he been working in an earlier time, I’m sure his name would be as well known as Bernstein (who Brott started his career with as his assistant conductor at the New York Philharmonic), Solti or Ozawa. The media isn’t supposed to be only covering the pop culture memes of the day, they are also supposed to be telling us about the things we need to, or should, know about.

Do you know how many Canadians make it to the top of the music food chain in the classical world? The answer is not a number but a name, Brott. He was one of the most important and – at least in the music world – famous Canadian musician of our lifetimes and deserved better.

When I searched his name I did turn up a Toronto Star story, and someone mentioned to me the Globe and Mail had something at the time of his death (4 different pieces that week, which they should since they do the best coverage of classical music).

I see a ton of news stories every day, some from off the beaten track publications, and my not knowing about this for more than a year (Brott was killed in April 2022) because it didn’t hit the radar screen and the stunning lack of a long list of publications running the story of his death, or the conviction of his killer, when I went looking for it speaks volumes. Yeah, some of the classically oriented media covered it, but it should have been banner headlines in the mainstream. What else are we not, or poorly informed of? Got some time? There’s a lot.

The entire Canadian news media failed on this.

Making Your Way In Modern Times

I had a great conversation with Richard Vandermeer this week, and learned some astonishing things. He’s been working full-time as an artist for about 25 years, raising 6 children and paying the bills – without government grants and subsidies.

He told me he sold about half a dozen paintings in the last few weeks, but his art classes are pulling in more revenue than selling art. Six is a good number, for reference. He said his classes have been full, but he has one spot left for his fall course.

So I asked if I could direct people to his courses online. No. He doesn’t have a website, doesn’t have a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page either. What? How is that? How does he show his art (he doesn’t participate much in art shows here), reach buyers and advertise his classes? He doesn’t even have email, just a land line phone (705-325-4874).

He said he’s built a clientele, so he has repeat customers, and the rest comes from people finding him in his gallery/studio at 33 Mississaga Street East (where Becker Shoes is). You can drop in to see his work, or see him work, whenever the doors are open, which is normal business hours. You might say he goes into the office every day and works at his craft, without fanfare.

I’m sure he would like to do better, wouldn’t we all (I’m president of the club), but to be able to say, – I‘m making a living doing what I love and know how to do, in the arts, in Canada, and I’m doing it on my own – is something special.

Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett died this week. I remember when he performed at Casino Rama. It must have been in 1997. I went to review and get photos. I was using the house camera, which I didn’t know how to use. I came back with 36 garbage shots.

Tony Bennett in 2003 (Photo by Tom Beetz)

That was disappointing. Tony at one point came over right in front of me at the edge of the stage, stopped and looked right into my lens (I snapped) and gave me what I thought was a great shot. Julie Langpeter took the film, digitized it and did some kind of magic with it to make it almost worth printing. The photo was used anyway because it was almost good and the only one The Packet had. I’m not proud of that shot as I am of some others I have taken since, but I was my photo of Bennett was published, even though it shouldn’t have been.

The other thing that was memorable, aside from getting to see him perform, was how he worked. There was a moment he held a note at the end of a tune, dropped the hand he was holding the mic in to his side, and the mic was still picking up his voice. That’s power – and a really gained up mic. Some of you can probably tell, I did pick my jaw up.

We all know the tune, or couple tunes he’s known for, but I’d like you to listen to this one. It’s my favourite.

Scottish Festival

I certainly wasn’t expecting the kind of affair the 45th Scottish Festival turned out to be this year. They were forced to move it to Tudhope Park because of all the construction at the waterfront.

I think there were just as many people on hand when the parade kicked off as every year. The parade went from the curling rink to the field we all sat in during Mariposa – and on newly paved paths.

The organizers grouped the bands together, so each one passing by was really three separate bands as one unit. That’s one of the features of pipe band music. There are usually two arrangements, the stock one everyone knows and many bands also have their own arrangements. This allows for the bands to play together at festivals and Scottish games. Think about it, the Mass Band which is a feature at these kinds of things can only work if everyone is playing from the same page.

I thought there were more vendors than previous at Couchiching Beach Park and was told my perception was right. There were a lot more food vendors too. Not as many as at Mariposa, which you could tell because the Scottish festival food vendors set up in the same place, but they made it look like there was still too much choice.

I think parking was easier too. Oh, and 9-year-old Drew Berry didn’t do a Celine Dion-like version of the National Anthem, but how could you not like what she did. She sang it a cappella. It wasn’t anything like listening to Albalfa murderiing it, but you could say she used a few key changes – that worked.

The Shorts

  • Mississaga and Peter Street is closed Friday and Saturday nights. The artists in the Arts District will be out with their stuff on the street on Friday nights.
  • Mark Crawford’s Bed and Breakfaststarts July 26 at the Opera House Next, Norm Foster’s Half Way There starts Aug. 16. You can get a deal on tickets. Duck Soup Productions has Matilda running every Tuesday, and on the Civic Holiday weekend; it’s for kids and you can get tickets here.
  • The Orillia District Arts Council and the City of Orillia are teaming up again to present events in neighbourhood parks this summer. 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.
  • The Orillia Youth Centre has a bunch of fundraising concerts happening soon. The Sadies, the Ronnie Douglas Blues Band and Jerry Leger will be doing the Roots North annual fall concert Sept. 23 (last I heard there were only a few tickets left); and Roger Harvey is returning to Orillia for a gig at St. Paul’s Centre September 29 and in Collingwood Sept. 30 . Get tickets here.
Ted Fullerton
  • The Orillia Museum of Art and History has a new weekly walking tour stating July 5 called Gangs, Guns and Grog (more next week) and it ends at Co0uchichign Craft Brewing for a beer, register online; OMAH is investigating how to create something to honour Gord. Under consideration is a permanent exhibit, a temporary exhibit, or something online. They want input from groups and individuals. If you have an idea, email; The submissions for the 22nd annual Canadian Landscape Show the deadline is Aug. 11. The theme is Tradition Transformed and you can find submission details here; A new exhibit of works by Ted Fullerton opens July 28 with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m.; Three exhibits are up until September – Steeped In History has artifacts for OMAH’s collection which relate to tea and teatime, Homage is jewellery made by Donald Stuart inspired by 40 famous Canadian women, and an exhibit of Elizabeth Wynn Wood’s drawings, sketches and sculptures is in the upstairs gallery; Hibernation Arts has guest artist Nancy Jones’s work on display for the month of July… Peter Street Fine Arts has Pat Roser’s work in as guest artist for July.
  • Quayle’s Brewery has Sean Murray in July 23; Jakob Pearce plays July 27; Alex Barber is in July 28; Sam Johnston plays July 29 and Chris Lemay is in July 30… Couchiching Craft Brewing has Lucy Morgan playing July 26; Stephan Bernard is in July 27; Charlotte and the Dirty Cowboys play July 28 and Tamica Herod is in July 29.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: 2023 Streets Alive Painter Passing Through Art

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