This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

You have been alive at an incredible time. Your life was enriched by some of the most wonderful music ever produced in an amount never seen before in history. The death of Robbie Robertson is just the latest of what will be an avalanche of our favourite musicians leaving us. I think it’s going to be devastating to those who came of age in the 70s as each one’s obituaries appear.

Robbie Robertson July 5, 1943  – August 9, 2023

Robbie Robertson, Gord, Tony Bennett, Burt Bacharach, and so money others put a spring in our step, a smile on our face, planted a memory in our noggins, said things we wanted to say but we couldn’t organize the thoughts into words so poetically and moving, and made us consider the world beyond our daily experience.

An era in musical history is winding down. From about 1965 to 1985 (generally speaking the 70s) a massive wave of creativity took hold of the planet. Just in the last few months we’ve also lost Sinead O’Connor, Randy Meisner, Astrud Gilberto, Tina Turner, Harry Belafonte, Ahmad Jamal, Jim Gordon, Wayne Shorter, David Crosby, Jeff Beck, Fred White, Floyd Sneed, Keith Reid, Don Sebesky, and Cynthia Weil, among others.

Last year it was Ian Tyson, Ronnie Hawkins, Shirley Eikhard, Dallas Good, Ian McDonald, Meat Loaf, Taylor Hawkins, Vangelis, Lamont Dozier, Ramsey Lewis, Pharoah Sanders, Loretta Lynn, Jerry Lee Lewis, Christine McVie, Alan White, Andy Fletcher, and Thom Bell left the stage.

Some of those are familiar names, some not. Most of the unfamiliar are the writers, lyricists and producers who made some of the most iconic tunes of the 70s. A others came later, but they are included because their musicianship was outstanding and an inspiration to those following behind.

I’ll bet you can remember when you first noticed Whiter Shade of Pale. Keith Reid wrote those lyrics. Layla? Jim Gordon played those drums. Thom Bell produced and/or wrote Betcha by Golly, Wow, You Make Me Feel Brand New, and I’m Stone in Love with You for the Stylistics and tunes for The Spinners, Delfonics, Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Deniece Williams and James Ingram. I suppose Bell’s work had more effect on those who grew up in Southwestern Ontario and had the benefit of having CKLW in their lives. 

The point is, while we all know of Gord’s, Tony’s and Sinead’s contribution, but lots of other people you may not know of also had an effect on your life.

Will we ever experience a period where so much originality and profundity had its effect on a generation and those after? I feel very sorry for the last two generations who really only had the Seattle bands and a scant few others to get excited about. The sad truth is, many of the younger, under 40, musicians know the music of my generation, love our music, learn to play our music, but don’t get recognition for performing or writing anything as grand because the algorithms work against their creativity. Spend an hour on the radio and you’ll see what I mean.

Wait, what about Taylor Swift? She’s hot right now. Yeah, well, I still spend a lot of time each week listening to new music, actively searching it out, and nothing she’s done has piqued my interest. It’s not I don’t like her style ,it’s the lack of substance. The music I find these days does not fit the marketing trends and will likely only ever be niche recordings never reaching the level of universality of Three Dog Night or Depeche Mode and that’s sad. Some of that has to do with a greater variety of media, including self-publishing – we all had a limited avenue to be exposed to music and were fed from the same bottles, but that’s another discussion.

You might condemn me as an Olde Pharte, but aside from writing this gibberish each week I am a musician first. All the musicians I know live to hear new sounds, new tunes, new demonstrations of artistry and while I find mine, most people aren’t as motivated and settle for what Live Nation feeds them.

Let me qualify that, I see tons of great musicianship from musicians who perform here in Orillia and hear some great tunes written by people from here. Like I said the current computer driven hit pickers will likely never find the good ones because they are writing music, not ad campaigns. I am sure there are a few other places like Orillia with an abundance of good music being made too. I have found too many young drummers who have skills that make me worried, and young guitarists and pianists who would make Jimi or Franz consider retiring.

I’m sure many will point out this artist or that one of recent times have overachieved (Radiohead certainly qualifies). No doubt some of them are quite good. The music of the 70s has already proven it’s value and longevity in amounts I think dwarf today’s collective output. Lets come back in 30 years and have this discussion.

So while some of us are reminded of our age by the passing of great musicians, are effected with the knowledge they’ll never get to hear new or old music performed by the departed again, we should celebrate we were alive at a time when they also walked the rock and let the memories leave us smiling.

OMAH Update

The museum reopened Thursday. It took a few days longer than anticipated to get the cleanup finished and then to move all the gear out. Ninette Gyorody said none of the art or artifacts in the collection were damaged, and Normal opening hours have resumed.

Look At That

One of the biggest events happening in the downtown each year is the Classic Car Show. This 23rd version of the one day affair on August 19 is expected to attract 300 cars and their owners this year and has drawn several thousand each time out in the past.

It just occurred to me how the subject of cars fits with the subject above – music. Automobile designers of the past created such different vehicles. One would never mistake a Ford with a Chevrolet, or a Yugo, while today’s cars all have the same basic shape and SUVs regardless of manufacture look like the product of a Kentucky family reunion.

There’s good reason in this case. Fuel efficiency caused designers to test their dreams in wind tunnels resulting in the same basic shape across manufacturers, and the demand for big cars fell off the edge. Those who still want big own an SUV or a pickup truck, whether or not they need the utility of those vehicles. I guess many of us are still susceptible to the lure of advertising.

Even the colours were varied. One hardly ever saw a black car, and almost never gray. Now it seems you can get any colour you like – as long as it’s a shade of gray, or represents the inclusion of all colours or absence of such.

So go downtown and envy the variety of colour and design of what once was and there will be lots of music and entertainment on the streets. Couchiching Craft Brewing will be using their parking lot as a beer garden as they have done for other downtown events.  Cruisin will be playing the early part of the afternoon and Briar Summers the latter and into the evening.

The Shorts

  • The Opera House has Norm Foster’s Half Way There starting Aug. 16 and running to Sept 1. You can get tickets online. Duck Soup Poductions has Matilda running every Tuesday. It’s for kids and you can get tickets here.
  • 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.
  • The Orillia and District Arts Council and the City of Orillia are teaming up again to present events in neighbourhood parks this summer. 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.
Allison Lupton
  • This summer’s Coulson Concerts held in the old Coulson Church continue with a couple new dates added. August 27 is when Allison Lupton along with fiddle masters Shane Cook and Kyle Waymouth will perform. Sept. 24 Paul Mills and Anne Walker (whose family owns the church) will play. You can get tickets online.
  • Glen Robertson has a few new tunes to check out on his Youtube page. He’s one of those musicians doing great things I was referring to above.
  • The Leacock Student Humourous Essay Competition winners have been announced. You can read their essays here.  Sylvie Potje of Bear Creek Secondary School in Barrie will get her award ($1,000) at the annual Meet the Authors night Sept. 15. Chiara Alfinito of Tommy Douglas Secondary School in Woodbridge is second and Lillian Guo of Olympiads School in North York and Cyrus Sarfaty of Upper Canada College tied for third. Previous Leacock Medal winner Terry Fallis will be the MC for the event. The 2023 shortlisted authors for the medal are Wayne Johnston for Jennie’s Boy, Susan Juby (2016 medal winner) for Mindful of Murder and Zarqa Nawaz for Jameela Green Ruins Everything. The winner will be announced at the annual dinner Sept. 16 at Hawk Ridge Golf Club. The MC for the event is Morgan Murray (2021 runner up) and Trevor Cole (2011 medal winner) will be giving the annual Mayor of Mariposa State of the Onion address.  You can get tickets for the medal award dinner online.
  • The Orillia Museum of Art and History has a walking tour Wednesdays at 7 p.m. called Gangs, Guns and Grog (more next week) and it ends at Couchiching Craft Brewing for a beer, register online; The submission deadline for the 22nd annual Canadian Landscape Show is Aug. 11. The theme is Tradition Transformed and you can find submission details here; Ted Fullerton’s exhibit The Serpent’s Egg is up until Oct. 7; three other 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 Carmichael gallery; the annual History Speaker’s series of monthly events starts Sept. 20 with Chris Newton talking about 50 years of Mariposa Art Theatre. It’s on Zoom and you can sign up onlineHibernation Arts has guest artist Nicole Rulff’s work on display for the month of August… Cloud Gallery has Cathy Boyd in the gallery Aug. 19 from 11 a.m. to  3 p.m. for their Meet the Artist series… St. Paul’s Centre’s Call to Action 83 Art Project in the Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery can be seen on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon… There will be a Starry Night event downtown Aug. 26 starting at 7 p.m.
The Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery At St. Paul’s Centre
  • Mariposa’s third outdoor autumn concert features Aysanabee, Aleksi Campagne, Angelique and My Son The Hurricane. It’s October 14 at ODAS Park and you can get tickets online.
  • Lance Anderson is recreating the 60 in 60 concert he did at last year’s Mariposa Folk Festival on November 18 at the Opera House. It’s been expanded to a 90 minute show and Matt Weidinger, Quisha Wint, Selena Evangeline Mike Daley (guitar, mandolin, vocals), Wayne Deadder (guitar and vocals) Russ Boswell (bass) Bucky Berger (drums) will be performing with Lance. You can get those tickets online.
  • The Orillia Jazz Festival has Lance holding down the Saturday night gig at the Opera House with the World Jazz Asylum. It’s also a CD release party and the band includes John Johnson, Quammie Williams, William Sperendei and Simon Wallis – along with dancers from Toronto Metropolitan University’s dance department. You can get tickets online. The Friday night gig is with Holly Cole and the Sunday afternoon concert is with Brassworks. Brassworks usually has the jazz bands from the high schools join them.  Find those tickets here.
  • The Orillia Youth Centre has a few fundraising concerts happening. The Sadies, the Ronnie Douglas Blues Band and Jerry Leger will be doing the Roots North annual fall concert Sept. 23. Roger Harvey -with Tim Kehoe playing pedal steel – (and Terry Savage and the Big Bad Jug Band have just been added to the lineup) is returning to Orillia for a gig at St. Paul’s Centre September 29 and in Collingwood Sept. 30. Get those tickets here.
  • St. Paul’s Centre has a slate of concerts happening. Reay is opening for The Lowest of the Low Sept. 21; Tommy Youngsteen will be back in town, this time to do Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album on October 13; Matthew Good is in October 19 and Sloan’s Chris Murphy is in Nov. 16. You can find tickets for all those online (Youngsteen tickets here) Tickets for The Orillia Big Band at St. Paul’s September 30 will go on sale soon.
  • The Opera House has a bunch of tribute acts in after the summer theater season is over – and Dwayne Gretzky. They also have the Comic Strippers and Second City doing shows in October. You can get tickets for any of that online.
  •  Quayle’s Brewery has Ron Whitman playing the afternoon Aug. 12 and Stephan Barnard the evening; Patrick Hunter plays Aug. 13; Mitch Szitas is in Aug. 17; Ron Whitman plays Aug. 18… Couchiching Craft Brewing has the Boathouse Blues Project playing Aug. 12; Will Davis and Chris Robinson do jazz Aug. 13; they have a Classic Car Trivia night Aug. 16; Ryan Naismith is in Aug. 17; Jamie Drake plays Aug. 18; the Griddle Pickers have a birthday bash for Sean Patrick Sept. 1 with gust Terry Savage (tickets)

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

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