This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

This is the 250th weekly arts column since the Packet folded.

Here’s a quick outline of what is happening this weekend. There is an OMAH fundraising concert October 28 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre. Top of the bill performers are Jacquie Dancyger Arnold and Hugh Coleman. Blair Bailey is the MC, and Ross Arnold, Laura Kelly and Gail Spencer are also performing. The first half of the concert is Classical music (Mozart, Chopin, Saint-Saens), the second Jazz (Lullaby of Birdland, Birth of the Blues). You can get tickets online.

Carl Dixon

Carl Dixon has a show at the Opera House October 28 at 7:30 p.m. He’s going to play (solo) music from all the bands he’s been in (Coney Hatch, April Wine, the Guess Who) and talk about his life as a musician and overcoming being beaten to a pulp by another car. You can read the interview with Carl here.

During the afternoon of the 28th, Tangents are headlining a show (with Dead Beyond Fear and Get ‘N Dirty) starting at 12:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre. This is a fundraisier for the Comfie Cat Shelter. Tickets are $10 for this all-ages event and you can get them online; the music is metal and there will be vendors and grub. Wear your costume.

Sunday afternoon at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church the Orillia Concert Association concert series gets underway with the Stratton Soloists ensemble. Season tickets are only $90. The rest of their schedule is: pianist Daniel Vnukowski November 26, the Chris Robinson / Will Davis Quartet January 28, James Campbell and Angela Park March 24, and Ensemble Vivant closes the series May 5.

October 29 Zachary Lucky and Richard Inman are winding up their tour of Ontario at the Opera House with a 7:30 p..m. concert. You can get tickets online.

The Nominees Are

The list of nominees for this year’s Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards is out. Though there are still a few that could have been nominated, I think it’s good list.

The education award includes Stephen Davids for his Just Write Orillia group. He started the project and it’s an avenue for writers to get critiques and tutorials about telling their stories. Errol Lee is nominated for his Caring for Kids concerts.

Sukhi Kaur for ODAC’s Hearts (which is an acronym for Helping the Elderly with Arts). She stickhandled the program which included people like Miriam Goldberger, Judith Sophie, Susan Smith and Errol Lee running arts workshops for seniors.

Mariangela Sherwood’s guitar

Lindsey Simard Toutant of Heartworks Children’s Studio and Marcel Rousseau and David Town each are nominated for their body of historical literature about Orillia.

There are two nominations in the emerging artist category. Mariangela Sherwood, is one whose work I have encountered. She did the Painter Passing Through guitar that topped the list in the online auction. Bella Arwyn is a singer/songwriter I have not heard yet, but I did find several of her songs on Youtube.

The heritage restoration/renovation/publication award has several nominees. Anitta Hamming runs Creative Nomad Studios and had the vision to turn a part of Mississaga Street into something greater. Amy Henderson is the one behind rejuvenating the jail cells at OMAH and Jim Osler Contracting restored the old fire hall on Peter Street. The Minjikaning Fish Fence Weirs group has kept that bit of our past front and center for a very long time and Cathy Walton has an ongoing project to photograph Simcoe County barns and was an OMAH history speaker of the month two years ago.

In the events category there are two nominees. Mariposa Arts Theatre’s Rock Horror Show of last fall and ODAC’s Seven Grandfather Teachings project, which featured art by Paul Shilling, Xavier Fernandes, Julie Tian and Ted Fullerton exhibited over 6 Simcoe County galleries.

Couchiching Craft Brewing

The Qennefer Browne achievement award has a bunch of nominees Couchiching Craft Brewing created a new music scene in the wake of the demise of the Brownstone Café and the pandemic, and Leslie Fournier for the Streets Alive project are nominated. Fred Larsen is not just one of the people behind Sustainable Orillia, he also is a key player in Arts Orillia and it’s forerunner. Jean Sargeant guided the transition of the Sir Sam Steele Gallery into the Orillia Museum of Art and History and remains active and attached to OMAH. There is also some guy named Swartz nominated.

The award recipients will be named at an event happening at Creative Nomad Studios Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. It’s free to attend.


So many. I had in mind a detailed account of the Orillia Silver Band concert featuring pianist Kyung-A Lee which happened last Sunday afternoon at the Opera House, but there’s other events to recap too.

That doesn’t mean this is going to be short, it will just be shorter.

Kyung-A Lee

Why? Because it was outstanding almost beyond description. The program itself, on paper, was a masterpiece. Not following convention the show started with Kyung-A Lee playing three pieces solo instead of the OSB leadng off.. The first, Schubert’s Fantasie in F Minor demonstrated something I’ve observed, but maybe not commented on before. The piano at the Opera House is a fine instrument. The room itself has won praise from a multitude of performers for its acoustics (including Kyung-A Lee), but there is a quirkiness about the sound of the piano. The bottom half is dominant. I think Kyung-A Lee picked up on this and the balance of sound between the upper and lower keys was the best I’ve ever heard anyone get out of the piano.

This was driven home with the next pieces, a couple of Chopin works. For these the use of the sustain pedal, allowing the notes from the instrument to hang in the room, is a much bigger factor. It’s usually used when a composer wants loud too, and Chopin liked loud. This tends to let the lower register notes become more dominant, and this was the case here, but I think Kyung-A Lee did all she could very well to keep the balance controlled.

Then the band played a couple pieces, the Prelude to La Traviata by Verdi and a suite from Porgy and Bess. First, congrats on using an arrangement that didn’t include Summertime; this is the go to for most arrangers, which I think tends to overshadow the other great tunes from that opera.

Opera? The OSB did opera music? Yup. And they didn’t just do it, they owned those pieces. Then Kyung-A Lee returned to do Libertango by Astor Piazzolla. Neil Barlow wrote the arrangement for the band. It’s a tango, there’s going to be some difficult passages. I think Neil made them more difficult just because he has the players to do so. This lead to intermission and I spent the whole time wondering how the second would measure up in light of what I just witnessed.

Well, it exceeded. The band and Kyung-A Lee performed Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. I don’t have words. Saying it was magnificent is understatement. The previous weekend with Dwayne Gretzky was a different thing, and this was something one would never dream of watching in Orillia. Never in a lifetime (I’ll get back to that).

The OSB went far outside their genre, and despite me saying for years they are the best performing group in Orillia and further afield, they said, hold my beer and delivered a flawless performance. I do mean flawless. I usually can count the number of not so perfect instances on one hand with these folks, and tell you where they happened and what those flubs were. Not with this concert.

And if all that wasn’t enough, Kyung-A Lee’s husband Parres Allen, came out for the encore to sing Ella Fitzgerald’s Cry Me  A River. This was not what anyone expected. Holy smokes was he good. The crowd went nuts and I’m surprised they had the energy left to do so..

Afterward, Stan Passfield said to me, “This can’t end here,” meaning there has to be another performance, maybe even taken on the road. I had been thinking the same, intending to implore Neil Barlow to consider repeating the concert at another time (mainly because only 200 people got to enjoy it), and now I had more ammunition.

Neil is considering it. They are planning to record it too, so I put the bug in his head to make it a live concert recording so more people can enjoy it and maybe remember the words I’ve written about the OSB over the years, and about this concert, and maybe say, “Swartz was right, I should have gone to see this the first time – and all the other OSB concerts.”

I mean it. Just because it’s a brass band, which may not be a genre that excites you, does not mean their concerts are not engaging and enjoyable. Especially if seeing top notch musicianship gets you going. If witnessing outstanding playing gets you going (and for 28 years of reviewing concerts I know when someone lays down a stellar guitar solo, or one on piano, violin, sax, or singing, you folks go ballistic) then you should not fear you’re not going to like the OSB. They will deliver ballistic moments for you.

So what else happened during the last week?  The Orillia Concert Band and the Orillia Big Band split the bill for a concert Saturday evening at St. Paul’s Centre. Randy Hoover put together a great lineup of tunes. The band played very well in the first half, the other band played their best gig of late. The OCB tackled von Suppe’s Poet and Peasant Overture, it’s a hard piece to play and they did a very good job with it. Following that they did Acker Bilk’s Stranger on the Shore, which most of the old folks in the audience would know, and Spanish March by Texidor. All three of the pieces above are different styles and it takes a well rehearsed ensemble to switch their heads and musical interpretations and serve the music they are playing.

The second half with the big band was great. They did Chick Corea’s Spain. I wouldn’t expect any band in town to even think of doing that tune. Too much going on, too many syncopated riffs that don’t start on a beat. I was impressed with how the band did it. It wouldn’t take much to die onstage playing this piece.

Milli Schop with the Orillia Big Band

Then there were the moments with Milli Schop singing. She did Blue Moon with the OCB and The Look of Love and Orange Coloured Sky with the big band. Where has this girl been hiding? Holy cow can she sing. And it’s not just she has a pleasing and powerful voice; she bloody well knows how to sing those jazz tunes. I mean, she really knows how to interpret the phrasing, the inflections, and the melodies (which are not anywhere near the same as pop melodies today) and own the performance.

This was a fundraiser for Hillcrest Lodge and $5,856 was donated by the audience.

Last Thursday Matthew Good did a solo show at St. Paul’s Centre. It was sold out. I’m not very familiar with his music. After seeing him perform, I can’t say there was anything he did that stood out. He’s a good singer, but except for one tune, I found it hard to differentiate one tune from another.

The Shorts

See the Shorts in Part Two

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

Rants & Raves

Support Independent Journalism