By John Swartz
UPDATE: The ODAC Visioning workshop has been postponed to Tuesday December 5 at 6 p.m.
Imagine my degree of annoyance the one year I decided not to go to the Candlelight Parade / Tree Lighting event and all hell breaks loose. The next day was going to be jam-packed with three events, though for a change not at the same time, and with many weeks of overload, I figured it’s the same every year, I’ll pass this time.
Then I started seeing the Facebook postings. Only in Orillia sums the general tone. Several people posted about Jimmy Fallon mentioning it in his monologue earlier in the week. The saving grace is he did not say Orillia, but rather a small town in Ontario.
Then Leslie Fournier jumped in with some details about the tree, why it’s there, how old, and it’s health; generally saying don’t be so quick to judge.
Then some comments came we should embrace it. I can’t remember who said to me we should do it the same every year and bring a little Jerry Seinfeld slant to it– our own Festivus Pole/Tree accompanied by some kind of artistically created board people can write out their airing of grievances.
This was followed by Susan Willsey setting up a display at her store, Susie Q Fudge & Gifts, which tells the story of how Fred Noakes got the City to plant the tree. Anitta Hamming ran lights around the trunk of the trees in front of Creative Nomad Studios, encouraging other businesses to join the club. She also has t-shirts for sale.
In my case, I stayed out of the online commentary. I wanted to see it before I said anything, which I did the next night. I didn’t think it was quite the tragedy many were making it out to be, but still a disappointed no one involved with coming up with the plan and executing it said – do you think this is a good idea?
For years Orillia Power Corp. crews strung the lights. They weren’t what I would call very good at it, but it wasn’t the worst. Hydro One must be doing it now, but at someone’s direction from City Hall, or maybe Downtown Orillia.
I have some experience with how things work in the bureaucracy of City Hall when it comes to aesthetics; there’s a distinct lack of any appreciation for how things will look off the drawing board. It doesn’t matter if it’s how Rotary Place is situated, to the first plans for the James Street version of a rec center, to the first plan for the library exterior, to how the parking spaces are laid out (or will be) in the rebuilt boat launch parking lot, to running out and buying the cheapest PA system for events/announcements which no one past the first row can hear anything out of – no one seems to ever think about the effect of the final product in the environment it will exist in. If anyone does, they are too afraid to say anything to those who make decisions.
At the very least some one could have picked up the phone and called anyone who knows something about decorating. It’s not like every other person in town isn’t an artist of some kind.
As I stood in front of Creative Nomad last Wednesday night getting some fresh air and looking at the tree I thought, ‘why didn’t someone think to run a cable up high around the trunk and attach several guy wires and arrange them in a semi circle at the ground terminus and then run some lights on the wires?’ This would give the effect there were lights in the tree and provide a conical shape to the whole thing. The guy wires wouldn’t need any great tension on them and would take the load off the tree’s branches, and we’d have had maybe a better light display than there has been for years.
The way this tree thing happened is not an accident; someone said, ‘that’s good enough,’ and never gave it a second thought. Until, the howls started. Even so, I’m sure the decision makers don’t hear them.
I like the Festivus angle. We should capitalize on this. For those who don’t know or refuse to admit all our Christmas traditions are stolen for other pagan rites and rituals, ancient mythology – or wholly made up by Coca-Cola – we could still decorate a tree somewhere else. The fact is there are many other religious observances in December and the Festivus idea is more inclusive than given credit. When the tree finally comes down, as it will, put up a pole and turn the year-round use of it over to the arts community, save for the Christmas season when we light it up every year.
The Orillia Concert Band has their annual Christmas concert Dec. 2 at St. Paul’s Centre. It’s actually two concerts. The 3:30 p.m. concert is a shortened version of the evening concert, but for kids.
The Twin Lakes Secondary School Choir will sing a few tunes. The band will play Frozen., How could they not, it’s been Number 1 on the Kids Top 40 since it was recorded. That one is not making it to the evening, 7:30 p.m. concert.
Both concerts will feature Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, which to me is mandatory. They will also play Troika from Lieutenant Kije. Composed by Sergei Prokofiev; this arrangement is by an old acquaintance, Paul Lavender.
The Orillia Vocal Ensemble will be in to sing three tunes, accompanied by pianist Katie Pergau, and then another with the OCB. They’ll also be back at the end of the concert to join the OCB for the finale – after Sleigh Ride. You can expect to hear many traditional tunes, and a few medleys. I’ve been told I jumped the gun saying Santa would be at the evening concert as has been the case previously. Apparently He’s got to get home to work on his list, the naughty one; it seems more people are on it this year.
You can get tickets online, or at the door.
November 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. The Orillia District and Arts Council is having a visioning workshop at Creative Nomad Studios. They’re inviting current and past members. ODAC has been rebuilding itself for the last couple years and organized a number of events this year.
ODAC has new leadership and for some time this board and the previous one have been talking about how, and acting to strengthen and grow the council. Some of the renewed interest has resulted in a number of programs being offered, made possible by getting some grants.
People on the sidelines may be thinking, what’s ODAC going to do for me and where have they been lately? That could be because over the years since the City ditched the culture department in 2012, as I predicted, there was a general malaise about the community of artists and the arts (not for the individual and group pursuits).
That’s been changing the last couple years and ODAC wants to create a strategic plan. Membership is growing, and could grow a lot more. They recently started to offer group insurance, which to me is a huge plus. I think more people and arts groups should be members and have the voice in civic matters like they did in the early 00s.
- Derick Lehmann’s 90s Video Dance Party returns Dec. 2 at ODAS Park. The last one was successful to the point more people showed up than advance ticket sales foretold. Tickets are $20 online, or $25 at the door. Proceeds will be donated to Orillia toy drives.
- Wendy Fallis has a book out. Behind The Pickle Jar, is a historical fiction tale set in Simcoe County. She’ll be signing copies Dec. at Shine Cafe (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Lone Wolf Café (1:30 to 3:30 p.m.), and Dec. 9 at Apple Annie’s from noon to 2 p.m.
- The Opera House has comedian Ryan Belleville in Nov. 30; Able Theatre company is doing their Holiday Show Dec. 6; Dec. 8 Lunch at Allen’s (Murray McLaughlin, Cindy Church, Marc Jordan and Ian Thomas) is in; Dec. 9 and 10 Duck Soup Productions is doing their own musical revue, We Rock; the Barra MacNeils Dec. 11; Serena Ryder will be in Dec. 15 to bring her Merry Myths Tour to town; Dec. 16 the Titanium Arts Lab dancers will do their Snow Show. Get tickets for any of those online.
- The Leacock Museum has a new exhibit to see, Decoding Anne Lister: History’s First Modern Lesbian; Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 they have a Christmas tour of the grounds and a reading of Leacock’s Hoodoo McFiggin”s Christmas and you can pick from 5:30 or 7:30 p.m. to go; Dec. 6 they have a Holiday Centerpiece Workshop lead by the folks from Florillia Floral Design at 5:30 p.m. – you get to bring your creation home and have a drink to end the evening at Fare Restaurant. Get tickets online.
- The Orillia Big Band has a Christmas dance at St. James’ Anglican Church Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. Get tickets online. Yes, Milli Schop will be singing.
- The Orillia Silver Band has the last concert of the season Dec. 17 at the Opera House. They’ll be playing music from their Christmas CD, and they too will be doing Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. You can get tickets online.
- St. Paul’s Centre has a couple of events happening with the Skydiggers Dec. 14 for a Christmas concert. You can find tickets for all those online. They also have A Christmas Carol with Don McIsaac, Adam Chambers, Krista Storey, Raquel Ness and Carey Moran reading and Sean and Sandy Patrick, Jessica Martin and John MacDonald playing music on Dec. 1; you can get tickets for that here.
- The Orillia Museum of Art and History has events; they are hosting Fred Addis who wrote a book about Don Gallinger, a Boston Bruin who was banned from the NHL for betting, Fred will be in Nov, 30 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. to launch Gallinger: A Life Suspended, RSVP online; Steph Dunn has a book launch too, it’s an illustrated children’s book called I Will Carry You Now, and she’ll be in Dec. 2 at 11 a.m.; RSVP online: three of the artists (John Notten, Luci Dilkus and Peter Fyfe) with pieces in the annual Carmichael Landscape Show will be in to talk about their art at 5 p.m. Nov. 30.; the exhibits to see are The Canadian Landscape Show, 50 Years Of Mariposa Arts Theatre, A Close up on Carmichael (showcasing OMAH’s collection of related items), Jennifer Zardo’s Home Sweet Home and in the basement see The Orillia Police And The Sir Sam Steele Memorial Building… St. Paul’s Centre has the Call to Action 83 Art Project in the Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery… Hibernation Arts’s guest artist is David Crighton… Peter Street Fine Arts has their annual 6×6 Show happening in December; artists stop by now to pick up your boards… Cloud Gallery continues their fall series of exhibits with art by Patricia Clemmens up until Dec. 8; Dec. 9 it’s a group show with many of the artists represented by the gallery in attendance; look for a story about the success of the gallery and these artists here.
- The Hawkestone Singers also have their Christmas concert Dec. 3 at the Hawkestone Community Hall at 3 p.m. ; call 705-984-7110 for tickets.
- Quayle’s Brewery has Chris Staig playing Nov. 30; Matt Playne is in Dec. 1; Ron Whitman Dec. 2 and Steph Dunn Dec. 3 … Couchiching Craft Brewing has James Gray in Dec. 1; Valerie Burns and Dave Chun Dec. 2; A holiday market happens Dec. 3 at noon; Will Davis and Chris Robinson play jazz Dec. 3; Comedy with Beauty and the Beast happens Dec. 6… The Hog ‘N Penny has Shawn Steinhart playing every Friday; Michael Martyn and John MacDonald play Saturdays; Sundays from 1 to 3 bring your own instrument for a jam.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied)