This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment – Part Two

By John Swartz

CORRECTION: We have been informed the amount raised at the OVE concert was displayed in error. The new total is $ 20,200. Still impressive.

Stay tuned for some really interesting news; but I have to get there in the order of appearance. Saturday night’s Orillia Vocal Ensemble Christmas concert at St. Paul’s Centre was remarkable for several reasons. First, all 400 seats were filled. That in itself is notable because I think most of the OVE concerts I’ve been to at St. Paul’s would clock in at 250 to 300 people.

The OVE is on an upward journey to being a top performing group. If you go back and read what I had to say about the Orillia concert band, the same things apply to choirs. Of the 60 or so singers, 20 were men, which is several more than they had last year. With another ten men getting balance won’t put so much pressure on the women not to drown out the guys. As it was, things were pretty well balanced and I especially liked Carol of the Bells, which was the concert opener. They were also quite good with Brother Heinrich’s Christmas.

That piece, by John Rutter, set a narration, by Clive Algie, against the choir, and Peter Voisey on oboe and Adrienne Volgmann on bassoon. It’s not an entirely straightforward Classical Christmas work – as performed; Algie pulled a few laughs out the audience.

The Orillia Community Children’s Choir did three-song sets in each half of the concert. Most of the dozen singers were about this high, so just being there was entertainment enough for most of the audience.

The OVE always does their concerts as free admission, while letting you know they are fundraisers for a revolving list of local agencies. They’ve done pretty well over the years. Some of the concerts have raised amounts approaching $10k, with, I seem to recall, one getting $11k.

When it came time to announce how much was raised for the Sharing Place Food Bank, no one was prepared to hear $ 20,200. Despite my record, that is not a typo.

Not long afterword, I began to think of the numerous other Christmas events that were fundraisers, and did a tally in my head from memory on the way home. Of course later I recalled a few others. Here’s a list, which is still incomplete (so apologies to the people who organized an event I’ve missed):

Orillia Youth Centre, Steve Poltz/Danny Michel concert Nov. 30 $18,500
90s Video Dance Party, Toy Drive       $14,000
Ugly Sweater Bowling Party (Sharing Place) $4,500
Quayle’s Christmas Tree Festival (Youth Centre)   $7,400
Creative Nomad Christmas Tree T-shirt/coffee mug (Sharing Place/Lighthouse)               $7,600
Streets Alive Christmas Ornament sale (Couchiching Conservancy) $1,500

That’s $73,700 raised in 17 days. And that’s not counting Green Haven Shelter’s A Christmas Carol event (I was unable to get a tally in time). When I said, many times over the years, there’s something in the water here, I meant that produces so many artistically inclined people, not people who compulsively give money away.

I wish I was able to find the stats for how much Orillians give in charitable donations. I saw one once, and we gave more than many communities (in total and per capita) than some three times or more our size.

The surprise in all that is how the T-Shirt thing panned out. Anitta Hamming came up with the idea, did the artwork, and sourced suppliers in two days. The proceeds, all of it, was donated to two agencies. Jim Wilson matched what was raised to a certain point and just shy of $7,000 was donated to the Sharing Place. Sales continued until the beginning of last week and another $600 or so will be donated to the Lighthouse.

That all happened in not quite three weeks. As Anitta said, “they are now a limited edition T-shirts, sweat shirts and mugs.”

Derick Lehmann organized the Ugly Sweater event and the dance party. He was astounded how successful the video dance party was.

This is one of the reasons I’m happy I landed here and stayed here. We are so fortunate to live in a community that supports the agencies picking up the pieces for so many others. And when you think about it, if you follow news from elsewhere, we are so free of all the crap that happens with demonstrations (climate change excepted), and nutcases causing problems. Yes we have our share of crime happening, especially with drugs, but if you pay attention to who is being arrested (SUNonline/Orillia gets the OPP notices, but we don’t chase flashing lights) you’ll note most of those people are not from Orillia.

We are good people and I am happy to be surrounded by all of you.

The Geneva
Don Porter, December 2021, showing a lighting controller he would install.

Speaking of good people, it’s not widely known, but Don Porter has a terminal illness. He does not have much longer. He’s already had brain surgery and can no longer remember people’s names, save form a few, though he says he knows he knows the people he encounters, he just doesn’t know why or their names.

He had a going away bash at the Geneva December 2 with Grate Northern and the Ronnie Douglas Blues Band playing. The last time (story) I was in the Geneva it was a mess. Don had torn just about everything apart and had plans for creating the best stage in town.

He did that. He had to delay working on the club for quite a long time to do some repairs and renovations to the apartments, and worked feverishly to put everything back together in the club in time for the party.

How did he do? The sound is excellent and the lighting greatly improved over what it was. The décor isn’t exactly as he first envisioned, but then, he told me he decided to take it in another direction. It is the best club in town.

John Norwood, who lives in Ecuador now, came home for the party and took his place behind the bar. The next day he went back, taking Don with him, and they have been seeing everything there is to see in the Caribbean.

The problem for us is, what is going to happen with the Geneva when Don no longer controls it. He said he’s trying to find a buyer for the building who will keep and commit to running the club. When I spoke with him before the party he said he was close with one prospect, and had an agent working on finding others. He wants to sell it while he’s still alive so he can be assured his children are taken care of.

Don always was an opinionated guy, and not always with the best information on his side. But you could talk to him. We didn’t always agree on everything and some of you who frequented the comments on the Facebook page we maintained will recall how sharp he could be – with me and others.

That said, I understood where he was coming from. He wanted the best for the community and himself. It’s a testament to his nature of not really caring what people think of him or what he says that he has a tremendous sense of humour about the predicament he is now in.

I’ve never felt comfortable wisecracking with people who are as sick as he is, but he almost invites it, and laughs with you. I want to personally thank him for creating a great venue for live music and for wanting to make it better as he has done. I’m going to wait to say he’ll be missed by me and many.

The Shorts

  • Time is running out. We’re here to help. If you are stumped for a gift for someone on your list, check out the Arts column from last week. Something I said might give you an idea.
  • Yuk Yuks New Year’s Eve is happening again at the Quality Inn.  The comics are Matt Lund, Justin Shaw and Scott Faulconbridge.  Diner and the show is $150, show only $95. Call 705-326-7343 for tickets.
  • The Opera House calendar has the Mudmen in for a concert Jan. 27 Get tickets for any Opera House show online.

  • Wendy McQuaig will be at Picnic Dec. 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. signing copies of her book, Behind The Pickle Jar
  • The Orillia Museum of Art and History has exhibits to see; 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 the Bayside Artists and ODAC artist groups, Julie Grimaldi has a section of wall space with new material and M J Pollack has a very nice series of photographs of waterfront  sunrises… Peter Street Fine Arts has their annual 6×6 Show happening in December and it should be up this week.
  • Quayles Brewery has Jojo  playing Dec. 21; Stephan Barnard Dec. 22 and Sam Johnston Dec. 23; both start at 5 p.m.

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

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