This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

I didn’t want to do a column like everyone else does – A Look Back at 2023, I thought it is better to write about what 2024 may be.

Ha! What do I know? I’ve been struggling the last couple days trying to come up with anything, anyway to say something about time which hasn’t arrived.

So I’m typing, but that doesn’t mean I came up with some nuggets, it just means I have a theme. Let’s see where this ends up.

What does 2024 look like? At this point grey, with patches of white and patches of light. At least for a while. A mood lifter happens February 3 at the Opera House when the Mariposa Folk Festival Gospel and Blues concert happens at the Opera House. In a way it’s the polite title for the concert. I think originally it was Dammit I’ve Had Enough, Let’s Have Some Music. You’re welcome, for reminding you of the show. I think its best you get those tickets now; go ahead, I’ll wait until you come back.

A prelude to that one, an Hors d’Oeuvres to tide you over, is the annual visit to Orillia by the Mudmen January 27. If you’ve never been, they are a rock band with tons of energy and bagpipes. I know, you just cringed a bit at the thought of rock with bagpipes, but you’d be surprised at how well bandleaders and bagpipers Robby and Sandy Campbell do with making them fit in, even as lead instruments with their music, which is some of the best partying kind of rock. They are entering their 26th year as a group and have an impressive list of accomplishments – including Don Cherry choosing their music for his DVD’s. Get tickets at the link above.

The rest of the year promises to be fantastic on the music front. That is the safest prediction anyone can make. I mean, do you live here? This town has some of the best musicians, music and music events of anywhere.

From the Roots North Music Festival in April (weekend passes on sale now), to Mariposa (weekend passes on sale now – and if you buy before January 1 early bird pricing applies), to the Orillia Jazz Festival in the fall,(almost immediately followed by many Christmas concerts) it’s one feast with many sideshows along the way.

What are those sideshows? If you keep coming back every week to this column you’ll find out (hit the yellow button just to the right there and we’ll even remind you once a week. Wait… this is the internet, we can make it easier than that, click here). I think, if you really like live music, you couldn’t be in a better place with the great performances we get to enjoy – and at prices well below what you’d pay in larger cities.

I’m going to keep with this prediction stuff and say I think one or two (dozen) of you who don’t like theatrical performances are going to go see a play this year – and like it. Why? Because we don’t do crappy, cheesy plays, that’s why.

Mariposa Arts Theatre puts on fantastic performances and chooses what to perform very well. Starting February 8 they are doing The Play That Went Wrong. They’ve got another coming up in April (Peter Colley’s I’ll Be Back Before Midnight). His You’ll Get Used To It – The War Show was done here for summer theater several years ago (and props to Colley for having a jpeg of my review on his website). You can go to the same link I used for the Gospel and Blues concert to find tickets.

And on the Opera House website, go to this link for details and ticket info about summer theater. Last year was the best slate of plays chosen and performances we’ve had, and they’ve chosen to repeat (in a way, same playwrights and directors) the success this year.

For the in between major league stuff, you can always watch Orillia council online (or go check out in person the renovated council chamber – visually – same old lousy sound and lighting) for a wide range of horror, drama and comedy offerings. Sadly there are no musicals and definitely no romantic comedies, yet.

On the visual art side, our artists and show puter together people never cease to surprise. The Orillia Museum of Art and History has one exhibit after another, and usually three or four, to go and see. The other Arts District galleries and Richard Vandermere’s on the way to Cloud Gallery on Mississaga Street have a constantly changing array of fine stuff to hang on your wall, along with some pieces to put on a table (but not the one in the foyer where people fling their coats on and off) and admire.

Then there’s the annual Scottish Festival, the Classic Car Show, Streets Alive may have something up their sleeve for the summer, The Pirate Party, Christmas in June and several other Port of Orillia chamber of commerce events to look forward to.

Who knows, the City may even close Mississaga Street on weekends again in 2024. I’m predict they figure out to make it a great success they’ll need to hire really good bands (Bleeker, Ronnie Douglas Blues Band, Classic Lightfoot Live, Grate Northern etc., you know – acts which are very polished with some energy) and set up a stage at the intersection of Peter and Mississaga – just as a draw to get even more people downtown on a (it’s going to be hot) summer evening because that’s what it needs.

That’s kind of the long way to say I think 2024 is going to be a good year. Happy New Year to you.

The Shorts

  • The City has a New Year’s Eve party at the Orillia Recreation Centre from 5 to 7:30 p.m., Dec. 31. Aside from all the things one can do at the rec center, they are bringing in a ton of other things to have fun with. They also have swimming, popcorn and cotton candy. At Rotary Place there is free skating between 1 and 3 p.m. on the 31st and Orillia Transit is free to ride from 4:45 p.m. to 1:45 a.m.
  • Yuk Yuks New Year’s Eve is happening at the Quality Inn. The comics are Matt Lund, Justin Shaw and Scott Faulconbridge. Dinner and the show is $150, show only $95. Call 705-326-7343 for tickets.
  • Steph Dunn is at Lake Country Grill from 5 to 8 Dec. 31…  ODAS Park has a New Year’s Eve dance with DJ Scott Stanton; get tickets online… Bleeker is playing Barrie’s outdoor NYE event at City Hall (with Big Wreck) starting at 8 p.m.

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

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