By John Swartz
We’re a lucky bunch. We have a number of very good musicians living here, some who should be popular beyond City limits, and a few who are. But popularity with the masses is not the measure I, or other musicians take when assessing the ability and capabilities of someone’s talent and skills.
We have a few groups who regularly bring in skilled soloists to entertain us. Last fall the Orillia Silver Band put on a concert which, even if pianist Kyung-A Lee was not part of it, was so many cuts above the fantastic things the other groups do (hopefully the OSB will do it again). The Cellar Singers bring in soloists who in the choral and operatic world are first call musicians. Mariposa – I shouldn’t have to say more. Roots North, same. Over the years the Jazz and the Blues festivals were stocked with award winning (and to those who like and follow that music) stars. The Orillia Concert Association always manages to find acts that are stellar in the genres those acts represent.
Our smaller venues have reasonably good and entertaining musicians playing on weekends, and occasionally get some on the verge of breaking out (or did so after playing here).
If you made a list of notable concerts, go back as far as you want, and then pulled from it all the ones Lance Anderson had a hand in, either playing or producing, you’d find it’s a lot. Musicians here are connected to the outside world, but none more so than Lance.
Let’s look at Saturday night’s Gospel and Blues concert at the Opera House. This is the 12th time the Mariposa Folk Festival has offered it and the 12th time Lance has assembled the cast of characters and crafted the show. I remember the first one, held upstairs at the legion. The room was sold out. I think every one of them has sold out, or since moving to the Opera House darn near. Note we’re talking about venues of a 200 seat capacity, or St. Paul’s which can hold 400, against the Opera House which is almost 700.
I guarantee you own albums, or have a song you can think of, those musicians played on the recording of.
Let’s take a look at who he has in the band this time around. Have you heard of Alice Cooper? How about Parliament, or Funkadelic (note those were two separate bands until George Clinton combined them)., Van Morrison or Lou Reed. Prakash John played bass on some those musician’s best known albums and songs. He was in the touring bands of many more. Oh, and he’s a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s going to be in the band Saturday night.
Jordan John, Prakash’s son, is no slouch either. He plays drums, keyboards, guitar, bass and vocal cords. He’s recorded with Johnny Reid, Colin James, Jeff Healey, Burton Cummings, Wide Mouth Mason and others. He also played in bands with Aretha Franklin and Prince. He’s in the band Saturday night.
Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne Is one of those musicians most people don’t know of. He’s the kind of musician who doesn’t play with others, they play with him. The Juno and Maple Blues Award winner has played, under his name, most of the prestigious jazz and blues festivals around the world.
Michael Shand has played piano for Molly Johnson, Jackie Richardson, Matt Dusk, Larnell Lewis, Natalie MacMaster, Shakura S’Aida, Kardinal Offishall and Maestro Fresh Wes. Unfortunately, he’s the only member of the band with a Grammy nomination (not for him, but it still is, kind of, a heavy calling card).
Ronnie Douglas was nominated twice for the Maple Blues’s Best New Group/Artist award. Of course when he got those he wasn’t new, and I’d like to know his secret for being new twice. Ronnie has his place cemented by other musicians, the public is playing catch up.
If you are a regular reader, you’ll know Lance has a long list of accomplishments, which have been enumerated many times here, so let’s just leave it at – his stature is such when he calls you to play a gig, you say yes.
My memory says this is the smallest band Lance has put together for this gig, but on paper, it packs the most punch. So, to say you will be suitably impressed and entertained is a waste of words.
There are only 43 tickets left; they’re all in the balcony, but it’s music, the sound up there is pretty good, and you can get them online.
More Music – Much
Also happening Saturday night is an Orillia Youth Centre fundraising concert by The Offcuts at Creative Nomad Studios. They have Bernadette Connors as a guest performer. There’s food and drink. You can get tickets online. If it wasn’t for the gig across the street, this is where I’d be.
Danny Webster has new music out. You can find to listen to Enemy at these places (I recommend Bandamp to listen or buy; they have the best royalties for musicians). The style is consistent with his other music, but this one made me think of John Lennon’s #9 Dream. It’s not he copied anything, but it has a similar vibe.
John’s Cottage, Max Metcalf’s band also has new music out. You can listen to the album, For the Worst on Bandcamp.
Gordon Lightfoot’s band with Andy Mauch filling in for Gord debuted at the El Macombo last Saturday. They had to add a second show on Sunday because of ticket demand. I wasn’t there, but I haven’t read anyone’s comments saying it wasn’t a good night, or nice try guys. Here’s a playlist of the concert and you can judge for yourself.
The band already has a number of other dates lined up. One thing they did differently was we heard from the band members telling stories and the emergence of Rick Haynes as the on stage ringleader. Of course Andy handled most of the between tunes banter, but it’s a nice turn the band is getting their turn to speak with and to the audience.
Sunday afternoon, the Orillia Concert Association had Will Davis and Chris Robinson as the feature of their five part series. Will and Chris had Omar Gittens (drums) and Dave Field (bass) to fill out the band.
I’d go and have, to hear just Will and Chris play, so at the very least having a drummer in the house who isn’t confined to a chair at the bar was great.
They covered tunes by Miles Davis, Cole Porter, Willie Dixon, Fats Domino, Herbie Hancock and Will’s rendition of Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom was fantastic.
The one thing I noticed is my own shortcoming as an observer. I often tend to focus on the instruments being played (guess which one), and about three tunes in I started to realize Chris is a really good singer as well as a sax player. Anyone can sing a tune, but very few can get inside the phrasing and find the places to emphasize the lyrics to make their version unique and personal. If you can’t do that, don’t sing jazz, or blues.
I have no explanation why I didn’t notice that before. Maybe it was the different venue (at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church), or I sat in the front row instead of the back, but I regret I failed to notice before.
Snow Flakes (Not That Kind)
Have you been downtown lately? Last week I bumped into Leslie Fournier. She was mounting new art on what I thought was just a wooden fence replica kind of thing. When she said she was putting up new art on sleds, the latter part went in one ear and out the other.
I’m surprised she didn’t whack me on the side of the head when I finally noticed they were sleds like the kind everyone had decades ago before someone figured a sheet of plastic was more thrilling on the hills.
It’s part of another out-of-left-field idea she had to brighten up downtown and tie into other things happening; like the Ontario 55+ Winter Games happening in Orillia starting February 6.
If you are afraid of snowflakes and don’t want to venture outside, the good news is, we’ve got a few days of reasonably warm weather ahead, or you can check out some of the designs online.
A good time to go downtown is Wednesday, February 7. The streets will be closed, the plan is the stores will be open. Jakob Pearce will be playing at Apple Annie’s; Julien Kelland at Couchiching Craft Brewing; Fence Monkey at Alley Cats Music; Paul Morgan at Fionn MacCool’s;
Or Tuesday, February 6 when the opening ceremonies happen at 7:30 – at the Opera House and St. Paul’s Centre.
Classic Lightfoot Live is playing at the Opera House and the Thompson Egbo-Egbo Trio at St. Paul’s. I think this is a first with the an event is competing with itself as far as the entertainment goes. Highlight of the night will be the solo 300 meter dash between the two venues. I’ll probably come in third.
OMAH And Art
The Orillia Museum of Art and History had show openings for three exhibits a couple weeks ago. The main floor has a solo exhibit by Robyn Rennie called Seeing Beyond. It’s interesting because each piece is really two pieces. The art is textured with one version being in colour and the other being the same thing but in white so you can see how she created the 3rd dimension. Another exhibit is a series of old 8mm films showing Orillia as it used to be. Grant’s Legacy: Capturing Orillia’s History on Film is made up of 32 reels, some short, some not. The camera work is not much better than my mom would do, but the value is seeing what was between the ‘30s and mid-60’s.
Last Saturday night OMAH had their annual fundraising dinner at Hawk Ridge Golf Club. It’s was a good night on the social side and the keynote speaker, Mark Bourrie did a really good job of enumerating the people who were key players in Orillia’s development and their effect on the world beyond. Mark is an author, journalist and lawyer living in Ottawa, but he comes from Tiny Township and in his speech he referred to Orillia as home many times. He wrapped up his history tour by tying the events and people to today, with the message being we can overcome the turbulence and make, or continue to make a great community – if they did it, we can too.
The monthly History Speaker’s Night is Feb. 21 with Graeme Davis – Simcoe County’s forester – talking about the history of Simcoe County’s forests. At one time we’d logged them out almost completely, but decades ago the county went on a planting spree. It’s on Zoom and you can register online.
In other art, St. Paul’s Centre has the Call to Action 83 Art Project in the Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery… Hibernation Arts has lots of new pieces to see, maybe not all at once either; Wendy McQuaig will be in Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. to talk about her new book Behind the Pickle Jar... Peter Street Fine Arts has a collection of work from the Bayside Artists featured for February and March.
- Mariposa Arts Theatre has The Play That Goes Wrong starting a two week run Feb. 8. For those of you are still in New Year’s mode – that’s next week. Also it’s in Gord’s Room and I’ve been told the elevator is fixed. Get tickets online… the Opera House also has tickets for the Leacock Museum’s A Leacock Love Story – Valentine”s Tour Feb. 17; the short strokes on the story is some lost letters from Beatrix to Stevie surfaced recently and you get to hear what she said.
- The Leacock Medal for Humour’s annual student humourous writing competition submission period is on now and closes April 15. Ontario students are eligible to enter and the top prize is $1,500, with two $750 runners up prizes. You can find out details online. Winners get to read their stories at the annual Meet The Authors night June 21.
- The Mariposa Folk Festival isn’t until July, but the annual audition concert is in April and it’s now time for musicians to get their applications in. Find out more how to submit material online. They also have tickets on sale now for their next off-season concert March 9 with Boreal (Katherine Wheatley, Tannis Slimmon, Angie Nussey) at St. Paul’s Centre.
- Couchiching Craft Brewing has Jojo Garrisi playing Feb. 3; The Station Feb. 4; Julien Kelland Feb. 7; Cam Galloway Feb. 9 and Stephanie Barnard Feb. 10… Quayle’s Brewery has My Missing Piece playing Feb 3; Sam Windover Feb. 8; James Gray Feb. 9; Cam Galloway Feb. 11… Sean and Dale Patrick are at the Hog ‘N Penny Feb. 3… Steph Dunn is at Lake Country Grill Feb 7 and 14… Alex Rabbitson is at Picnic Feb. 4… the Hog ‘N Penny has Choir Revolution (they provide the music, you do the singing) Feb. 5. Kensington’s has Shawn Steinhart (Stuart’s son) in Feb. 9… St. Paul’s Centre has a Pub Night Feb. 16 with Meredith Warboys playing music; $10 at the door.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Gospel and Blues musicians Jordan and Prakash John, Lance Anderson, Kenny Wayne and Ronnie Douglas.