By John Swartz
The 2024 Ontario 55+ Winter Games opened Tuesday night with two events, one at the Opera House, the other at St. Paul’s Centre. As with the other winter games Orillia has hosted, there was entertainment, and to my mind the bands stole the show.
John Stinson and Eric Kidd played overtime at the Opera House, and no one minded. In fact the audience would not let emcee, Steve Clarke continue with the wrap up until they came back to do one more tune.
They are part of Classic Lightfoot Live and I love that band. As you know, I’ve heard Gordon Lightfoot perform many times and we were friends, so the thought of anyone trying to replicate what Gord did in the manner of a tribute act is not something I’d usually get excited about. Never mind I don’t like most tribute acts. However I first saw these two (and the rest of the band) years before Gord died (in fact I saw them once when Gord was in the room too) and John Stinson is someone who understands how to sing those tunes and has similar voice qualities. That he is not trying to mimic, as most clone bands do, unsuccessfully, makes the performance so much better.
The audience, there for their sporting activities this week, was astonished by what they were hearing. Several times the applause was genuinely over the top.
Classic Lightfoot Live will do a show at the Opera House May 4. It is well worth you seeing. The last time they played in Orillia (2023 Lightfoot Days) they sold out St. Paul’s Centre. You can get tickets online.
Meanwhile over at St. Paul’s, the opening ceremonies were split between two venues because, where are you going to put 1,000 athletes? The start times were offset by half an hour to allow Mayor Don McIsaac and the rest of the dignitaries to sprint the 300 meters between the venues.
I couldn’t leave the Opera House until John and Eric were done and I got to St. Paul’s as the Thompson Egbo-Egbo Trio was already in progress with their show. I wish I could have seen all of it.
Last time he was here the sound was not very good for his show, so it was good to hear them play as they intended. And, they also had 15 dancers from the Toronto Metropolitan University dance program performing with them.
Wow. Those dancers were fantastic. They weaved solo moments with full ensemble routines seamlessly. I’m sure the audience appreciated the athleticism the dancers displayed too. Of course they did, and gave a standing ovation at the end.
One tune, The Offering from his album of the same name, had an ending in which the dancers created the illusion of it speeding up as they formed concentric circles and rotated in an ever tightening radius, kind of like a tornado. It really was exciting to see.
Afterward I said to Thompson I wasn’t sure if the song sped up or if it was the work of the dancers that made it seem that way. He said, it wasn’t supposed to, but it often does when they play it.
They also sneaked in a really cool medley version of 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, bookended with Kenny Jarrett’s Sing a Song of Song. The arrangement so masterfully disguised the familiar melody, I’m absolutely sure most of the audience weren’t sure they were hearing Paul Simon’s tune until the chorus hit.
This was not going to be heavy on news relating to Gord, but last evening that changed. The Lightfoot Days folks announced they have a headliner for November’s festival.
The Lightfoot Band will be performing at the Opera House October 31. The committee had intended to move the festival closer to the 17th, Gord’s birthday, but realized there’s already too much going on the weekend nearest that date and decided the first weekend of November was better because historically nothing much else happens then.
But October 31? It is the Thursday before the first November weekend and the Opera House was booked already for the Friday evening. The committee is also negotiating with another famous group to perform November 1 at St. Paul’s Centre and has some other events in the works which will happen at St. Paul’s. They also will be expanding the network of other venues participating in the evenings. It looks like the Friday, Saturday and Sunday will have a lot of activity.
The band just weeks ago debuted with Andy Mauck as their singer/guitarist at the El Macombo in Toronto. That concert was recorded front to back from the audience and you can find it here.
It is Gord’s band with Rick Haynes, Carter Lancaster, Barry Keane and Mike Heffernan. SUNonline/Orillia interviewed Rick and Andy and if you missed it, you can find it here.
Tickets are expected to go on sale this coming week. They are not listed on the Opera House website yet, but you’ll find them here the day they are.
More New Music
Zachary Lucky, who is home for a short break from his tour of a good chunk of the United States, has a new single, Jasper, out and you can listen, or buy, it online. If you scroll down that page, on the right side you’ll find links to his other albums.
If you didn’t get a chance to listen to the new tunes I mentioned last week, here’s the info again. Danny Webster has a new song out and you can find Enemy at these places The style is consistent with his other music, but this one made me think of John Lennon’s #9 Dream.
John’s Cottage, Max Metcalf’s band also has new music out. You can listen to the album, For the Worst on Bandcamp.
Further to my words about Mark Bourrie’s speech at the annual fundraising dinner at Hawk Ridge Golf Club, I thought it worth mentioning a part of his speech.
He mentioned the Champlain statue, which he said should be returned – with an explanation. “Just say, this sculpture was made by one of the most important sculptors in Canada, It has problems (explain them), and then build a statue to Yellowhead beside it and say, “this is the guy who stopped the Indigenous people of Central Ontario from being deported to Manitoulin Island.””
Chief Yellowhead was also one of only two chiefs who spoke against the establishment of residential schools.
You will note, despite assurances it would be reinstalled long ago, it is still absent from its perch. As has been said to me by some friends from across the lake, ‘it’s art,’ it should be put back and there should be some companion piece of substance made to sit alongside it to explain what and why the lower figures are a problem. Of course there some who say it should never be returned, but that would be a second rewriting of our history.
Because of the lack of public statement from the City, Rama, or the feds, it seems the whole issue has been forgotten. It’s been gone since 2017. It didn’t take 7 full years from the time John F. Kennedy said “We choose to go to the Moon,” and when Neil Armstrong took the first steps, can’t we figure this one out?
The Orillia Museum of Art and History has three exhibits to see. The main floor has a solo exhibit by Robyn Rennie called Seeing Beyond. Each piece is really two pieces, 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. OMAH has scheduled a movie night every Thursday until April 18 to show the collection – complete with wine, beer and popcorn. Also see, Sybil, a collection of fibre art by artists associated with the celebrated Sybil Rampen.
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 the work of solo artist Zane Cook for Black History Month, a new collection of pieces by ODAC artists, and quite a lot of new work from the other artists who regularly show at the gallery…... Peter Street Fine Arts has a collection of work from the Bayside Artists featured for February and March… Ruane-lea Marshall and Deby Melillo have a Valentine’s Day exhibit of their work in the Green Room at the Opera House, would you believe, on February 14 from 1 to 4 p.m.; Margaret Paradise and Christine Hartwick are now part of the cabal.
- Mariposa Arts Theatre has a comedy,
The Play That Goes Wrong, running right now at the Opera House. The review was in yesterday’s column. Funny is understatement, and I’m going to guess repeat viewings will reveal more fun stuff than caught the first time around.
- 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 museum has A Leacock Love Story – Valentine”s Tour Feb. 17; some lost letters from Beatrix to Stevie surfaced recently and you get to hear what she said., get tickets online.
- 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 Stephanie Barnard playing Feb. 10; Cassie Dasilva Feb. 14; Jakob Pearce and Dave Hewitt Feb. 16; James Gray Feb. 17 and Chris Lemay Feb. 18… Quayle’s Brewery has Cam Galloway playing Feb. 10; Michael Schultz Feb. 15; Kyle Wauchope Feb. 16 and Patrick Hunter Feb. 17… Steph Dunn is at Lake Country Grill Feb 14…. Kensington’s has Jakob Pearce in Feb. 10… 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: Steve Eyers, Eric Kidd, Gordon Lightfoot and John Stinson at the 2016 Lightfoot Days event at Lake Country Grill