This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

The Mariposa Folk Festival released the full line up for the summer festival this week. Of course it doesn’t include three acts to be chosen at the end of April’s audition concert.

I’m not sure what to think of it. The big bold names on the poster (main stage main attractions) are Old Crow Medicine Show, Bahamas, Band of Horses, Noah Cyrus, William Prince and Bruce Cockburn. There are some Juno and Grammy nominated and winning acts in there.

Certainly Bruce Cockburn is a big name, but it doesn’t resemble the list of recent years with Barenaked Ladies, Judy Collins, Matt Andersen, Mavis Staples, Jimmy Webb, or The Proclaimers shouting out to ticket buyers. Bahamas and William Prince have been to the festival before and are audience favourites, but I’m learning about the others and I’m sure a good chunk of the public is just as clueless.

Dwayne Gretzky

The medium font names are Amigo the Devil, Donovan Woods, Dwayne Gretzky, Jesse Cook, Joseph, Maestro Fresh Wes, Modern Biology, The Secret Sisters. Dwayne Gretzky played here in the fall and gave one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen at the Opera House, Jesse Cook is a guitar player’s player and if I need to tell you who Maestro Fresh Wes is you were born after the 90s and asleep during the last 25 years.

On the small font list these acts have been at Mariposa before, or in one case Roots North; Amanda Rheaume, Colin Linden, Crystal Shawanda, the Doghouse Orchestra (Rebekah Hawker occasionally gigs with this band), the Good Lovelies, Irish Mythen, James Gray, Ken Whiteley, Old Man Luedecke, Rick Fines, Rose Cousins, Union Duke the Vaudevillian.

The rest of the lineup has acts I never heard of before. That doesn’t mean much because there’s a lot more music to discover these days than when I had all day to listen to an album a few times – in a row – and memorize music and liner notes.

But, I’d be apprehensive about putting a list together that goes over the head of someone who likely listens to more music in one week and most do in a month.

My first thought seeing the list was the festival is going back to the future with the kind of stuff they programmed during the first ten years on returning to Orillia. Small, but good acts. It could be a long weekend journey of discovering artists and music I’d somehow missed and a lot of acoustic music (whatever that means since everything gets mic’ed and fed through a PA).

So there’s no holy crap, x, y and z are playing our little festival this year giddiness. On the other hand Mariposa has pulled rabbits out of hats pretty consistently and I’ve learned not to underestimate the programs they put together. Get tickets online.


Before I get to Gord’s band, I need to tell you about Saturday March 2’s Orillia Concert Band show at St. Paul’s Centre. It’s at 7:30 p.m. and you can get tickets now online, or at the door.

They’ve programmed movie music for almost the whole concert. Somehow they ran out of movie music at the last tune; Star Wars, done it; West Side Story, nope, Interstellar? Do most people know it? That’s OK, the last tune is Con te partirò.

It was written for Andrea Bocelli. You’ve heard it before, most likely the duet version with Sarah Brightman, but not in a movie. You also likely know it by its English title, Time To Say Goodbye. It will be presented as a duet sung by Alex Teske and Dean Jobim-Bevans. In case you’ve forgotten how the song goes, have a listen.

Another highlight will be a euphonium solo played by Cal Lander. The tune is Cinema Paradiso. It’s no secret I favour any band with a good bottom end, much more bottom end than man would think of. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a brass ensemble with 18 or 20 tubas 15 euphoniums and 15 baritones working against a mix of 30 middle voice horns and trumpets. An orchestra with a stack of double basses and as many tubas also gets my attention. So, when the OCB lines up Cal with a solo piece to play, I get a little excited.

Happening soon at the Opera House is a concert of laughter March 8 with the Old Dance Hall Players doing their improv show, Guns and Rosies.; Sean McCann (of Great Big Sea) March 17; Julie et l’univers (a dance program choreographed by Laurence Lemieux and inspired by a painting by Jean-Paul Lemieux) March 22 and Irish Mythen March 23 (dynamite performer, lots of good seats available). Get tickets for those online.

Way off in the distance is The Lightfoot Band, here October 31 to kick of the Lightfoot days Festival. Thickets only went on sale Friday and already 150 have been sold.

Speaking of Gord Lightfoot Classic Live is in May 4 and until Gord’s real band decided to carry on this was the only band doing Gord’s music I could recommend.  Only half the number of seats on the main floor are left for this concert.

Did I mention Lighthouse will be in town May 2? OK, consider it done.

Summer Theater tickets are on sale and just this week their very popular Getaway Packages (dinner/hotel/show) went on sale, so tell your out of town friends.

Mariposa Folk has their spring concert happening March 9 at the St. Paul’s Centre with Boreal (Katherine Wheatley, Tannis Slimmon, Angie Nussey). You can still tickets on sale now.

The Cellar Singers concert last Saturday night was great. I think scheduling Maurice Duruflé’s four Motets as the entire first half made for the shortest interlude to intermission I think I’ve not had the pleasure of getting stiff legs for. It was a grand 24 minutes long. The Cellars sang without accompaniment, but not in the second half for Duruflé’s Requiem.

Matthew Larkin was in to play the organ and I have to say as an accompanist I’ve only ever head one other person, Doreen Uren Simmons, accompany in such a way to never got in the way of the people singing. Even when he was playing wide open, feeling the low notes, he still left room for the choir’s voices to remain front and center.

Then mezzo-soprano Autumn Debassige sang a section. She’s originally from Orillia and she’s not that big a person, but her voice is big. The visual does not compute with the aural. And she looks like she’s doing it effortlessly.

It’s always a nice change of pace to relax and let the sound of people’s unamplified voices fill a room and the ears, especially when the singing is so technically good.

So Long Don
Don Porter
Don Porter, December 2021

It will likely only be days before Don Porter is no longer with us. He’s currently at Mariposa House Hospice. Don was a character for sure. Some of you might remember his frequent comments on Facebook with SUNonline/Orillia stories, some of them quite flinty.

The thing is, you could talk to him, ask him if he considered point A, B or C and there were times I did and he’d say – well that changes things.

Don also owns The Geneva Event Centre, which was a much needed venue for live music. Just before the pandemic he started a major renovation of the Geneva. Post pandemic the opening was delayed as he tended to repairs and renos for the second floor apartments, and then he got sick. He developed some kind of brain tumour, not cancer, but I can’t remember the very long name for what he had is.

He also would kick in the cost of using the Geneva to community groups, and would take money out of his pocket to donate to causes. He was trying to find the right buyer for the Geneva, someone interested in keeping it running as a venue. I didn’t get a chance to ask him if he was successful.

Last December 2 he had a going away party at the Geneva with Grate Northern and the Ronnie Douglas Blues Band playing. He worked furiously to finish the interior restoration and it  looked great. There was a full house of friends on hand to have one last bash with Don. Even then his memory was not very good. He told me there were a few people he recognized along with their names, some he recognized but couldn’t come up with a name, and some names he knew he should know who they belonged to, but he was no longer able to make the connections.

I visited him Tuesday and he was conscious, but unresponsive. I have no idea if he knew I was there. Don has a great sense of humour about what was happening to him, and I’m sure if he could he might have said, “You should have known it would have been a waste of time to come see me.” We’d have laughed and I would have said, “Do you know how to use a phone?”

Some people may think he was rude, acerbic and opinionated with the wrong opinions. He was however, always taking the side of making things better in Orillia from his perspective, and he was easy to have a conversation with about any differences. In short he’s the kind of character we need just to keep the rest of us on our toes. Good bye Don.

The Shorts

  • The City is preparing for the weekly Sunday evening Concerts in the Park series. The park is Couchiching Beach Park at the Aqua Theatre. There is no line up yet, but they are also including an Artisan Market as part of the events. There is an application online to fill out and you have until Mar. 15 to do so.
  • The Leacock Museum opens from its winter hibernation Mar. 2 with a new exhibit, From War to Wonders: Mapping Escapism in a Time of Turmoil. The exhibit examines the effect of both wars on literature and will feature artifacts of gifts Leacock received.
  • 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;  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, you can see them anytime, but their movie night every Thursday until April 18 – complete with wine, beer and popcorn – is a good time to go; also see, Sybil, a collection of fibre art by artists associated with the celebrated Sybil Rampen; the monthly Speaker’s Night is Mar. 20 on Zoom with Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux updating on The Reality of Reconciliation in Canada and Abroad; register online… St. Paul’s Centre has the Call to Action 83 Art Project in the Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery… Hibernation Arts has the Wimmen exhibit featured all month;… Peter Street Fine Arts has a collection of work from the Bayside Artists all month.
  • The Leacock Medal for Humour announced the MC for the June medal dinner is Steve Patterson (the CBC’s The Debaters) and Terry Fallis will host the Meet the Authors Night; tickets go on sale Mar. 12. The 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.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Paige Rutledge playing Mar. 8; Burke Erwin Mar. 9; Will Davis and Chris Robinson are in Mar. 10 … Quayle’s Brewery has Jakob Pearce in to play Mar. 2; Patrick Hunter Mar. 3; Kyle Wauchope Mar. 8 and Sam Johnston Mar. 9 … The Hog ‘N Penny has Benj Rowland in Mar.2; Sunday afternoons there is a drop in Open Mic… St. David’s Choir is performing Pepper Choplin’s Easter Cantata Mar. 30 at 3 p.m. at the James Street Church; admission is by freewill offering… St. Paul’s Centre’s next Pub Night is Mar. 22 with Alex; $10 at the door… The Hawkestone Hall has an Open Mic happening Mar. 15; admission is a 45 donation and to get on the list to play email

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Colin Linden, Bruce Cockburn, and Maestro Fresh Wes will play the 2024 Mariposa Folk Festival

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