It’s Not Just Spring, It’s Concert Season

By John Swartz


The first weekend of May is so packed with concerts it doesn’t just resemble a long weekend, but 6 days of great music.

May 1

May 1 is the anniversary of Gordon Lightfoot’s death and the folks organizing the annual Lightfoot Days weekend have put together something to mark the occasion. At noon at the statue in Tudhope Park there will be music of course.

Steve Porter

Steve Porter, Jeff Monague, and the Brant Street Session will sing some tunes and Daphne Mainprize and John Winchester will have some things to say. If it rains the event will happen at Couchiching Craft Brewing, same time. The committee won’t be making a decision about location until 10 a.m. Tuesday, so check into the Lightfoot Days Facebook page for updates. The forecast for Wednesday looks to a partly sunny day, they’re never wrong, are they?

It’s free to attend.

Email was received a couple days ago, that a cellist named Margaret Maria and singer, Tréson have done a cover of Song For A Winter’s Night and the song and video are being released May 1, They plan to perform it at St. Paul’s Centre. Originally it was set for 12 p.m., but that has been changed to 2 p.m. because they didn’t know the Lightfoot Days folks had something planned too.

May 2

Lighthouse has a concert at the Opera House. It’s been a while since they played here. Since then Ronn ‘Skip Prokop has passed on and guitarist and founding member Ralph Cole retired in 2022. This leaves Paul Hoffert and Russ Little as the only remaining original members of the 10 member band.


But, it doesn’t mean it’s a new band. The line up started changing one year after the band’s 1969 debut. Lead singer Dan Clancy is likely the only singer most fans know of, he’s been in the band since 1992. Bassist Doug Moore, keyboard player Don Paulton, sax player Simon Wallis, and trumpeter Chris Howells all joined the band during the course of the 90s.

“When people say the original band, but the other guys who have been playing with us, the whole horn section and Dan, have been with Lighthouse for 30 years. They’re more orthodox in keeping to the original tradition. I wrote the charts, we can change it if you want, and they say that’s not the way it was,” said co-founder Paul. Hoffert

Skip’s son Jamie originally took over the drums until the pandemic and Paul DeLong is riding heard now. Marc Ganetakos is the newest member of the band to take over for Cole.

“His dad took him ( Ganetakos) to the Lighthouse concert at Ontario Place (first reunion in 1982) and he met Ralph (Cole, original guitarist) and Ralph inspired him to become a professional guitar player. He came in and auditioned playing all of Ralph’s licks and solos perfectly,” said Hoffert.

Paul Delong is the regular drummer, but for this gig Charley Cooley will be keeping time (Skip never just kept time).

“The guys all do other stuff and that’s fine. Their first commitment is Lighthouse. This is only the second time Paul has had to have an alternate; we don’t call them subs because any other drummers or the other players are, as I say it’s like a platoon. You have 6 outfielders and any day you come to see a baseball team it’s not like one guy is the only guy. We call it the Lighthouse family, so all the other guys that are alternates are on all the emails, they keep up with the changes we make at rehearsals and all of that.”

People expect the songs to sound the same as the recordings they may own, but like any other band the solos tend to be different. Hoffert had his own struggle with playing a solo as it was recorded for One Fine Morning.

“When we originally recorded that song I played an acoustic piano solo. We never thought that would be a single because it had the long piano solo. Immediately I would play a different solo over the years.”

“Over the last ten years or so there have a lot of tribute bands and two of them (including one that recorded and has really popular Youtube video, a Russian group (Leonid and Friends)) –they’re incredible –  the keyboard players lifted my exact solo from the original record and played it perfectly and I said to myself, “you know, a lot of our audiences have never seen Lighthouse and the only thing they’ve heard is the original record and now here they have these cover bands with that solo.””

““I should probably get back to doing the solo like the original solo.” When I started practising it, it was so hard. I have good chops now, but it’s one thing to, in the spur of the moment when the adrenaline is flowing, to perform over your capability in a recorded situation. It’s another thing as a soloist to replicate it. I do stick a lot closer to that original solo. I have no idea if it makes a difference to the audience, but I think it does because I look how many (Youtube) hits these tribute bands are getting, so what do you do? Not only do you have to compete with the other bands, but you have to compete with your own history.”

At time of publishing there are only a dozen seats left on the main floor and the balcony has been filling in over the last few days. You can get tickets online.

UPDATE: We received word after publication that Dan Clancy has taken ill and the performance had to be cancelled. The band will arrange a replacement date.

May 3
Amy Sky, Marc Jordan

The Opera House is the scene for another concert, this time with Marc Jordan and Amy Sky. Jordan had his hits with Marina Del Ray, I’m A Camera and Survival, but he also wrote Rhythm of My Heart for Rod Stewart. He also wrote songs for Diana Ross, Cher, Bette Midler, Chicago, and Josh Groban and he’s one quarter of Lunch at Allen’s.

Amy Sky has also written a number of songs for people like Diana Ross, Anne Murray, Olivia Newton-John, Reba McEntire, Belinda Carlisle, Aaron Neville, Heart, Cyndi Lauper, and Sheena Easton. She also starred in the Toronto production of the musical Blood Brothers with David Cassidy and Michael Burgess

In short, you’re going to hear songs and think – I didn’t know they wrote that.

They have their son Ezra along to perform with them. You can tickets online.

May 4

Saturday some decisions have to be made. Change your car autopilot to the other concert venue in town, St. Paul’s Centre, to hear the Orillia Silver Band do a concert of music chosen to represent a trip around the world at 8 p.m.

Highlights include a premiere of Together Again by Ty Watson. Watson also wrote A Life Well Lived, which the band premiered a number of years ago.

Their also playing Chuck Mangione’s Children of Snachez for the Spanish part of the itinerary. Laura Christie will solo on tombone for Fantasy for Trombone. They also do A Fistful of Dollars and end back on this continent with Caravan. It should be noted the date, March 4, figures into Star Wars territory, and I wouldn’t be surprised if….

You can get tickets online.


you could leave the autopilot set to the Opera House and see Classic Lightfoot Live at 7:30 p.m.

Steve Eyers, John Stinson, Eric Kidd

There’s Gord’s band, who are out on the road again, or Classic Lightfoot Live. There are no other choices when it comes to enjoying the songs without Gord being there.

John Stinson does such a remarkable job singing the songs we know so well, you’d think at times you were really listening to Gord. They were the headliners for last year’s revived Lightfoot Days weekend and John and Eric Kidd performed at the opening of the 2024 Ontario 55+ Winter Games to a standing ovation and demand for an encore.

Besides, what other band has Gord’s nephew, Steve Eyers, in it? Steve has been living with Gord’s music, sometimes even getting to hear it before the records were pressed, his entire life.

Eric learned to play guitar at the knee of Red Shea. Of course I’m being figurative; Red had another chair to sit in. The point is Eric learned how to play the songs from the guy who created the guitar parts to many of the early hits, which is better than watching a Youtube video made by someone who thinks they know how to play them.

John’s been at it for years.

“I started out years ago with one called Gordon Lightfoot Tribute, and then I created Classic Lightfoot Live. That was a name we came up with in 2016,” said Stinson.

And he also learned from the master.

“I took lesson from Red Shea for years and years. I was over at his house a lot. When I was doing my duo (with Chris Scott), we wanted to get recording, he called up Terry Clements and said “Terry I got two guys here, can you do a recording in your home studio?” So I met Terry that way,” Stinson said.

“With Red I would be trying to learn a Lightfoot song, I was doing mostly the Eagles, the Beatles and stuff like that; I would always go in there and say, “How the hell, what’s going on in this Gord song? Can you show me how to do this?””

“He taught me the nuances of a lot of the songs,”

They have a new member in the band. Well, not so new. We saw Liz Anderson play with them at last year’s Lightfoot Days Festival. Playing in Classic Lightfoot was not on her radar.

“We (Steve and Liz) performed together lots of times so he of course knew I could play. I guess they trusted him on that and hopefully they are not kicking themselves because of that,” Liz said.

“He did approach me on behalf of the band. He gave me a call last June. I thought John Stinson’s voice was a close match for Gordie’s voice, so I tried it out. It’s been outside of my comfort zone in some ways because I had to learn how to program different sounds on my keyboard, and going from strings to piano – in one song – I’m such a non-techy person. It’s been a challenge for me.”

“They were a very good band and I love Gord’s music,” said Liz. “I feel like I’m getting a free concert every time I’m on stage with the guys. To be able to hear this all around me, it’s such a thrill.”

Tickets are available online. There are only about half the seats in the balcony left to choose from.

If that is not enough for a Saturday, you can start earlier, 3 p.m., with the Cellar Singers as they perform music from HMS Pinafore at St. James’ Anglican Church. Of course this is one of the most popular of the Gilbert and Sullivan catalogue of comic operas. You can get tickets online.


 May 5
Ensemble Vivant: Virginia MacDonald, George Koller, Catherine Wilson, Norman Hathaway, Wendy Solomon and Sarah Boyer

The Orillia Concert Association has the last of their season of great concerts happening at the Opera House for a 2:30  p.m. concert with Ensemble Vivant. They are Virginia MacDonald (clarinet), George Koller (Bass) (he promises to behave himself), Catherine Wilson (piano/artistic director), Norman Hathaway (viola), Wendy Solomon (cello) and Sarah Boyer (violin). They play a mix of classical and jazz compositions. Those tickets are also available online.

May 6

No tickets required, but you might have to spring for dinner because several of the excellent ensembles of Orillia Secondary School music students are playing at Boston Pizza from 5 to 8 p.m. for Music Monday (a national day of recognition for music in schools). You should make a reservation, 705-329-0994, and Boston Pizza is making a donation to the music program.

(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

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