This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

The Orillia Concert Band concerts this weekend at St. Paul’s Centre is going to be special. Rick Stephenson is their guest performer. Some of you who have been around long enough might remember Rick, he did a very successful Frank Sinatra show and had a big band, The Endangered Species.

Rick still performs his Sinatra show and has branched out to cover other music. For example, he will do If You Could Read My Mind for this concert, and it will be the first time he’s done it in public.

The arrangement is by Rick’s pianist, John Brown, who will also be part of the concert.  Rick’s next album is made up of songs by other singers he likes (tunes Rick thinks Sinatra might have covered if he was still alive) and If You Could Read My Mind will be on it.

Of course Sinatra started the Reprise record label and one of the musicians he signed was Gord.

There will be a ton of great music and great playing and singing, so hurry and get your tickets now. There are only 10 left to be sold online for Saturday night’s 7:30 p.m. show and the Orillia Concert Band is holding 50 for those who can’t buy online, so don’t dawdle getting to church for the show. The band realized tickets were selling better than for any other concert they have done and several weeks ago they added a show for Sunday May 12 at 2:30 p.m. I’m told online tickets for the Sunday show are selling at a rate it could be a sell out too, but there’s a bit more available as of now.

See a separate piece about Rick soon.


Orillia council had an item on its closed session meeting. It is outlined as a staffing matter. Closed session items usually have very little accompanying detail.

Coincidentally, during the course of the last week, I learned Wendy Fairbairn left her job as general manager of the Opera House about two months ago.  You’d think a position like that with public visibility would have had some public notice.

I don’t know if the closed session item is related.

If it were me, the minute I learned the job was open I would have put in a call to Krista Storey. She was the former GM of the Opera House prior to Fairbairn. While Fairbairn was not a bad GM, she did, after all, get a summer theater program running on high octane, Krista was maybe the best GM during the entire history of my time here in Orillia.

Back in 2014, she, along with the rest of the culture department staff were chased out of town. I mean that literally, along with the department being dissolved and progress on a decade’s long drive to fortify cultural activity in town. The top three staffers back then are all now working for other municipalities.

Krista went to Gravenhurst and turned around a moribund slate of offerings there. She moved on to Meaford. Meaford, where their lineup of events in some areas (sans summer theater) is better then what we get here.

So after two months there is no manager at the Opera House. I would find it odd if someone of her calibre and proven success has not been asked to interview.

Classic Lightfoot Was Live

Saturday night’s concert at the Opera House with Classic Lightfoot Live was magical. I think John Stinson is fantastic singing Gord’s tunes. I asked around at intermission and afterward what others thought and they too remarked at how much he sounds like Gord.

Of course the band, Gord’s nephew Steve Eyers on bass, Eric Kidd on lead guitar, Liz Anderson on keyboards and shaky percussion things, and Malcolm Gould on drums played all the parts as we expect them. Steve and Eric even contributed some backup vocals where there aren’t any on Gord’s recordings without diminishing the songs.

Getting back to John for a sec, he did the show despite feeling ill and having seen them before I can say being sick did not affect the performance.

The setlist was interesting. They did a number of tunes, 7 or 8, even Gord didn’t do in concert except on occasion. Of course they did all the tunes people know. Of all Gord’s songs, Song For A Winter’s Night got the greatest round of applause from the audience, with Beautiful coming in a close second for the song the audience responded to the most.

That is until they finished The Wreck, which was also the last tune before the encore. Then they got a standing ovation, which was so loud the band didn’t even do the leave the stage and come back routine; they just picked up their instrument again and played Alberta Bound (which at the chorus the audience was singing louder than the band), and Cotton Jenny.

Alex Andrews was invited onstage to play violin to a couple tunes.  In the first half, John mentioned Steve was one half of Even Steven; “I have more to say about that later,” he said.

That meant to me they were going to play I Used To Be A Country Singer, which they did in the second half. But before they did, John asked if anyone had seen Even Steven, which I’d say about half the audience cheered for. Then he started to intro the song and I thought, ‘he’s going to bring Steve McEown (the writer of the song) onstage.” That was the case. John gave up the mic and Steve sang it. The audience cheered when it was done.

The show was sold out and if you missed it, I have no problem recommending the next time they play in town, or close by, check their schedule, go see them.

The Shorts

  • Arts Orillia has their Theatre and Cross Connectivity program again this year. It’s May 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Opera House. The event features the result a two-week program for youth lead by Simon Malbogat (Mixed Theatre Company). You can find more information and get tickets online.
  • The next Orillia Vocal Ensemble fundraising concert is May 22 at St. Paul’s Centre. The program features music by Bruce Cockburn, Gord, and Stan Rogers. Admission is by donation and proceeds will go to the Quota Club of Simcoe County.
  • Mariposa Arts Theater is holding auditions for their fall production, Stephen Sondheim’s Gypsy. It will be May 24, 25, and 26 at their rehearsal hall. Josh Halbot is directing. You can find out all the details about the character descriptions, audition requirements and how to become part of the burlesque ensemble online.
  • Have you been watching the playoffs on Sportsnet? The music in their promos is from Bleeker’s new album. Check out Bleeker’s new music here.
  • The success of the first two Back to the 90s Video Dance Parties was so good ($14,000 raised in December), Derick Lehmann has a third one happening May 25 at the Roller Skating Place at ODAS Park. This time around the fundraiser is to buy bikes for kids. Get tickets online. Derick is also promoting the Pure Country 106 Video Dance Party Apr. 27 at ODAS Park and you get those tickets online.
  • Lighthouse had to cancel their May 2 concert at the Opera House because the lead singer, Dan Clancy got sick. Fear not, if you had tickets they’ve already been transferred to a new date, September 20. You can get tickets if the new date suits you, but it’s not listed online yet (I’ll be sure to let you know). In the mean time Andre Philippe Gagnon is in May 9; kids are going to love the live action show Dinosaur World Live May 15; comedian Derek Seguin is in May 16; and the Laugh For Lake Simcoe fundraiser with Ron Josol, Fiona O’Brien, and Jeff McEnery is June 22. Get tickets for any of these shows  online.
Jowi Taylor
  • Anne Walker has Jowi Taylor with Six String Nation (featuring the guitar made from parts donated by famous Canadians) in for the next of the  summer concerts at the Coulson Church on May 26. Joining him are John Prince, Patty McLaughlin and Anne Walker. The rest of the schedule is: June 23 Tannis Slimmon and Lewis Melville; July 28 Wendell Ferguson; Aug. 25 Anne Walker; and Sept. 29 Blair Packham. You can get tickets online.
  • Canada Day is returning to Couchiching Beach Park and the organizing committee has some room on it, and they are looking for sponsors and people to volunteer the day of. You can find out more online.
  • Tickets are now on sale for all The Leacock Medal for Humour’s events in June. Terry Fallis is emceeing the Meet the Authors night and Steve Patterson the medal dinner.
  • The Orillia Museum of Art and History has the 27th annual International Women’s Day Art Show in the main gallery; you can also see an exhibit of work from an art program for kids called Regent Park Public School Grade 6/7 Garden Design Program; OMAH opens Backra Bluid an exhibit of works by photographer Stacey Tyrell May 18. OMAH is looking for a couple board members. You can apply online if you are 18-years-old, live in Simcoe County, have references and are a member of OMAH, but not an employee or related to one. May 10 they have a Mother’s Day Wine and Paint night lead by Peter Fyfe; the May 15 History Speaker’s Night is with Dave Dawson who will talk about the history of the Packet and Times and Beyond; it’s online and you can register here… St. Paul’s Centre has the Call to Action 83 Art Project in the Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery. Hibernation Arts has a new ODAC collection for the month. Zain Campbell also has a collection of  his paintings on the wall. Peter Street Fine Arts has a collection of work by Gina McHugh featured in May. ODAC artists have a show up in the Green Room at the Opera House, and they have a new show, Spring Awakening up May 18. Cloud Gallery’s next Collector’s Corner artist is Brigitte Granton; they also have has Lisa Hickey in May 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for their next installment of the Meet the Artist series.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Grate Northern in to play May 10; Jeremiah Hill May 11; Valerie Burns and Dave Chun May 12; Jakob Pearce and Dave Hewitt May 18… Quayle’s Brewery has Vince Therrien playing May 9; Cam Galloway May 10; Ron Whitman May 11; Jojo May 12; Chris Staig May 16… St. Paul’s Centre has another Pub Night May 10 with Dan McCoy and Steve Braun; they’ve invited Steve Porter and Ryan Lamb (among others) to join them; cover is $10… Lake Country Grill has Even Steven playing May 11 and Samantha Windover May 22… Picnic has Mark Thackway in May 19.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Rick Stephenson performs Saturday night and Sunday afternoon with he Orillia Concert Band at St. Paul’s Centre.

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