This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

I was sitting at the back of St. Paul’s Centre (that’s the only place they let me sit) at last weekend’s second Orillia Concert Band show with Rick Stephenson as the guest artist and a word popped into my head – rubato.

It must have been when Rick was singing One For My Baby near the end of the concert. I’d already seen the Saturday night concert (it’s not often there are, and I see, repeat performances) so I was playing  a mind exercise, trying to figure out how Rick manages to sing so well the songs Frank Sinatra made famous  you’d think you were actually hearing Sinatra.

Rubato, robbed time is playing, or in this case singing, a note or notes that don’t conform to what is written and the beat. One takes the time from surrounding note values to emphasize a note in a string of notes (the melody). Sinatra did this a lot. Jazz singers do this a lot. Heck, Classical pianists do it.

You can speed up as you get to the note you want to stretch, or shorten a note or two afterward, so long as you have a spot where everything lines up on the beat again with the rest of the band. It is most effective when a soloist does it against the regularity of the music of the accompaniment.

We hear it all the time and don’t notice, but it’s what makes some singers stand out and at times become famous for their style of signing. And it’s what makes it so hard for an arranger to take familiar song lyrics from one genre and make them fit an instrumental arrangement of another genre successfully. (Except when going to jazz or swing from another genre – then the arranger writes it in to the score).

As an example consider Gordon Lightfoot. He was a monster for playing and singing in time. I think it would be hard to find an example of him using rubato in his singing. This is one of the reasons creating band or orchestra arrangements from his songs tends to work so well, everything – the melody and accompaniment – lines up. Gord’s uniqueness is found in his enunciation and diction when compared to how others sing his songs.

In Sinatra’s case, I think using rubato was spontaneous, and it was not a predictable thing. He would stretch out a note no one else would. To replicate it means understanding how it worked for Sinatra and having a sensibility to make it a natural part your own delivery.

Rick Stephenson does that, and he showed it many times during the course of the two concerts he did with the Orillia Concert Band last weekend. He was so good at it the audience was generally blown away by the accuracy of replicating in a natural, internalized way what Sinatra did and often responded with very enthusiastic applause.

Rick served notice what was in store with the first tune he sang, Where or When. By the end of it everyone was kind of dumbfounded. Both days there was a bit of a gap in time between when the music stopped and the eruption of applause. People had to collect themselves a bit first.

Speaking of Gord, Rick is recording another album, but this time he’s not doing songs Sinatra sang. He’s doing songs he thinks Sinatra might have sung and one of them is Gord’s If You Could Read My Mind. Saturday night was the first time he performed it. Aside from it being transformed into a Bossa Nova, the clearest example of what I’ve been saying so far about using rubato is in the very first line. Rick stretches out read and syncopates each word after in the phrase until he starts the second line back on the beat.

You might also notice in the video Rick messes up a line in the tune. It happens to every performer at least once in their career. The trick is to recover quickly, which Rick did, and not draw attention to it. The OCB’s Brady Aubin told me:

“The song triggered a lot of emotion in the audience last night.  Rick noticed a lady in the third row crying so much that the tears were rolling off her face.  It touched him so much he got emotional, and in the moment, forgot where he was in the song.”

That was Saturday night. Sunday he left the impromptu change out.

Uncharacteristically of late, the band stumbled out of the gate with a few players not playing in the same time zone in the explosive opener, On Eagle’s Wings. The band didn’t let it rule the night and very quickly got their playing together, which is good because this song has a lot of exclamation marks and runs that would have sounded bad if taken further than the first few bars of music. Sunday afternoon it was much better, in fact the whole concert was better.

I think possibly the band was so hyped for the Saturday show and what it promised they maybe overplayed a bit. Not so much it marred the evening. To the casual listener, it may go unnoticed but to musicians in the audience familiar with band music dynamics, we noticed. Generally that’s because we’ve been there. You get into the start of the program and you’re thinking, ‘this is not as good as we can do, or did in rehearsal,’ and it stays with you until it’s all over, instead of just moving on and playing like you rehearsed.

The Orillia Concert Band with Rick Stephenson at the Leacock Retirement Lodge.

They proved it Sunday by playing much more relaxed and therefore better. I really like that the sound of the band is becoming more finely balanced and their execution of difficult to play music is getting to be razor sharp most of the time. The band members are clearly working hard and smarter under Randy Hoover’s direction to become a band one wants to hear, not just for the repertoire they pick to play, but for how they play it.

Rick did the concert two more times last Monday, once with the OCB at Leacock Retirement Lodge and then by himself at Atrium Retirement Residence.

The OCB will be playing the summer Music in the Park (Aqua Theatre) on June 23 at 6:30 p.m.  The subset of the OCB, The Orillia Big Band, plays July 28. See below for the full schedule.

Orillia Vocal Ensemble

Shawn William Clarke performs with the Orillia Vocal Ensemble on Wednesday.

The next Orillia Vocal Ensemble fundraising concert is at 7:30 p.m., May 22 at St. Paul’s Centre. The program features Canadian choral works, including that of Bruce Cockburn, Gord, and Stan Rogers. Their guest performer is Shawn William Clarke.

They always do their concerts as fundraisers and this time it’s for the great people of the Quota Club of Simcoe County. The club funds various things for the deaf and hard of hearing. One their projects is to help fund the training of Dog Guides, which I can say from experience is worth more than the dollars it costs to train a dog. They also help fund the Bob Rumball Camp of the Deaf in Parry Sound, which I can also say is a valuable thing for deaf kids. Admission is by donation and proceeds will go to the.

The OVE has raised $175,000 over the past 15 years. Admission is by donation.

Music In the Park

As things return to normal at the waterfront parks, we can look forward to a full slate of Sunday evening concerts at the Aqua Theatre. Here’s the list:

  • June 23, Orillia Concert Band 
  • July 7, Baytowne Big Band
  • July 14, Orillia Silver Band
  • July 21, Barrie Concert Band
  • July 28, Orillia Big Band 
  • August 4, Skyliners Big Band
  • August 11, Newmarket Citizens Band
  • August 18, Markham Concert Band
  • August 25, Simcoe County Band
  • September 1, Orillia Brassworks

The Shorts

Cassie Dasilva
  • Congrats to Cassie Dasilva. She released her new EP, You Don’t Wanna Feel This Much All The Time, on Friday and you can listen to it here. The newest single from it, Hate That You Can Tell, is really good. If the stars align, we’ll be hearing more of this album in all kinds of places. She’ll also be performing at the NXNE festival, specifically at Bar Cathedral (in Toronto) June 14 at midnight (going into Saturday).
  • Orillia Secondary School music parents association have a raffle on. Top prize is a Travis Shilling oil painting. There are 9 prizes all together, including gift cards, and golf. You can get tickets at Blossom Plants & Goods, 11 Peter Street South. Draw date is May 23 at the spring concert.
  • The Old Dance Hall Players have an improv comedy show happening at Couchiching Craft Brewing May 25 at 8 p.m. If you haven’t seen them yet, why? As is the case with these kinds of things, the show title (Holy Duck) usually has nothing to do with the content (since they make it up as they go along).  Get tickets online.
  • The Orillia Community Children’s Choir has a concert May 25 at 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre. Joining them are some members of the Orillia Vocal Ensemble. Tickets are $10 at the door.
  • 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.
  • Mariposa Arts Theater is holding auditions for their fall production, Stephen Sondheim’s Gypsy. They 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. They also have their 2nd annual Queer Cabaret happening June 21 and 22 at their rehearsal hall on Brammer Drive. Tickets are not available yet, but will be online here.
  • 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.
  • Arts Orillia has another Gathering; Festival of First Nations Stories opening May 31 at the Rama Community Hall with a concert by Les Boulanger, known as  DJ Boogey the Beat. In performance he builds the music from the drums up. There is a full slate of speakers June 1, also at the Rama Community Hall. You can see the activity schedule and reserve a seat online. The event is free to attend.
  • Two-time Leacock medal winner Terry Fallis will host the Meet The Author’s and Student Writing Showcase June 21 at Hawk Ridge Golf Club. The CBC’s The Debaters host Steve Patterson is hosting the annual Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour dinner the next evening. You can get tickets for either event now online.
  • The Cellar Singers have an online auction happening to raise funds. You can check out what is available and bid here
  • The Opera House has the Laugh For Lake Simcoe fundraiser with Ron Josol, Fiona O’Brien, and Jeff McEnery June 22. 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.
  • Cloud Gallery has a show opening May 25 at 2 p.m. It’s called My Happy Place. Each of the artists represented by the gallery was asked about their art representing the place that makes them happy, so it’s not necessarily the pieces each thinks is their best… 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 also hs Backra Bluid an exhibit of works by photographer Stacey Tyrell. 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 June  19 History Speaker’s Night is with Anna Marino of the Leacock Museum speaking about A Leacock Love Story; 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. 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.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has the Offcuts playing May 24; May 31 is the Half-O-Ween Drag Show; June 1 Dav Dickenson is in… Quayle’s Brewery has Chirs Lemay playing May 20; Ron Whitman May 23; Sydney Riley May 24; Stephan Bernard May 25 and Fraser Wayne May 26… The Hog ‘N Penny has a drop in Open Mic Sunday afternoons with Sean Patrick, Michael Martyn John MacDonald, Jessica Martin and whoever else shows up; Genevieve Cyr is in May 24 and the Kempencelts play May 25…  Lake Country Grill has Samantha Windover in May 22 and Jaclyn Kenyon playing May 29… Picnic has Meredith Warboys in May 26.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: The Orillia Vocal Ensemble.

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