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Orillia culture: What does it mean?

John Swartz, Special to The Packet & Times

Thursday afternoon, a fairly important cultural forum is taking place at the Orillia Public Library.

It’s called Re-Imagining Community: Creating a Culture of Neighbourhoods. What does that mean?

As a member of the cultural roundtable, the group holding the forum, that’s kind of the point: What does it mean?

I have an idea what it means and in the case of the lead example of a neighbourhood the forum is using, the arts district, it means finding out if there is a capacity for formal recognition by the city.

You might think otherwise or have another special place in town that could merit some attention.

Going deeper, what does recognizing a neighbourhood mean? Everyone knows Little Italy in Toronto. If you don’t, the street signs tell you you’re there.

Designation can be as simple as that or something more, ranging from marketing opportunities to preservation.

Your input will help determine what comes of the forum. I think anyone who lives or works in the downtown has an interest in this exercise, but I also think anyone in the city, particularly those with some knowledge of the history, will have valuable input.

The forum starts at 5:30 p.m. and ends at 7:30 p.m. If you want to go, please RSVP to because there’s finger food and it would be helpful to know how much to bring. If you are deciding last-minute, come anyway.


St. Paul’s United Church is having an in-depth conversation with Gordon Lightfoot Friday at 7:30 p.m.

This will be similar to the one Lightfoot did in 2007. Rev. Karen Hilfman Millson is leaving the pulpit April 7, but not the community, and she wanted to do something different to mark the occasion.

You need to get a ticket (no cost, but they’ll take a donation at the door) and you can get them at The Bird House Nature Company downtown or at the church during office hours.

A separate ticket, $25, includes dinner beforehand, but it’s not confirmed Lightfoot will be there for that.


The Jubilee Chorale has its annual Sweet Heart Soiree concert Sunday at 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Church.

The choir will do a few tunes at the beginning and end of the show and the middle will be filled with performances by young musicians.

Chamber Music Orillia is sending four students (Namrata and Nissita Francis, Clara and Jonathan Moellman) to play; Jake Thompson, Brenda Brett and Liam Bidmead will be very entertaining. Little Otter, Cutting Bracken, Krista Storey and Jim Cronk will also do some tunes.

Choir member Catherine Ashton came up with the idea to raise some money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Aside from the music, there will be some desserts and refreshments available.

Showtime is 2 p.m.  Tickets are $15 ($10 for students) and you can get them at Manticore Books and the Mariposa Folk Foundation office.


Last Saturday night’s Mariposa-in-Concert Blues and Gospel gig was nothing short of an amazing experience.

Johnny Max, Julian Fauth, Quisha Wint and John Mays put on a dynamite show. Max was bombastic, Fauth sang emotionally, Wint stunned everyone and elder statesman Mays proved age (he’s 72) is not a limiting factor when you want to rock out.

Behind that was Bucky Berger on drums, Dennis Pendrith on bass and Lance Anderson on the B3. Anderson opened, with Berger, both halves and set the stage with some very cool music of his own.

Wint was certainly a highlight with great renditions of Georgia and Amazing Grace. The latter got a standing ovation. Mays closed the first set with an old gospel tune, That Must Be Jesus, which segued neatly into Ray Charles’s I Got A Woman. (It worked because they are the same tune with different words.) It electrified the room so much, the audience needed a break to recharge.

It was the second such concert in as many years, and reference was made to doing it annually. If you didn’t go, you might want to set a reminder to get tickets for the next one when December rolls around because it was sold out a long time ago.

You’ll probably hear about it from those who were there. Heck, I was in the middle of Scout Valley Monday and a fellow came up to me to chat about the show.

Rants! Raves!! Info? Write John at


• The Canadian Authors Association has a writing workshop with Brian Henry called How to Build Novels and Short Stories Saturday at Brewery Bay Food Company from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s $48 and you can register by calling 705-719-3962 or emailing

• Albert Greer is conducting a concert at St. James’ Anglican Church March 3 at 3 p.m. The St. James’ Choir and Chamber Music Orillia are the main attraction. Soloists include Tracy Montgomery, Mel Hinch, Charles John Dodington, with instrumentalists Marie-Caroline Bourque and Valerie Selander, Peter Voisey and Jeffrey Moellman. Tickets are $20 ($10 for students younger than 16) and you can get them at the door.

• Sometimes the best writing happens a few minutes before deadline. You should know; you’ve been reading last-minute writing right here for years. On that note, you only have until March 1 to test yourself by writing a short story or poem to enter the Lake Country Literary Lapses writing contest. Keep it to 2,000 words for a story and 600 for a poem. Only unpublished writers can enter. The contest is run by the Mariposa Writers’ Group and there is also a youth writing contest happening. The annual event is April 13 at the Orillia Public Library. You can also submit a story for the reading portion of the day. Anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to compete can participate in that portion. Visit for contest details.

• The Oscars happen Sunday. I’ve added Moonrise Kingdom and Zero Dark Thirty to the list I’ve seen of the best picture nominees. I’m hoping to catch Argo before Sunday. As of this moment, Django Unchained is still my choice. My second favourite is Moonrise Kingdom. What a great little story told in an unusual way by director Wes Anderson. It’s a movie like The Big Lebowski (or other Coen brothers movies) I expect to watch many times and find things I missed the first dozen or so. That said, Argo or Zero Dark Thirty are going to win because it really isn’t about the craft of movie making that gets the votes.

• Coming up: Chris Emberson plays the Orillia Farmers’ Market Saturday. Steph Dunn plays Thursday night at Sixteen Front; Mark Stewart is in Friday; Liz Hurtubise Anderson is in Saturday. Chris Lemay is at Era 67 Friday; Dave Chun is in Saturday; there’s also live music Saturday afternoon. The Brownstone has Donovan Woods in Saturday night. Zephyr Gallery has a new show, Visual Sensations. The Orillia Youth Centre open-mike night is Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.

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