Entertainment Local

’Tis the season for music

John Swartz, Special to The Packet & Times

Christmas, or at least the season, starts Saturday.

The annual Christmas Prelude happens at the Orillia Opera House at 7:30 p.m. This is a family event I think could use more people less than four feet in height in the audience.

Sure, there are a number of parents and grandparents who bring along their kids, but when it happens in the Opera House, which it hasn’t from time to time, there always seems to be room for more.

Why? Well, some guy in a red suit gets to the Prelude every year and he’s got candy, the music and it’s fun.

Leroy Anderson’s two Christmas pieces, A Christmas Festival and Sleigh Ride, have been played at the Prelude for as long as I can remember. I think those two pieces are the bedrock of any Christmas concert because they have the spirit and evoke the imagery of the excitement of Christmas, which, for me, goes back even further than the Prelude in my memory.

The Orillia Wind Ensemble will do a few tunes that are meant to be sung along to and the Orillia Vocal Ensemble will do a couple of tunes in each set we can just enjoy.

Gord Duncan is the guest artist. He was the principal trumpet player with the Oakville Symphony Orchestra and has played the Call to the Post for the Queen’s Plate. He’ll be doing O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

Meredith Warboys is also in the show to sing Once Upon a Christmas.

Tickets are $22, $19 for seniors and $5 for students. You can get them at the box office.


Two other Christmas concerts to go to are happening next weekend.

On Dec. 14, the Cellar Singers have their show at St. Paul’s United Church. They’ll be doing Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, Conrad Susa’s Carols and Lullabies and Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit.

Special guests — percussionist Ryan Scott, guitarist Michael Savona and harpist Sanya Eng — will also perform.

Tickets are $30 ($15 for students). You can get them at Manticore Books or at the door. The show will start at 7:30 p.m.

On Dec. 15, the Orillia Silver Band (OSB) will be at Bethel Baptist Church for a 2 p.m. Christmas concert. Admission is by freewill offering.

The OSB has been sounding pretty darn good lately with its new conductor, Neil Barlow.

In addition to Christmas tunes, the OSB will do Vaughan Williams’s English Folk Song Suite. Its guests will be John, Jan and Friends.


At the Opera House Dec. 11, the Nureyev State Ballet will perform The Nutcracker. This company has 60 dancers and is based in Ufa, Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia, where Rudolph Nureyev was from.

The performance has choreography by Yuri Grigorovich of the Bolshoi Theatre.

Tickets are $58 ($28 for students and seniors).


Monday night, Orillia council heard the result of the request for proposals to run a summer theatre program at the Opera House.

Four proposals were received and all of them fell short of the criteria in one way or another.

I’m not surprised. It would be difficult in the best of times to find anyone who could repeat what Dave Campbell and Tim Webb did for summer theatre here over the past four years.

To replace Campbell and Webb this late in the game, you’d need at least one professional who has a track record of note, and those kinds of people are already committed to other projects.

The conversation at council revealed what usually happens when theatre is on the agenda — not many councillors or upper management understand the theatre process.

With culture now being part of the parks and recreation department, it was clear to me when the director says things like planning for the next season starts in July or August, there is a disconnect. In fact, the news of the departure of Campbell and Webb had to travel up and down the food chain at city hall before action was taken this year — in October.

Opera House general manager Krista Storey had Plan B running in parallel to the request for proposals and has been scouting productions to bring in next summer. She told me even though it’s late, she will have an announcement soon (maybe even next week) about what plays to expect.

There are a few things that need to change to ensure summer theatre continues seamlessly past next season, even if the creative team or individuals change. One of those is how the budget is set. The city works about six months in advance; theatre needs to work 12 to 18 months in advance.

More on this another time.

Rants! Raves!! Info? Write John at watchthisproductions@encode.com.


• The Orillia and District Arts Council Arts Awards nomination period is open. There are three categories and you can get details by calling 705-716-6524 or emailing marggurr@hotmail.com. There are also forms at city hall, the Mariposa Folk Foundation office and the Orillia Public Library.

• Having seen the stuff Peter Street Fine Arts and Zephyr Gallery have in their Christmas shows, it looks like the number of great pieces to buy is considerably up from previous years. They both have collections with prices of $100 or less.

• Auditions for Mariposa Arts Theatre’s Inherit the Wind are happening at its Brammer Drive rehearsal hall Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.

• The city is drafting a new zoning bylaw and for the first time, there will be a definition for live/work spaces in some commercial and residential zones. You should check out the definition on Page 31 of the draft bylaw (go to orillia.ca, search for “zoning” and the second link is the draft) and give input in writing to zoning@orillia.ca or go to the special council meeting Dec. 12. You can’t appeal the bylaw if you don’t.

• The Ontario government has a new grant program to promote music recording and performance. There are four funding divisions and two of them seem to fit artists around here. Go to festivalsandeventsontario.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ontario-music-fund.pdf for details for small companies and to festivalsandeventsontario.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ontario-music-fund.pdf if you are involved in live production. Deadlines are Jan. 6.

• Coming up: The Brownstone has an open mike every Tuesday; the Dough Bros are in Friday; Anderson Reid exhibits photos Saturday and will be taking pics of you between 8 and 10 p.m. to add to the exhibit, and Ill Murray will provide the music. Steph Dunn is at Sixteen Front Thursday night; Dave Hinschberger is in Friday. Jamie Drake leads a jam at McCabe’s Thursday nights starting at 8 p.m. Dave Chun is at Era 67 Friday; Grant Lauer is in Saturday and Sunday evening. Brian Smith is at The Grape and Olive Saturday night. Duck Soup Productions presents Raise Your Voice at the Orillia Opera House Dec. 14 and 15. Chris Thompson plays the Orillia Farmers’ Market Saturday.

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