Entertainment Local

Prelude offers pleasant surprise

John Swartz, Special to The Packet & Times

After just eight or so bars of the first tune the Orillia Wind Ensemble (OWE) played at last Saturday’s Christmas Prelude at the Orillia Opera House — Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival — I thought, “Whoa, that was a good start.”

Halfway through the tune, I was thinking, “OK, who took the OWE and replaced them with this band?”

The band was playing the daylights out of the song. The blend and balance between all of the instrumental voices was perfect. The attacks and releases in each section’s contribution to the whole piece were virtually flawless. The intonation was the best I’ve ever heard from the OWE.

They played as they never had before. This is not a band of professionals; they all do other things in their lives. Considering that, they have played very well many times. But this was on a level I would expect from a band that rehearsed every day and played concerts three or four times a week, constantly cleaning and perfecting.

I was almost in shock.

I’d like to say the rest of the concert was equally as stellar, but in each of the remaining tunes, there was some element that wasn’t quite as perfect, though on the whole, they played a lot better than I’ve heard from them before.

They returned to that initial form again midway through the second half with a medley of Christmas tunes called Dream in a Silent Night. It was a piece where the OWE traded sections with the Orillia Vocal Ensemble (OVE).

The show opened with Gord Duncan playing solo on O Come, O Come Emmanuel. It’s tough to do, playing by one’s self without accompaniment, especially to start a show. It was good.

Then he came back at the end in Messiah to play The Trumpet Shall Sound with Paul Blanche singing and Mary-Jo Wilson at the piano. The only word that comes to mind is smooth. Each phrase, call and response he played came and went like a nice Scotch down the gullet. This is the way trumpet players like to do it, but few manage.

The OVE sang several times in the concert, sometimes by themselves, sometimes with the OWE backing them up and several times helping the audience with carols.

They seemed to transform themselves on Jingle Bells, a bit of a different arrangement than we’re familiar with, reaching levels of performance the OWE showed in the opener.

The band also used some new percussion equipment. Notably, the four new tympani drums had a nice affect on the band’s sound. They are not as bright-sounding as the old ones they used and fill out the bottom end nicely.

Congrats on a job very well done.


This weekend, there are two more Christmas concerts. The Cellar Singers get first crack Saturday night at St. Paul’s United Church with Carols and Lullabies.

Mitchell Pady will lead the choir through Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, a piece supported by Sanya Eng on the harp.

Guitarist Michael Savona and percussionist Ryan Scott are needed to pull off Conrad Susa’s Carols and Lullabies since the music is based on Spanish, Puerto Rican and Mexican themes.

Ending the concert is Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit, a piece based on traditional French carols.

Tickets are $30 ($15 for students) and you can get them at Manticore Books or at the door. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, the Orillia Silver Band (OSB) does Christmas at Bethel Baptist Church. Its 2 p.m. concert has guests John, Jan and Friends in to take some of the spotlight.

The OSB will do a number of traditional tunes and some a little more ancient. They will also have Ralph Vaughan Williams’s English Folk Song Suite on the menu to change things up a bit.

Admission to the 2 p.m. concert is by freewill offering.


Thursday night, the annual High School Art Show happens at the Orillia Museum of Art and History (OMAH). This show usually happens in the spring, but they had a little difficulty staging it with all the rubble around.

It’s called This is Tomorrow and features art made by area high-school students. The opening reception is at 6 p.m. and there’s also a coffee house/open mike.

Also happening is the dedication of a painting by Paul Baxter and others. Paul did a streetscape of the Arts District in black and white, put it up on the street for Culture Days and kids were allowed to “colour” in a portion of it. You’d think that might turn out to be a disaster, but it has an appeal.

The painting was part of Zephyr Gallery’s auction a couple of weeks ago and more than $600 was donated to the gallery because of it.

The end purpose was to hit a figure (surpassed in spades) and it would be donated to OMAH. It’s going to hang in the education room.

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


• Gayle Schofield is having a reception at Tiffin’s Creative Centre Sunday at 1 p.m. for her exhibit. There’s a variety of styles of paintings as well as coasters, pendants, floor cloths and banners she’s made.

• The Orillia and District Arts Council Arts Awards nominations period is underway. 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 hanging at Peter Street Fine Arts and Zephyr Gallery 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.

• I stopped by The Brownstone Saturday night to check out Anderson Reid’s photo exhibit. He had a dozen really nice portraits hanging. I think if I wanted someone to take a portrait that would be a little different, imaginative yet tasteful, I’d get Anderson to do it.

• The City of Orillia has a special council meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. to pass a new comprehensive zoning bylaw. Notably, the new bylaw has provision 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 meeting. You can’t appeal the bylaw if you don’t.

• Coming up: The Brownstone has an open mike every Tuesday; the outrageously entertaining Run With the Kittens is in Friday; Doug Tielli is in Saturday. Steph Dunn is at Sixteen Front Thursday night; Liz Hurtubise Anderson is in Friday. Jamie Drake leads a jam at McCabe’s Thursday nights starting at 8 p.m. Kevin Foster is at Era 67 Friday; Taylor Abram is in Saturday. Marlon Gibbons is at The Grape and Olive Saturday night. Duck Soup Productions does Raise Your Voice at the Orillia Opera House Dec. 14 and 15. Little Otter and Six Strings and Cooling play the Orillia Farmers’ Market Saturday.

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