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COLUMN: 'It's a joy': Local spring concerts ready to bloom

'Concert promises to be a very moving and inspiring event ... and a welcome return to song for our members, our audience and our community,' says choir master
2020-11-25 ORAH awards Roy Menagh
The Orillia Vocal Ensemble is presenting a farewell concert to its outgoing director Roy Menagh. The May 25 concert is also a fundraiser for the Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal fund.

You know COVID-19 is receding when springtime not only means flowers and warmer weather, but it also means spring concerts.

Our community performing arts groups have rehearsed and performed either very little or not at all during the last two-plus years and they are excited to be back at it. I spoke with representatives of some of them to get information on their concerts and how it feels to be back in front of each other and the audience this spring.

The Orillia Silver Band’s (OSB) spring concert, Walkabout, is this Sunday, May 14 at 2 p.m. at the Orillia Opera House. Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $10 for children; tickets are available through the Opera House box office here or at the door.

This is the OSB’s second concert since reopening, as the Christmas concert at the opera house in December was able to go forward as planned.

According to an OSB member, it was “a joy” to perform in front of live audiences again. The band has been rehearsing since March for this concert and has lots of fun, lively picks to get the audience in a springtime mood. This will be a wonderful all-ages concert, fun for the whole family.

The Orillia Vocal Ensemble is a group that has been fully shut down since March 2020. At that time, rehearsals were underway for director Roy Menagh’s farewell concert, as he got ready to pass the baton to the incoming director, St. Paul’s organist and choir master, Blair Bailey.

Sadly, Menagh’s farewell concert got postponed by COVID-19 and the choir did not rehearse together again until March 2022. The long-awaited farewell concert is finally a go for Wednesday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre, 62 Peter St. N., Orillia. This show will celebrate the work of founding director Menagh and feature a variety of songs that are favourites of his, under the direction of Bailey.

The concert is a fundraiser for the Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal fund, and audience members will be encouraged to donate generously as the price of admission. As such, other works to be performed will include Prayer of the Children, Hymn to Freedom, the Ukrainian national anthem and A Ukrainian Prayer.

“This concert promises to be a very moving and inspiring event for such an important cause and a welcome return to song for our members, our audience and our community,” says Bailey.

Mark your calendars today for this special event.

The Cellar Singers are also marking a return to live music with Ephermera on May 28 at 7:30 p.m. at St. James’ Anglican Church, 58 Peter St. N., Orillia.

This concert celebrates the work of Stephanie Martin, a Canadian contemporary composer. The Cellar Singers used their time in lockdown to meet weekly via Zoom to study theory, singing technique and analysis of choral scores. They even had the opportunity to deepen their understanding of Martin’s work in a Zoom meeting with her. They will perform Martin’s works, Requiem for All Souls, and her new Frost Sequence written during COVID-19 lockdown as a commission for the Elora Singers.

Also on the program are works by Healey Willan, late organist at St. Mary Margaret’s in Toronto and eminent Canadian composer, including his Gloria Deo and the three Marian Motets: I Beheld Her, Beautiful as a Dove, Fair in Face and Rise Up My Love.

Martin will attend the concert and speak about her composing process and artistic musical vision. It’s a rare chance to get inside the head of one of our foremost Canadian composers.

Tickets are $25 ($10 for those under 30) and are available at the door or at

Finally, the Orillia Concert Band (OCB) has its spring show, Renaissance to Broadway, coming up June 4 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre. The OCB was able to put on a pair of Christmas concerts in December, and then was locked down until rehearsals started again in March.

According to band president Brady Aubin, the members are more than eager to perform again for all of us.

This show will be a trip through musical history, so there will be something for all musical tastes. Under the direction of Randy Hoover, this community band, with its more than 30-year history in the area, just keeps on ticking. This concert is a fundraiser for Information Orillia, and admission is a freewill offering to that excellent local institution.

It has been a long haul for all of these community performing arts groups. They operate on a shoestring, with only the directors and accompanists being paid, and the members paying a fee to rehearse and perform. These folks are talented, hard working, and dedicated, and they perform for the love of it. Please come out and support the return of these groups, music to our ears.

Urban Sketchers Orillia is hosting a Sketch at Speaking of Wildlife this Sunday at 1 p.m. Contact the group on its Facebook page if you would like to go. Cost is $10.

This weekend should be a great one, a lovely return to summer weather and temperatures, so get out and enjoy.

If you have arts news, send it to by Tuesday at noon to be included.