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COLUMN: Gathering will put focus on First Nations stories

'Once-in-a-lifetime' festival includes story circles, art, concerts, sunrise ceremony, outstanding guest writers and storytellers and much more, says columnist
Rama's Chief Lady Bird will be featured on the opening day of the four-day Gathering: Festival of First Nations Stories that will be held in Rama and Orillia from June 1-4.

I hope many of you took advantage of the opportunity and checked out Empty Space Empty Time: Worlds Within last Wednesday at the Orillia Opera House. Featuring cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne and dancers from Compagnie ODD in Ottawa, it was quite simply a stunning performance. 

The use of light, sound and dance combined to make an otherworldly experience. The cellist layered and looped sound on top of sound and the dancers just added another layer as well. It was an amazing night. Hope you were there!

That amazing night was brought to Orillia by Arts Orillia, but don’t despair if you missed it, Arts Orillia is bringing another amazing event to our doorstop, quite soon. I am talking about Gathering: Festival of First Nations Stories. This is an incredible literary festival and so much more. 

Gathering was one of the first programs brought to us by the former Huronia Centre for the Arts, and has been a staple for that organization in all of its iterations, except during the pandemic years. This year, it is produced by Arts Orillia and encompasses many partnerships and events, both at Rama Community Hall and St. Paul’s Centre. Let me give you a quick rundown of the events happening between Thursday, June 1 and Sunday, June 4.

Thursday (June 1), Gathering kicks off for the public at Rama Community Hall at 7 p.m. with a story circle and the Painted Story Canoe installation, with Chief LadyBird, a story lodge, and coffee and tea will be served. All of this evening is free.

Friday (June 2), from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 2:30 p.m. there are virtual Zoom readings with high school students, and there is a tour of St. Paul’s new Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery at 7 p.m. Again, all free, you just have to RSVP. 

Friday night at 8 p.m., Tom Wilson is in concert at St. Paul’s Centre, with Jesse O'Brien and Thompson Wilson, and including a special message from local Elder and storyteller Jeff Monague. Tickets for this sure-to-be-amazing show are $25 and you can get them here.

Saturday (June 3), Gathering has a full day of programming starting with a sunrise ceremony at John Snake Memorial Grounds in Rama, then community breakfast at Rama Community Hall from 7 to 9 a.m., and then getting into panel discussions and readings with the many notable guest writers and storytellers that are coming to this wonderful event.

The full roster includes: Sherry Lawson, Brenda Wastasacoot, S.P. Joseph Lyons, Karen McBride, Amanda Peters, Tom Wilson, Dr. Cynthia Wesley Esquimaux, Armand Garnet Ruffo, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Drew Hayden Taylor and Michelle Good. People are invited to bring a folding chair and cash if they would like to have lunch (12-1) at the grounds before Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux’ Truth and Reconciliation community talk at 1 p.m. Saturday. All of this is absolutely free, you just pay for snacks, lunch, coffee, tea as needed.

Saturday evening, there is another great concert at St. Paul’s, this one featuring Tomson Highway on St. Paul’s amazing Bosendorfer piano, with vocalist Patricia Cano and saxophonist Marcus Ali. My mom saw them in Toronto and says they are unbelievable! Again, tickets only $25 and you can get them here.

Sunday (June 4), there is a full day of programming at St. Paul’s, starting at 10:30 a.m. This will include Learnings in the Land and is facilitated by the Gojijing Roundtable. Again, free.

To see all the details and RSVP for everything, go here.

Again, one for the books, once in a lifetime, don’t miss it! We are so lucky to live here. Thanks to all the great people who are working so hard to put this together, it has literally been in the works for over a year.

This long weekend, a bit of a break from community group concerts and such. However, there is a super fun event happening at the Leacock Museum on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., to celebrate the opening of a new exhibit in Leacock’s boathouse. It’s called Boating Old Brewery Bay Launch.

The Orillia Heritage Centre and the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association will be showcasing historic boats, canoes and model ships. There will be crafts and activities for children, as well as paddling, seat-weaving, and other demonstrations. Guests will be welcomed to tour the boathouse and the museum. And, you can end the day by listening to Leacock's famous "Sinking of the Mariposa Belle" told by storyteller, Tim Greenwood.

This is going to be a very fun way to spend your Saturday afternoon. You can get your tickets here.

Coming up: The Cellar Singers spring concert is May 27 at 7:30 p.m. at St. James. The Cellar Singers have commissioned a new work, a cantata based on a Korean legend, by composer Benjamin Keast. This eclectic new work uses the same chamber orchestra and soprano soloist, Amy Dodington, as Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata 150, also on the program. It's going to be an amazing night, grab your tickets here.

The Orillia Community Children’s Choir concert May 27 at 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre. The kids are awesome, you can get tickets for cash at the door, and donations to the Orillia Youth Centre and We Are the Villagers are gratefully received. Come and enjoy these hard-working young kiddos’ music. 

The Orillia Silver Band presents Serenade in Brass on May 28 at 2 p.m. at the Orillia Opera House. This show will be sure to entertain; you can grab your tickets here.

And the Sing It! ladies choir springtime concert is Monday May 29 at St. Paul’s Centre at 7:30 p.m. These ladies sing their hearts out, and proceeds go to Big Brothers Big Sisters, so see you there. Bring cash at the door for tickets.

Run with the Kittens is at Couchiching Craft Brewery this Friday night, have fun and have a great and safe long weekend.

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


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