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Arts 2023 Year in Review Part I

January 11, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Happy New Year to one and all, and welcome to Part I of the Orangeville Citizen’s 2023 Arts Review. Orangeville is the most art-centric town in the whole of Ontario, maybe the whole of Canada, claims Theatre Orangeville’s artistic director, David Nairn, and he may well be right. Certainly, the theatre can be granted credit for its support and love of the arts, whatever they are. In general, people in the arts had been creative during the dark days of the pandemic. By 2023, theatres were seeing more willingness for audiences to return to their seats. Starting the year off with a big musical for the youngsters, for their first performance following Covid shut-downs was Orangeville Music Theatre (OMT).

January 13 – 21: OMT – Annie Jr. – Filling the Opera House for two weekends, the junior cast spun the music and the well-loved story of young and orphaned Annie in 1930s New York. She was looking for her parents, who left her at an orphanage in the care of the cruel Miss Hannigan. What Annie finds at last is the wonderful ending of a well-told tale. The young thespians were terrific, and the audiences were charmed.

January 28 – 29: Alton Mill Arts Centre (AMRC) – Fire and Ice – The Mill’s annual celebration of winter, with music, entertainment, food, and lights to cheer the chill. It was a fabulous event.

January – February: Headwaters Arts (HA) – Relaunch – Art show in the HA Gallery, showing how to start again. Headwaters Arts staged a total of 16 shows/exhibitions over 2023, showing more than 850 works of various mediums from 550 outstanding artists.

February 8: Theatre Orangeville (TOV) – Beneath Springhill – The story of African-Canadian Maurice Ruddick who was trapped with others in the Springhill mine disaster of 1958 for nine days. They credited him for their survival because he maintained their spirits with song and prayer.

February: Maggiolly Arts Supplies – Maggiolly’s front window proudly displays talented artists with new ideas and a love for the traditional. The display of each is a generous month or more. February hosted Emily Escoffery.

February into March: Headwaters Arts – Dark into Light – This show featured a theme that gave artists a chance to really stretch their ideas about light, with some stunning results.

February 17: Caledon Townhall Players (CTHP) – Jenny’s House of Joy – A whimsical play about a house of “ill repute” in the old “Wild West,” when a “tireless young runaway comes looking for a job.” Penned by Norm Foster, one can only imagine. Better catch it next time it’s in town.

February 22: EIS – The group also created and shared a performance of Melodia by Myroslav Skoryk, arranged by Mykola Hobdych via YouTube on Feb. 22, 2023 in honour of the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

March 3: EIS – The group live-streamed their performance of “Carbon: The Unauthorized Biography.” about this basic element of all life and the livestream included a discussion about how a documentary is scored for orchestra and choir. Organized by Screen Composers Guild of Canada, “Carbon: The Unauthorized Biography” was originally aired on CBC Gem,  CBC Docs – The Nature of Things.

March 11: Century Church Theatre (CCT) – Deathtrap by Ira Levin – A murder mystery about a playwright who has not written for the last 18 years. When the chance for renewed success comes, does he want it badly enough to murder for it?

March 12: Maggiolly Arts Supplies – A workshop with visiting artists, many award winners and long-time working artists was held at the art store. This first workshop was Poppies Painting, with instruction by Michele Van Maurik, an internationally known artist.

March 15: TOV – The Bluff – ghostly encounters – or are they? In a wind-blown house on the coast, with more mystery coming from the neighbours. By Kristen Da Silva.

March – April: HA – Show in the Gallery – Wild and Free brought tenant artists and members from outside the area to join in the concept of letting art be unconstrained. Some beautiful and surprising pieces resulted, and gallery visitors were surprised and, in some cases, a bit challenged.

April 6: Achill Choral Society (ACS)- This concert’s date was set for the very day of King Charles III’s Coronation Day in London, England. The choir performed at Westminster United Church with Shawn Grenke, guest conductor Jenny Crober, and collaborative pianist Nancy Dettbarn.

Titled Sing your Song, this was an intricately planned program of an impressive lineup of music, beginning with Handel’s The King Shall Rejoice and Coronation Anthem number 3, Mvt 1. Perhaps the most varied of ACS’s repertoire, they had invited special guest Saskia Tomkins, who brought her nyckelharpa – a traditional Swedish stringed instrument. It is happiest playing folk music. Ms. Tomkins did perform on it at least once.

Shawn Grenke was also very proud to include “Waniska,” meaning “wake up,” by Sherryl Sewepagaham, a Cree-Dene from Northern Alberta. Her music is performed across Canada.

The grand finale went back to Tennyson’s poem Ulysses – an excerpt for which Paul Halley composed music to fit the title: Untraveled Worlds. This included every element of the musician’s presentation to a fabulous conclusion.

April 23: BookLore – A fascinating Lunch and Conversation for attendees with Steve Paikin to discuss his latest book, “John Turner: An Intimate Biography.” This event was held at Rustik Restaurant in Orangeville.

April 26: TOV – The New Canadian Curling Club – This show by Mark Crawford offers a bold take on our current Canada. This is his vision of how things would turn out when four newcomers to Canada from diverse countries, each decide at the same time to learn to curl, having somehow understood this is essential for Canadian life. Their first stumbling block is their coach, on whom this situation was dumped. He does not hesitate to speak his mind.

In fact, each of them eventually speaks out, but Mr. Crawford’s skill at humour allows for many hilarious moments. Meanwhile, he creates a time for learning.

April 27: AMAC – Grade 11 students from Mayfield Secondary School attended the Mill for the Regional Visual Arts to participate in a show called The Animal Within Me. They had some fairly bold ideas about their own identities, it seemed.

April 29: BookLore Celebrated Independent Book Store Day with the launch of the latest book by local author Diane Bator, “All the Shimmers” a mystery book. Joining the event, which was held at the Town Hall, were Mayor Lisa Post, Councillors Prendergrast, Sherwood, Andrews, Macintosh and Theatre Orangeville’s David Nairn, who shared their literary knowledge by serving as guest booksellers.

April 30 – Cookbook Meet at AMAC – a meet and Q&A with cookbook author extraordinaire, Laura Calder, was held in conversation with Dana McCauley of the Alton Mill. Patrons loved the tone of the new book and were interested in its innovative approaches.

April 30: EIS – Spirit in the Song, the Wind Whispers – Featuring the stunning “Requiem” by John Rutter and three Premiere works by composers Matthew Emery, Matthew-John Knights and Nicholas Kelly.

May 2 – 29: AMAC – stages a photo exhibit, Forms, Faces and Spaces, produced by Connie Munson at the same time as in Georgetown. There are so many diverse faces, so many elegant forms, and so many interesting spaces, which the camera has a specific and singular ability to capture – in the right hands. This was a satellite post of the world renown Scotiabank Photography Award.

May 4: Maggiolly’s next workshop took in the art of the abstract with well-known local artist Deb Menken. Her goal was to show how different and sometimes far-out approaches to seeing what is around us and painting that is fun, a new mode of creation for many artists. She wanted to encourage them to go boldly into new ideas.

May 5: CTHP – cast and crew took on Spreading it Around. In this play by Londos J. D’Arrigo, a wealthy widow, Angela Drayton decides to invest her money in her new SIN (Spending it Now) Foundation -to which her greedy son objects very much.

May 6: Leisa Way – In this, the week he died, Leisa Way performed her creation Early Morning Rain: The Legend of Gordon Lightfoot at his name’s sake theatre, the Lightfoot Theatre in the Orillia Opera House. The much-loved singer-songwriter and poet was born in Orillia. The program consists of stories and the music of Gordon Lightfoot.

“The concert had made its world premiere at Theatre Orangeville for a three-week, almost completely sold-out run in 2020, just before the pandemic hit, and this was the first time we had performed the concert since that world premiere,” she told us.

May 21: Century Church – The Savannah Sipping Society by the comedy trio of playwrights – Nicholas Hope, Jesse Jones and Jamie Wooten tells the tale of four Southern Ladies who meet serendipitously in an impromptu happy hour. They discover they agree their lives have lost their sheen and decide to do something about it. Fun.

May 27: Tapestry – Headwaters and Achill Choral Society partnered to enjoy the choir’s singing under the wonderful canopy over the courtyard at the Alton Mill. As a fundraiser, there were works of art for sale and a chance to enjoy the day among the beautiful ambience of the Mill and its grounds.

May 28: EIS – Strawberries & Champagne at the Lake – Patrons were invited to enjoy the beautiful and intimate setting of the Toronto Hunt Club on Lake Ontario, participate in the amazing spring silent auction and spend a delightful musical afternoon with Canada’s Elmer Iseler Singers, Lydia Adams, conductor.

May: Maggiolly Art Supplies – the store’s window sponsored the works of Adam de Witt.

May: Elmer Isler Singers – the group spent the month touring the Maritimes, singing in concerts with other choirs in five separate locations in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Truly a wonderful trip to meet new and old friends and sing together.

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