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Excitement building for local summer concerts series

July 22, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“We got hurricaned (sic) out [a couple of weeks ago]. I drove out the day before to Bobcaygeon, as did other members of my band and one of them went home. Then, the rest of us stayed and weathered the storm until it stopped and better weather came. Then, we were able to go on stage and perform,” said Leisa Way,

She admitted, “It was so great to work together and hear them play and have an audience – I was on stage at times and I got a little teary – it was a long time coming.”

This was Ms. Way’s story relating of the first time to play and perform after all these months COVID restrictions and unemployment for herself and her musician friends and colleagues.

It was the preamble to our conversation about her upcoming series of six concerts to be held “right outside the town hall, in the Town’s Circle (where the annual Christmas tree is lighted ), with a cover to be able to play regardless of the weather.

“I’m really excited about it,” she declared.

The first concert is this weekend, July 24. There six concerts in all, running to August 28. They are all different, with an overall total of 15 musicians. Each concert is meant to begin at 11:30 a.m., the main beat of the Framers Market. Ms. Way said its supposed to last an hour but they’ll probably play longer.

It was when she discovered that funding could be granted for the outdoor concert series, that she went to work on it. First, she approached The Downtown Orangeville BIA to partner with her own production company, Way-to-Go Productions on the project, although it was she who worked on the application for the funding.

She explained, “The concert series is funded by the Music Performance Trust Fund and the Toronto Musicians Association, who have generously funded the artists fees for these concerts. The Music Performance Fund was established in 1948 to provide work for musicians by supplementing the income of musicians at no cost to those receiving the precious gift of music. This fund has been very busy this year with Covid providing funding that employs musicians at this interesting time. Their slogan is, ‘Enriching lives through music’.”

The musicians are based in Orangeville and the surrounding area, as Ms. Way commented, “The level of musicianship that we have in Orangeville is phenomenal and I got to chose the people that I know and love.”

Here are some of the highlights of the series, as Leisa Way described them:

Coming up first on Saturday, July 24, brings that fine pianist, singer, Stan Chang and drummer, Charley Cooley. By opening the series with drums, all that wonderful rhythm and energy, with jazz and blues spiced by a little Cajun and New Orleans, Ms. Way starts the series with a bang.

For the second concert, July 31, young, “rising star on the Canadian music scene” Nick Mustapha on the piano is joined by Leisa Way ( she will sing!) and bass player, Bob Hewus. Nick has been busy with Theatre Orangeville Young Company for the last few years and has been working with his own band, ToneFusion, producing extraordinary music, meant to show a difference. Ms. Way wanted to invite Bob Hewus, whose bass playing is legendary, to join this concert, partly for the rapport he and Nick will surely share.

Fans of Trouble and Strife partners, Larry Kurtz and Bruce Ley, will be pleased to see them on the stage in Town Circle for the third concert, Saturday, August 7. These two gentlemen need very little introduction. Joined by Bob Hewus on bass, they have been bringing us the Blues for lots of years and are still the best.

On the following Saturday, August 14, Leisa Way and her friends, bass player Bobby Prochaska and “electrifying guitar playing”, Fred Smith are mixing it up. They are also bringing in a new pianist – “He’s phenomenal!” Ms. way promised.

Saturday, August 21 hails Ryan Hancock and Aaron Solomon (Campfire Poets) with a selection from the “Top 40” plus a little Country and Western. Their terrific vocals and musicianship have played and pleased crowds for ages and it will be so great to see them back again.

The last concert on August 28 features the wonderful Heather Katz (“soulful songs”)! She brings her own flavour to the songs, which can include folk, R&B or jazz. Special this time, accompanying her for the first time is Bruce Ley. They have admired each other for years and finally get to entertain us all at the end of August. Fantastic.

“The concert series has given me the chance to put musicians together in a way I’ve never been able to, which is really fun,” remarked Ms. Way. “When I found I could get funding to do outdoor concerts and I thought what could I do – Ah, the farmers market – if I could get the funding, we’ll have the chance to bring joy. That’s why I wanted to do this and I’m able to employ musicians again. Way-to-Go Productions is usually writing cheques to pay musicians and it is good to be able to do that again.”

With protocols still to follow, there will be Plexiglas barriers between the musicians and the audience.

Alison Scheel at the Orangeville Downtown BIA, “has been a dream to work with and Lisa Lahue from the theatre built a setting,” she said.

“Musicians have really suffered, so, we’re so excited to be out. With the vaccinations and checks, we feel a little safer.”

There was more to share. So, she said, “To share what we share on stage, the mistakes – everything. At the show in Grand Bend, soon after my mom died (2019), the nurses came to see my show. It’s just what we do – it’s sharing what we love – with family but not just family– with people too.”

Organizing this series: “It’s put a big smile on my face to put this concert series together and I hope it will put smiles on the faces of people seeing them.”

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