Oh, Canada, We Sing For Thee coming to town

June 16, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“I don’t write these shows, so much as I create them,” said Leisa Way of the eight shows she has created, the seventh of which, “Oh, Canada, We Sing For Thee!” is coming to the Opera House June 28 and 29 to help launch Orangeville into the Canada 150 celebrations.

The premiere of this show took place at the Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg and the idea sprang up in the course of a conversation between Ms. Way and Donnie Bowes, artistic director of the Playhouse.

“It was about two years ago,” Ms. Way explained in a telephone interview earlier this week. “People thought I wrote it for the 150th but I didn’t. Donnie and I were sitting around talking about ideas and thought – why don’t we do a show celebrating Canada. We worked the idea around.

“It’s a party,” she declared – “come to the party with us and celebrate Canada Day!”

When they later produced the show at the Port Stanley Theatre, “we wanted to greet the audience after the show,” Ms. Way said, “and the people kept saying, ‘thank you , thank you so much! We sang along with the songs.’”

She went on to comment: “Bruce [Ley] has written a montage of Canadian songs – the songs of our nation – Four Strong Winds – Gordon Lightfoot – songwriters give us a great gift, they tell stories.

“We live in the greatest country – Gordon Lightfoot gave us the [Canadian Railway] Trilogy about the railway bringing us together as a country.”

Ms. Way and the gentlemen of her band have really thought out how different, artistically, this show is from the others that she has created and they have performed.

“We just had a meeting about the show because we are going on a trans-Canada tour [of 80 concerts] and this show is so different. Each band member takes a lead during the show. We do four-part singing  and the singing is so strong.”

On a personal note, “Every production we do, I’m so proud of these guys – I created the shows but they give amazing performances.”

The drummer in the band, Sam Cino, has been involved with the First Nations community all his life, playing the drum and going to drum circles. He wrote an original section for the show and received permission from the Elders to include it.

In addition, the other band members sharing the stage are: Bruce Ley on piano – a fixture in this area as a musician, teacher, composer; Fred Smith as lead singer/guitars, who has played for many stars; Nathan Smith a lead singer/“violin and fiddle,” the difference between which depends on what music he is playing – for symphony or [blues] band, and Bobby Prochaska, a familiar face on the main stage here, who’s a lead singer/bass player.

The program covers works by the great Canadian poet, Pauline Johnson (Tekhionwake, whose father was a Mohawk Chief and mother was British).

There is a French section in the show, about which Ms. Way remarked, “People thanked us for that. Some of the songs in French are sad – a mix of joy and sadness.”

It is a long list of whom the show covers: Michael Bublé – he got children to enjoy classical music. They recall The Nylons with their a cappella cover of the Lion Sleeps Tonight.

Back in Canadian music to Don Messer and the songs of Paul Anka, Oh Canada, We Sing For Thee! covers all the history of Canada’s tremendous musical career.

During the show, Ms. Way comes on stage in 12 different costumes with 11 wig changes to emulate the stars whose work she is singing.

It is her respect for her musical colleagues and their performances that captivates her: “You may almost feel as though there’s an orchestra but there’s just five guys. The growth that I’ve seen in these bands members – we challenge each other and I’m so thrilled and grateful for this. We have such fun doing this show!”

Further, in talking about the writing, “When I was writing it, I was thinking about who is the audience. They are kids to older people. One of the highlights is – we put together a Great Canadian medley.”

While Ms. Way was organizing the show’s trans-Canada tour, David Nairn, artistic director of Theatre Orangeville, asked her to save the dates of June 28 and 29 for production at the Opera House.

She was more than pleased with the invitation. “It’s so exciting for us to be playing the show this close to Canada Day in our own home.”

For tickets and information, call the theatre Box Office 519-942-3423; visit the box Office, 87 Broadway or the Tourist Information Centre on Buena Vista at Highway 10; or go online at

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