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Countryside inspires artists in Huron County Art Show

19 Oct

groupshotBy Diva Heather Boa

GODERICH – Cows. It doesn’t matter if they’re Jerseys or Holsteins. Just cows.

It seems those four-legged cud-chewing creatures figure prominently in the imaginations of artists here along the Lake Huron shoreline. Why else would curators of the Huron County Art Show have to strategically arrange the exhibit to separate paintings of cows, relegating one to each wall? They are separated by barns, trees, wildlife and all sorts of other pastoral scenes captured in a variety of media in this 15th annual show, with this year’s theme: Our Creative Countryside.

David Taylor

David Taylor

“It was a great pleasure to jury this show and I was very impressed with the high standard that you’ve developed here,” said David Taylor, during the show opening at the Huron County Museum this weekend. Taylor served as curator of various public art galleries before retiring in 2006 and now volunteers to assist the curator of collections at the Tom Thompson Art Gallery in Owen Sound.

In front of a crowd of artists, family and friends, he announced six honourable mentions along with the first and second prize winners, whose artwork is purchased by the County of Huron and becomes part of its art bank for display in county-owned buildings.

The exhibit features 36 artists from across Huron County, including 11 new artists.

farmallFirst prize went to Scott Ramsay for Ole Faithful, an acrylic “portrait” of a ’58 Farmall H.

“Each well-earned wrinkle and blemish is creatively reproduced to express the love, use and reuse by the owner,” wrote Ramsay in his description of the artwork.

Second prize went to Julie-Anne Lizewski for Field of Promises, an encaustic on wood panel.

“This painting was inspired by a recent tour of a friend’s Huron County farm, overlooking a field, with a feeling of great joy and hope for the future.

fieldencousticThe art show is funded by the County of Huron, which recognizes culture as one of the pillars of economic development.

“Aristotle once said, the aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance,” said Paul Gowing, the county’s warden, during the opening ceremony. He said the art in the show highlights the inward significance, putting a different light and frame on subjects.

happyfarmLater in the evening, Lynn Haygarth’s liquid acrylic piece, Happy Farm – Plough, was announced as the winner of the People’s Choice Award, based on ballots cast by those attending the opening evening.

A final award winner – the one that will make the poster of the 2017 International Plowing Match Rural Expo – will be announced during the summer of 2016.

The Huron County Art Show runs until Dec. 20. Entrance is free with museum admission.

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Guitarists jam in Rock and Roll Band Camp

21 Sep
Adam Cyr, at right, jams with students James Alcock, David Mackechnie and Aaron Neeb in Rock and Roll Band Camp.

Adam Cyr, at right, jams with students James Alcock, David Mackechnie and Aaron Neeb in Rock and Roll Band Camp.

By Diva Heather Boa

EXETER – Four musicians hunch over their guitars, listening to Tragically Hip’s Nautical Disaster, a classic garage-rock song about mass death at sea during World War II.

As lead singer Gordon Downie makes his way through the first 50 seconds, their fingers hover over the taut nylon strings, their heads bob and tilt to catch the cue. There it is: Downie says the magic words “…coast of France” and they jump into the song with two electric, one bass and one acoustic guitar. Feet pound, bodies lurch, heads rock.

I think this is a magical moment, when four guys forget the world and just rock out, strains of their music wafting down the staircase and out onto Exeter’s main street on an otherwise quiet evening. I no longer make any of them self-conscious, scribbling notes and taking photos from the sidelines at this Rock and Roll Band Camp, part of Creative Huron’s Test Drive Your Creative Side. In this moment, I probably don’t exist and they’ve even forgotten they’re in the Odd Fellows and Rebekah lodge, sharing space with a dartboard, massive pool table and old black and white photos hung on the walls. They are lost in their guitars, and loving it.

The band camp is led by Adam Cyr, who plays in local bands and teaches guitar, bass and drums and his business Joyful Sounds, which is based in South Huron. Tonight is the third session for his students, who are learning new techniques and cords, and jamming. As they play songs like Last Kiss by Wayne Cochran and Can’t Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones, Adam throws out tips and talks about things like “down, down, switch,” “1, 4, 5 blues,” “staying on the dots,” “doing some blues licks” and other things about which I know nothing. But his fellow guitarists nod in agreement and adjust their playing based on his instructions.

Creative Huron’s Test Drive Your Creative Side is a comprehensive series of classes with a maximum eight hours of instruction, designed to introduce beginners to the arts. Classes led by local artists range from Latin dance to voice, watercolours to sound systems, needle felt to lantern making. Thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, classes are just $20 each.

There are still plenty of classes available to let you test drive your creative side. Give it a go.

This series of classes is produced by Huron Arts & Heritage Network and the County of Huron Cultural Services Department along with partner arts organizations: Art aRound Town,Blyth East Side Dance, Blyth Festival, Elizabeth’s Art Gallery, Goderich Celtic Roots Festival, Goderich Little Theatre, Imagine Huron and Worth Their Salt.

Five stops highlight history in Seaforth and area

14 Sep

By Diva Heather Boa

SEAFORTH – Every great trip starts with a cup of coffee, some great tunes on the radio and a cool pair of sunglasses to dim a sunny day.

That’s how my day began, touring inland along Hwy. 8 past small rural communities strung together by fields of yellowing soy beans, tall corn stalks and the stubbles of cut hay on an adventure that would take me to three places I’d been previously and two places I’d never explored before. The route, from the first stop to the last, is about 10 km and the time requirements depends on how long you like to dawdle. All the sites are significant in the history of Seaforth and area.

These were my five stops of the day, keeping in mind these historical notes that were gathered by researcher Diane Smith for a project done by the Municipality of Huron East to expand the Huron County Historical Society’s Driving Tour a few years ago:


harpurheycairnHarpurhey
– The old Huron Road passed through this hamlet west of Seaforth, zigging off the highway on what’s now Harpurhey Road and zagging back onto the highway a few kilometres later. A commemorative cairn recounts the opening of the Huron Road by the Canada Company in 1828, along with the harvesting of the first wheat by Madame Van Egmond at a dinner party on a hot August day in 1829 following an 18-mile walk from Goderich by the “usual Canada Company lot” of Dunlop, Pryor, Strickland, Mercer-Jones and others.

harpurheycemeteryHarpurhey Presbyterian Church – (Lot 51 Con 1 HRS Tuckersmith Township) This cemetery was established in 1847 at the same time the Presbyterian Church was built. Early pioneers tried to obtain the services of a minister beginning in 1835, at a time when Harpurhey was the social and industrial centre of its section of the Huron Tract. Because it is one of the oldest cemeteries in the area, some of Tuckersmith’s earliest settlers are buried here. For example, Robert Scott, Sr. and Archibald Dickson, early settlers in Roxboro, rest here. Other prominent citizens include Dr. William Chalk, whose home was the first brick building in Harpurhey, Rev. William Cresswell, the first Anglican minister in the area, Jonathon Carter, an early Justice of the Peace, and T.T. Coleman, a businessman in Seaforth. In 1879, Harpurhey Church joined with First Presbyterian Church of Seaforth. The cemetery is still active.

vanegmondhouseVan Egmond House, 80 Kippen Road, Egmondville – Owned and operated by the Van Egmond Foundation, this is an excellent example of a Georgian country-manor house dating to the mid-19th century. It was built by Constant Louis Van Egmond, son of Anthony Van Egmond who played a key role in opening the Huron Road to Goderich in the early 1830s. Constant Van Egmond founded the village of Egmondville in 1845. The façade and side elevation show the symmetry characteristic of Georgian architecture. Note also the six-over-six windows, the large chimneys, the awning-profiled four-columned verandah, and the decorative brickwork frieze of the façade. The door transom and sidelights are covered in the above photograph. The slop brick used for the walls was made in the brickyard nearby. Constant Van Egmond was a magistrate and, as there was no other jail in the village, he had the cellar windows of his house barred and used part of the cellar as a jail. (Inside viewing by appointment only at this time of year.)

seaforthdowntownHistorical Main Street Seaforth – The towers of Cardno Music Hall and the Town Hall present a magnificent vista to frame a heritage Main Street. Inside the Town Hall is the Seaforth & Area Museum. Its collection, with many items donated by Frank Sills of Sills Hardware and Andrew Y. McLean of the Huron Expositor, give you a window into the community’s people and past. There is also an introduction to military history, but remember to stop by the Legion with a request to see the Frank Phillips’ collection of armed forces artifacts in the Branch 156 mini-museum. Call 527-0740 to arrange group tours. Take a walk around town and you will see many fine examples of historic architecture.

roundhouseThe Roundhouse, 140 Duke St., Seaforth – This unique exhibition hall is one of the few remaining two-storey octagonal halls in Ontario. Owned by the Agricultural Society, it is also called a crystal palace. An Agricultural Society was established in Harpurhey in 1845 with members from part of Tuckersmith, Hullett and McKillop Townships. The Society built the roundhouse some time between 1900, when the land was bought, and September of 1902, when the first fall fair was held here.


Events to Plan Your Trip Around

170th Seaforth Fall Fair

Where: 140 Duke St., Seaforth

When: Thursday, Sept. 17 to Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015

Ambassador competitions; swine, miniature heavy horse, scales, tails paws and claws; auctions, draws and races; food and music.

More information: http://seaforthagriculturalsociety.on.ca/

Ciderfest

Where: Van Egmond House, 80 Kippen Rd., Egmondville

When: Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015

Vendors, exhibits, meat pies, apple fritters, musical entertainment. Heritage House open.

Legends. . . of Rock ‘N’ Roll pays tribute to music greats

17 Aug
Michael Clark, Michel LaFleche, Gerrad Everard and Yvan Pedneault in Legends … of Rock ‘n’ Roll, in the 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

Michael Clark, Michel LaFleche, Gerrad Everard and Yvan Pedneault in Legends … of Rock ‘n’ Roll, in the 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

By Diva Caroline Thuss

GRAND BEND – I have been very fortunate to catch every musical offered at the main stage of the Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend this season. I was wondering if Artistic Director Alex Mustakas’ most recent creation (yes, he dreamt up, wrote and directed the Legends . . . of Rock ‘N’ Roll) would be a favourite as it would be hard to top the other shows, especially Chicago. Yet this musical flashback of the tops tunes from the 50s, 60s and 70s had me dancing in my seat on opening night!

The theatre was packed again and as soon as the audience finished the traditional Huron Country Playhouse “one-clap” recognition of the sponsors, the lights dimmed and the audience was taken back to a more simple time with old advertisements and other video footage playing on two retro televisions on either side of the stage to set the mood. The premise of the show is a popular television host, Roy Solomon, is signing-off after 20 years. The “theatregoers become the live studio audience” who get to relive the best moments of the show.

The 13-member ensemble each has superb talent and individuals got the opportunity to shine while bringing back to life moments

Laura Mae Nason, Jennifer Kee and Valerie Stanois in Legends … of Rock ‘n’ Roll, 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

Laura Mae Nason, Jennifer Kee and Valerie Stanois in Legends … of Rock ‘n’ Roll, 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

from music history. One cast member who really stood out to me, Yvan Pedneault, was able to capture so many different musicians beautifully but two that really moved me were rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. My parents used to play Simon and Garfunkel to help me sleep when I was little.

Right away, I was impressed by the vocal strength of Christine Glen in “Proud Mary”. This continued in “Son of a Preacher Man” and my favourite, “Respect”. Jennifer Kee nailed Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and, along with Laura Ma Neson and Valerie Stanois, brought The Supremes hits to a cheering audience.

Lee Siegel has such a rich voice that he had the audience singing along to “Mony Mony” and “Pretty Woman” to name a few. Gerrad Everad had the audience in stitches over his Mick Jagger portrayal and rocks the keys as Jerry Lee Lewis.

Michel LaFleche does it all from the rockin’ Chuck Berry to softer hits from The Lovin’ Spoonful. He teams up with Pedneault as Sonny and Cher…words can not even describe the comedy when those two are together. Michael Clarke goes from Stevie Wonder one minute to Ray Charles the next. His voice changes ever so slightly for authenticity of the artists.

It is the funny man Michael De Rose who ties it all together as the announcer, Sheldon Lubliner, of this Ed Sullivan style television show that gets the audience laughing throughout.  De Rose brings the audience some great belly laughs – especially in his rendition of “Tip-Toe Thru’ The Tulips with Me.”

A warning to those who end up with front row seats. You may become a part of the show as De Rose selects audience members to be past American presidents and one First Lady. Two lucky ladies were picked out by the performers and became the focus of their amorous songs, which provided the rest of us some great laughs. Fortunately, the audience members did not seem to mind in the least little bit.

The ensemble  encouraged audience participation throughout the show and I did not hold back! Clapping to the rhythm of each song and singing along when appropriate (okay, maybe singing very quietly along with the cast to most of the songs) secretly hoping that I would be pulled up to dance with one of the cast members.

I look forward to seeing what this talented ensemble will be performing in for the 2016 Drayton Season. Did someone say Mama Mia?!

Legends . . . of Rock ‘N’ Roll runs through Aug. 29. Regular performance tickets are $42 for adults; $25 for youth under 20 years of age. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Huron Country Playhouse, online or by calling the Box Office at 519-238-6000 or 1-855-drayton (372-9866).

 

Mary’s Wedding is comfortable but has classic elegance

13 Aug

marysweddingBy Diva Heather Boa

BLYTH – If the secret to a successful play is for the audience to see a bit of themselves reflected in the characters, then Mary’s Wedding at the Blyth Festival should be a box office hit.

Every senior citizen – that age demographic that is predicted to soon comprise the majority of the population in Huron County – will surely be able to see themselves, or at least wish it for themselves, in the two young lovers whose sweet romance is interrupted by the start of World War I. And certainly, the audience for the matinee performance on Tuesday was a sea of grey-topped heads that hummed and tapped along to familiar-to-them wartime songs that played while they waited for the performance to begin.

The story itself is pretty standard stuff. Girl meets boy of lower social status. They have an adventure and fall in love. They get separated by life’s circumstances, yet continue to try to get back to one another. And yet, playwright Stephen Massicotte has taken this simple story and given it classic elegance, with a crisp script, clever handling of timeline, and repetition of phrases about fear and regret in the dialogue that serve to drive home its messages.

Sophia Walker, as the high-spirited new girl in town, Mary, is an incredible force on stage. She is entirely and equally believable as a precocious young woman who sees every bit of life as a great adventure or as a gruff and compassionate military sergeant. Eli Ham, as the dirty farm boy with a sense of duty to country, Charlie, is a competent actor who’s strong enough to share the stage with Walker, but gets less opportunity in his role to really shine. There are a number of lovely scenes where the two actors seem to be completely in synch with each other, as Mary reads from his letters while Charlie lives war experiences like being shot in a skirmish and riding full throttle into a line of Germans.

Director Gil Garrett has fully and effectively carried the audience through a story in which they could easily become lost if it weren’t well executed.

There are also a few really creative elements on the set, including a unique horse that you’ll have to see for yourself.

The setting for Mary’s Wedding spills far beyond those pieces of polished wood where the drama of this wartime romance unfolds. Although the acting is restricted to the stage only, it’s complemented by the building that is home to the Blyth Festival, a structure called Memorial Hall that was built by the will and spirit of the community to commemorate its fallen during the First World War, and by the nearby small white building that serves as the social centre for the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 420 and its ladies’ auxiliary, both of which are sponsors of this theatrical production. This is a play with relevance to the community.

If you want to see a play this summer that allows you dream, then Mary’s Wedding is it.

Mary’s Wedding runs until Sept. 12. Tickets are $30 & $34 for adults and $15 for youth. Tickets may be purchased at the online box office; by phone at 519.523.9300 or 1.877.862.5984 during box office hours: non-performance days 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., evening performance days 9 a.m. -9 p.m.; in person at 423 Queen St., Blyth; or by mail with cheque or credit card information and including a $4 service fee to Blyth Festival, Box 10, Blyth ON, N0M 1H0.

The Daisy Theatre: Puppeteer takes audience far over the line

12 Aug

ruralchurchBy Diva Heather Boa

BLYTH – For stretches at a time, it was easy to be invested in the cast of colourful marionettes artfully manipulated by puppeteer Ronnie Burkett.

During opening night of Edna Rural’s Church Supper at the Blyth Festival’s intimate Phillips Studio, the beautifully crafted marionettes playfully poked fun at Blyth and rural living, had fun with a few patrons – include the Blyth Festival’s board chairman David Armstrong, and slipped in more than a couple raunchy thrills, as Burkett made good on his promise that he would “go as far over the line as you goad me to go.”

Small marionettes with huge personalities trotted out lounge numbers, vaudeville acts, French chanteuse solos – all with a parodic twist, and looking smashing in their clever costumes and detailed features.

If there were any doubt whether the 100 or so people in the audience were supposed to laugh, all we had to do was to look upward to the puppet master and see how much fun he was having to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were indeed meant to laugh.

Burkett tugged at our heartstrings with unexpected emotional monologues from the elderly Edna Rural and the fairy-like Schnitzel that left us in near despair. Sweet, innocent Schnitzel could easily have found a new home in a snap after her poignant appeal to the audience.

Buried under the dazzle of the characters is the brilliance of the guy who dresses in black and tries to blend into the background above the stage. The script was a blend of humour and heart-warming moments that were embraced by the audience. And I wonder if we – if I –underestimate the skill required for the timed movements and distinct voices of the marionettes because Burkett made it look so darned easy. Certainly, there were people at the performance who have watched Burkett’s career and were keen to have the opportunity to see him and The Daisy Theatre in Blyth.

There will be some disappointments for those reading this review. First of all, every show has improvised elements to it, so there’s no guarantee the remaining shows will have all the characters noted here. Secondly, there’s a rumour circulating that the four-day run is now sold out.

Also, there’s no pie at Edna Rural’s Church Supper.

Edna Rural’s Church Supper runs until Aug. 15. While it is sold out, there are other plays still running, including Fury and Mary’s Wedding. Tickets are $30 & $34 for adults and $15 for youth. Tickets may be purchased at the online box office; by phone at 519.523.9300 or 1.877.862.5984 during box office hours: non-performance days 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., evening performance days 9 a.m. -9 p.m.; in person at 423 Queen St., Blyth; or by mail with cheque or credit card information and including a $4 service fee to Blyth Festival, Box 10, Blyth ON, N0M 1H0.

Fury: Life, love and loss on stage in Blyth

2 Aug

 

Fury at the Blyth Festival.

Fury at the Blyth Festival.

By Diva Shari Parsons

BLYTH – Though waves may crash, this play doesn’t.

Having never before attended any production of the Blyth Festival, I looked forward to the opening night performance of Fury, along with a girlfriend who had also never attended.

The Blyth Festival is summer theatre that celebrates original Canadian theatre. The professional productions are held in the cozy and comfortable theatre housed in the historic red brick Blyth Memorial Hall.

Fury is a thought-provoking and, in the end, heart-wrenching look at the effect of The Great Storm of 1913 on the lives of five different people from various walks of life in the Port of Goderich.

I found that the script, written by playwright Peter Smith, was intelligent, sensitive, witty and even humorous at times.

Jeff Irving did an excellent job playing the boyishly handsome Michael Grey, a young farmer from Carlow with a mischievous grin, a twinkle in his eye and a devil-may-care attitude.

Michael’s love interest, the slightly repressed yet opinionated Margaret Mackey, niece and ward of Judge Cassidy was given what I felt was a somewhat wooden performance by Rachel Cairns.

Comedic relief and camaraderie was wonderfully provided by Keith Barker in the character of somewhat simple-minded and kind-hearted Bernard Smoke, the offspring of an Aboriginal mother and a Scottish father. Bernard may seem simple, but his “mind roads” can lead him to some profound places.

David Fox was a very convincing autocratic Judge Cassidy. His speech and mannerisms exemplified the character of a crotchety old man who was more concerned about public appearance and his standing in the community than he was about his niece’s happiness. But he is hiding a painful past and his frosty reserve thaws slightly in the end.

The young and up-coming lawyer, David Cooper, was well portrayed by Jason Chesworth. David, who comes across as slightly, annoyingly, obsequious and ingratiating has struck a bargain with the Judge that will give David career advancement and increased standing in the community. Margaret is the unwilling pawn in this agreement.

The stage setting, designed by Ronnie Burkett, was simple but very effective. There were four separate sections constructed to resemble a wooden pier. These sections were moved around to create the various settings, including what I thought was an ingenious rowboat. A large structure in the background served as both the stone balcony of the Judge’s house and the bow of the ship, the Wexford. The effective use of lighting and sound created the necessary changes in atmosphere and mood. The storm scene upon the Wexford was particularly well done.

Fury literally explodes upon the scene, pops up unexpectedly in the audience, makes you think, makes you laugh and if you are sentimental like me, may even bring a tear to your eye. My girlfriend and I both really enjoyed it.

Fury runs until Sept. 12 at the Blyth Memorial Hall. Tickets are $30 & $34 for adults and $15 for youth. Tickets for preview performances are $22 & $26. Tickets may be purchased at the online box office; by phone at 519.523.9300 or 1.877.862.5984 during box office hours: non-performance days 9am-5pm, evening performance days 9am-9pm; in person at 423 Queen St., Blyth; or by mail with cheque or credit card information and including a $4 service fee to Blyth Festival, Box 10, Blyth ON, N0M 1H0