Rockin’ The Hall Raised the Roof on Saturday Night

Review by Bill Monahan of Rockin’ The Hall Vol. 2 at Meaford Hall, May 6, 2017

Photo courtesy of Marissa Dolotallis

Saturday night’s concert, Rockin’ The Hall, Vol. 2, was the centrepiece of the Grand Re-Opening Event that took place at Meaford Hall on the weekend to celebrate the balcony renovations.  And it was fitting that it should be.  It could be said that without Meaford Hall the great band that rocked the hall on Saturday night might not exist at all.  And what a band!  Each member of the ten piece company had moments of outstanding performance as they worked their way through a number of familiar songs that were given new energy by the quality of the interpretations.  The performers ranged in age from thirteen to somewhere north of 60, from relative newcomers to award-winning industry veterans, but you would have been hard pressed to distinguish which was which as each seemed to vie with the others to take the audience higher.  All through both sets, audience members were jumping up like Whack-a-Mole in spontaneous appreciation of great moments.  It was clear that each performer loved being there and gave their all.  And a big part of that was the hall itself.

Meaford Hall is truly a gem that puts our little town on a cultural level that punches far above its weight.  As the mayor said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony that preceded the concert, this is the best venue of its size in Southern Ontario.  With the completion of the balcony renovations the long journey to create a world-class venue his reached a sort of culmination, something truly worthy of celebration.

It’s worth remembering that this wonderful achievement is primarily the result of the efforts of dedicated and hard-working volunteers as well as the generosity of citizens who stepped up to cover the lion’s share of the cost.  The Balcony Renovation Project came in on time and on budget.  It was shepherded through that process by talented individuals who brought specific talents to bear for the sake of the community.

While the building and the Meaford Hall & Culture Foundation are essential elements in the success of Meaford Hall, a lot of credit goes to the excellent staff.  This is particularly true in regard to concerts.  Local music fans are very well served by booking policies that put the emphasis on quality Canadian talent.  To attend regular concert offerings at Meaford Hall is to become an educated connoisseur of Canadian talent.  Often the performers are not well-known names (although many are) but because of such judicious booking policies it is pretty much guaranteed that any show booked there will be outstanding.  The hall also has a top-notch technical crew.  It has become commonplace for touring performers to heap praise on the staff and enthuse from the stage about what an exceptional place this is for them to play.  That enthusiasm from the performers is a big part of what makes the shows as good as they are.

The entire show was a flow of unstoppable energy that  gained momentum throughout.

Which brings me back to the idea that this great band that performed on Saturday night would not exist without Meaford Hall.  If you have followed the other articles about Chris Scerri bringing his friends from Port Credit to Meaford, you already know that they have fallen in love with our town and we with them.  And it all began with Chris’s inspiration to bring a show called The Great Canadian Songbook to the Opera House.  Having these talents become part of our local culture has made a permanent change that is putting Meaford on the map as a centre for live music, live original music that radiates primarily from the great programming at Meaford Hall but also provides exposure for exceptional local talent.

Two young local talents were part of the Saturday night show and they were equal in every way to the seasoned talents they were playing with.  Emma Wright, not yet in high school, is already a talent to be reckoned with.  Meaford residents have come to know her over the years as she has been performing since she was very young to pre-recorded backing tracks.  Performing with such an excellent backing band took her to a whole other level.  Her performance of “Black Velvet” was spine-tingling.  Jayden Grahlman is another young talent who skills are well known locally.  While he didn’t get a chance to showcase his great songwriting and guitar playing (you would have had to be at Bruce Wine Bar on Friday to catch that), he rocked on a version of “The Shape I’m In” and we got a taste of his guitar virtuosity in the encore when he played the intro to “Cripple Creek”.

It would have been difficult for the most skilled guitar player to shine when he was sharing the stage with John Bride.  Every solo he played was scorching while at the same time tasteful.  His contribution, along with those from drummer Charlie Cooley and bassist Garth Vogan (who each had too brief opportunities to show off in solos) went a long way toward making this an exciting show, providing an excellent setting for outstanding vocals from each of the singers.

We have come to know Chris Scerri as the mover and shaker of music happenings in Meaford but on Saturday night he stepped out well beyond that persona to show off vocal chops that were jaw-dropping.  His version of “Whiter Shade of Pale” was a show stopper, or at least it would have been if the ensemble wasn’t so caught up in their enthusiasm that the entire show was a flow of unstoppable energy that  gained momentum throughout.  The same could be said for Virgil Scott’s vocals on a couple of Van Morrison songs and Gracie’s incredible backing vocals on “Gimme Shelter”.

Tyler Yarema’s deft control of the flow while playing incredible keyboard parts throughout was what held everything together.  Victoria Yeh, whose voice is her violin, enraptured the audience at the beginning of the second set with Jean-Luc Ponty’s “Cosmic Messenger” layering several violin voices with the use of looper pedals in a performance that inspired a standing ovation.

To point out the other highlights would entail a detailed blow-by-blow description of the entire concert.  If you were there you know what I mean.  The entire show was in overdrive.  By the midway point, several audience members could no longer restrain themselves and they were dancing in the aisles.

But the show had dynamics despite the consistent high energy.  The opening, Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”, was a gentle introduction as each band member entered separately and built a big sound.  Interspersed with spotlighted vocal performances were several ensemble numbers that were great celebrations, the best of which were probably “Everyday People” and “Some Kind of Wonderful”

The show was indeed some kind of wonderful.  And it was all ours, not a touring show that stopped by on their way to somewhere else.  The lady behind me summed it up as the house lights came on and we stood up to leave, saying simply, “We’re so lucky!”

Aren’t we?

This is the second in a series of three reviews of the concerts that comprised the Grand Re-opening Event at Meaford Hall.  Tomorrow’s post will review Tanya Tanaq

Return to Front Page for today’s update

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