Tag Archives: Rockin’ The Hall

The Thursday Outlook – May 4, 2017

If you’re planning on going to see Jamie Baxter at The Red Door in Meaford tomorrow night you’d better get there early.  Last time he played there the place was packed.  Not only does he rarely perform here in town but it is rare to see anyone who can play virtuoso level classical guitar like he does.  He starts at seven and it’s all over by ten so bring your friends and grab a table early.

Jon Zaslow is a quiet and unassuming singer-songwriter but he is an excellent guitarist and impressive songwriter and singer.  He’s part of a trio called The Travelling Thornburys.   He’ll be co-hosting the jam at The Leeky with Chris Scerri tonight.  Saturday night at The Leeky, Bored of Education, Meaford’s most popular party band, is playing their big catalogue of songs from several eras.  That will be a good place to keep up the energy after Chris Scerri and friends rev you up at Meaford Hall with Rockin’ the Hall, Volume 2.  This is the same bunch that blew the roof off the Opera House at Christmas and this time they’ll be each playing the music that means the most to them.

Rockin’ The Hall, Volume 2 is part of the Grand Reopening Event running from Friday through Sunday at Meaford Hall.  Friday night is An Intimate Evening With Sean McCann.  Since leaving Great Big Sea and setting his own course, Sean has applied his talents to music that is more personal and moving but still imbued with that distinctive Newfoundland flavour.  And then on Sunday you’re in for a very rare treat with the world renowned throat singer/electronics performer Tanya Tagaq.  When you’re at Meaford Hall, check out Adventure Canada, who are co-sponsoring the weekend and donating a trip to Sable Island to be auctioned off for the benefit of the Meaford Hall & Culture Foundation.  Place a bid, or just talk to them about their outstanding wilderness tours, contextualized by the presence of musicians, writers and others who accompany every expedition.

So much great music, so little time!

Why not make it a Jayden Grahlman weekend?  He’ll be a special guest at the Rockin’ The Hall show on Saturday, but you can catch him doing his own thing at Bruce Wine Bar on Friday.  Then on Sunday afternoon he will be augmenting a big band show with Great Lake Winds at Central Westside United Church in Owen Sound.  This is the annual spring concert of Great Lakes Winds, an ensemble of brass, woodwinds and percussion players of all ages specifically created with the goal of developing talent.

The development of choral talents is celebrated as well this weekend with Tara Mackenzie’s various choirs and her drum ensemble both tonight and tomorrow in a concert at The Harmony Centre called Songs From the Big Blue Marble.  These groups as well as the Great Lakes Winds welcome new participants.

Chris Scerri’s Vision For Meaford Culminates In “Rockin’ the Hall”

This Saturday night’s show at Meaford Hall is, in addition to being a celebration of The Meaford Hall & Culture Foundation’s accomplishments through the past decade, a celebration of live music in Meaford and Chris Scerri’s vision.  Most of the cast is composed of people that he introduced to our town, or made our town more aware of.  There is the great honkytonk piano player Tyler Yarema as musical director, the veteran soul singer Virgil Scott, Canadian Idol finalist Drew Wright, virtuoso violinist Victoria Yeh, and fast rising vocal talents Gracie and Emma Wright.  And of course Chris himself.

In the past year Chris Scerri has had quite an impact on Meaford and the town has had an impact on him.  This weekend’s Rockin’ The Hall show is in many ways the culmination of his efforts over the past year.  The Meaford Hall & Culture Foundation puts on a show every year as a fundraiser in conjunction with their Silent Auction and this year they asked Chris to put it together for them.  Their association with Chris began with their sponsorship (with others) of the Meaford Summer Concert Series which was conceived and produced by him.  Like others who were involved, as sponsors, participants or audience, when they saw how that project evolved they were impressed with his organization and effort.

Like so many people in Meaford who have made big contributions to the town, Chris was inspired by his love of his new home to bring something special to it.  He has always been a music lover, particularly live music, and he had a vision that would enhance tourism and night life in the town.

"The Great Canadian Songbook" at Meaford Hall

“The Great Canadian Songbook” rocked Meaford Hall this spring, including locals Chris Scerri and Drew McIvor

His initial effort was to suggest to several musical friends from his former home in Port Credit that they put together a special show.  With talents like Tom Barlow, Johnny Max and Tyler Yarema on board, he sold them on the idea of bringing their show to the Opera House, knowing that not only would they love the venue, but the local audiences would love them.  The result, called “The Great Canadian Songbook” was a rousing success, creating a memorable evening for everyone who was there and, for a few of the participants, introducing them to the beauty of Meaford, which they have come to regard as a second home.

Tuesday Nights at The Leeky (photo by Marissa Dollotallis)

Tuesday Nights at The Leeky (photo by Marissa Dollotallis)

Next he wanted to start an open mic night at The Leeky Canoe.  The Leeky had been booking local bands for some time, rotating well-known local talents on Saturday nights.  Chris saw the open mic as an opportunity to bring some new talent to the fore.  He had the ingenious idea of bringing along a different co-host each week, which had the effect of creating a new vibe for each open mic night.  There has been a steady stream of great accompanists at his Tuesday night jams, attracting a good audience as well as a variety of talented performers.

Carrie Stoffers at Captains Corner caught the spirit and added an open mic night to her outside patio during the summer, along with Friday night concerts.

Here Come The Christmas Concerts

This week brings the beginning of December, which means Christmas is just a few weeks away.  For fans of live music, it means Christmas concerts.  There are three to note this coming week, each with its own flavour and each showcasing local talent.

The big Christmas show at Meaford Hall, put together by Chris Scerri, called “Rockin’ The Hall” happens this Saturday night.  It promises a high energy rock show under the direction of Tyler Yarema and featuring performers that have endeared themselves to local music fans this past year, including Gracie, Drew Wright, Virgil Scott, Victoria Yeh and the phenomenal Emma Wright.  It is part of the annual Christmas celebration of the Meaford Hall Cultural Foundation and will coincide with the silent auction which is already under way.  One of the by-products of the active local music scene this year has been the impromptu after show parties at The Leeky Canoe, where fans stream across the street from the hall after a concert to enjoy more live music in an intimate setting.  Chances are good that this will be the case this Saturday, when Luke Martin appears at the Leeky.

Trevor and Tara MacKenzie

Trevor and Tara McKenzie are part of Santa With Muscles show at Heartwood Hall

On Thursday Heartwood Hall in Owen Sound hosts one of many Christmas events this week with a concert they call “Santa With Muscles” (not to be confused with the Hulk Hogan movie), a collection of local performers focussed on Christmas classics that span from the 60’s to the 90’s.  The guest performers include Trevor and Tara MacKenzie and Pete Devlin along with many others.  Two days later they host the Great Canadian Fiddle Holiday Show on Sunday.

goldenaires_origOn Sunday afternoon, Meaford’s women’s choir, The Goldenaires, celebrates Christmas at the Meaford United Church with their semi-annual concert.  This will be the first Christmas concert with their new musical director Catherine Robertson.  It also features Pauline Dale on flute and the Classic Bronze Bells.  It is an afternoon concert starting at 2:30 on Sunday, so you can head over there after taking in the open mic brunch at The Barn, and still have time to catch the fiddlers in the evening at Heartwood.

the celtic tenors

The Celtic Tenors help Meaford Hall celebrate 10th Anniveresary

This week celebrates the 10th anniversary of the renovation and rebirth of Meaford Hall and, in addition to the Saturday night concert, there is a concert on Thursday featuring the Celtic Tenors.  This classic trio has been performing to acclaim around the world for fifteen years and has sold over a million albums.  In recent years they have augmented their traditional sounds with a more contemporary edge and that, along with their sparkling on stage performance makes theirs an exhilarating show.

If the Celtic Tenors whets your appetite for the Irish sound you can get a further taste of it on Saturday night at The Bruce Wine Bar with Ryan O’Reilly.  Although he and his band have evolved from street buskers in London, England, he has an Irish feel to his music.

There are lots of other live music opportunities this week as the holiday season moves into high gear, including a chance to see a couple of performers you might have missed earlier this year.  Owen Sound poet laureate Larry Jensen returns to the Leeky Canoe with his heartfelt original songs on Thursday, accompanied by Pete Devlin.  Extraordinary blues guitarist Sean Pinchin had to cancel his Leeky appearance a month or so ago due to a last minute family emergency, but he is back in the area this week with a Tuesday appearance at The Huron Club in Collingwood.

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Gracie

When Gracie performed last spring as part of The Great Canadian Songbook at Meaford Hall the audience was charmed by her poise and stage presence as well as her vocal prowess.  She has a certain star quality that radiated from her enthusiasm on stage.  We didn’t realize at the time that her career as a singer has just very recently lifted off the runway, and that her performance that evening meant as much to her as it did to us.

“People here really do appreciate talent,” she says delightedly.

This confident and compelling vocalist whose delivery is a blend of early influences Amy Winehouse and Celine Dion began as a head banger.  “I wanted to be just like Randy Rhodes, except not die in a plane crash,” she says, referring to the legendary Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot guitarist who was being acclaimed for his unique heavy metal style at the time of his premature death. “I wanted to play guitar like him.”  She had already had piano lessons and, having discovered heavy metal, she borrowed her father’s cheap electric guitar and took lessons for two years with a sympathetic teacher who would prepare charts for the songs she preferred to learn.

At first her main goal in life was to become a soccer player, to reach the Olympic level, but music gradually elbowed that ambition aside. She wanted to be in the school jazz band, playing guitar, but her teacher Mr. Harkin, while encouraging her talent, wanted better players than she was at the time, players who could read notation.  Finally near the end of high school she achieved a place in the band, as the main guitar player.

After school she jammed with friends and,with her boyfriend, a heavy metal drummer, wrote some songs with metal riffs.  “He also loved funk and jazz,” she says, “so we would get into that.  I realized I liked playing blues scales.  I changed my style up along the way.”

Now focused on music as a career, she applied to the music program at York University and, as a strategic move, auditioned for jazz vocals rather than guitar.  “I didn’t think I’d get in if I played guitar, but I knew I had vocal ability.  I wanted to be a musician.  For the auditions, you have to pick a few songs that are in contrast to each other.  I just didn’t have the chops, so I thought I would just sing.”

Through university her rebellious nature gradually gave way to an appreciation of what her profs were saying and her world expanded under the tutelage of Sasha Williamson, for two years her vocal teacher,  “amazing person and friend”.

Anxious to get out into the real world of music, she heard from a friend about Tom Barlow’s Monday night jam at The Shore Grille and Grotto in Port Credit, so she made the pilgrimage down the road from her home in Oakville.  She sang “Walking On The Moon”, the Police song.  “The band was amazing and the people were nice. Tom introduced me to a community of people.”  It opened the doors.  “I quit school to perform, thought I could be successful in that area.” She performed under her full name, Mary Grace Marino.  Opportunities have blossomed since and she has become simply Gracie.

Chris Scerri, when he lived in Port Credit, was also in regular attendance at Tom Barlow’s jam.  When he worked up the courage he would join the band on stage.  As things evolved, Tom and members of his band became the core of the band that played The Great Canadian Songbook at Meaford Hall.  And musical director Tyler Yarema has provided accompaniment for Gracie with several visits to Meaford since.

Now Tom Barlow has a new record out that is garnering critical acclaim, and Gracie adds backing vocals.  She hints at some surprises for the upcoming Rockin’ The Hall show on Dec. 3rd(see sidebar for link to tickets). “I’m excited to see the reactions of the people,” she says.

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