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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.

Massie Hall Promises a Great Summer and Fall Lineup of Talent

by Bill Monahan

NOTE: Click on the album covers to sample music by that artist

Massie Hall, in the little hamlet of Massie just east of Chatsworth, has a full slate of talent lined up for the summer season.  The community centre in Massie provides a small venue for these concerts.  They set up folding tables and chairs, with a small stage at one end of the room.  There is no bar, but snacks and soft drinks are included in the ticket price.

It’s a little stage but it features big talents.  Once a month on Saturdays through the summer and fall (and one Friday) a series of high quality performers are scheduled to play.  Tickets for the concerts cost $20 each but with every show offering exceptional talent, the opportunity to get a discount by buying tickets for three or more shows at a time is worth considering.

The series kicks off on April 28th with Beggars Road, with a mix of traditional and Celtic sounds blending vocal melody with powerful instrumental texturing to an original repertoire of songs that celebrate the natural beauties of our region.  The band evolved from The Shards, a group originally brought together by Bob Robins to perform his original, traditional-flavoured songs.  They feature vocals from Larry Dickinson and Justine Maw-Farrar.

The following month, Larry’s brother, Steve Dickinson, returns to Massie Hall for a much-anticipated concert.  After several years following musical adventures abroad, recording and touring with members of Bob Segar’s  Silver Bullet Band, Steve returned home last year to re-group and consider his musical future.  His concert last summer at Massie Hall packed the room with an enthusiastic crowd that was blown away both by his powerful singing and his original songs.  He doesn’t play often in the area, so this is a show that is a must-see.

There’s Good Rocking Tonight

Have you heard the news?  There’s good rocking tonight at Ted’s Range Road Diner.  A rocking band at the Wednesday night jams is a Meaford tradition that’s been going on for decades, but it’s hard to find a rock band performing on a Friday night in Meaford, especially this time of year.

It’s Chris Scerri and Horseshoes and Handgrenades, playing tonight, Apr. 13th, at Ted’s.  The band will start at 8 with a more mellow set for dinner patrons and then the music will get as wild as the game on the menu as the band rocks out until around eleven.

The band this time out includes, along with Chris, Beaker Granger, Jayden Grahlman, and Erik Vandeweerdhof.  There is no cover.

You can start your evening earlier with a glimpse of Meaford’s future music stars at GBCS when they run the first round of the Music Madness competition in the high school cafeteria.  A variety of styles and musical configurations will be competing for audience approval in a one-on-one competition.  A second show on May 11th will complete the competition.

On Saturday night, bad boy violinist Ashley MacIsaac plays Meaford Hall.  After the show, stop by the Leeky Canoe to catch local country singer Carla Crawford who will be joined by Glenn Bladon.

On Sunday afternoon, the open mic at the Barn will be hosted by Ray Martini.

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.