Tag Archives: Van Morrison

Meaford Summer Concert Series Features Sean Cotton

The Meaford Summer Concert Series wraps up on Friday, August 24th with a concert featuring Sean Cotton and the Muskoka Connection.  Sean has appeared in Meaford before as a solo one-man-band at The Leeky Canoe.  This time he brings his band with him.

Sean Cotton is a veteran musician who was born into the business, son of country singer Neil Cotton.  For many years he toured with Corin Raymond as a duo called The Undesirables built around original songs with lyrics by Raymond and music by Cotton.  After a decade touring as a sideman he relocated to Muskoka to put more emphasis on family time, but he didn’t give up music.  His interest in playing with others led to an involvement in the local scene that evolved into a collective called Tree Ring Records with a mission to promote the local music scene in Huntsville and surrounding areas.

He’s bringing many of his musical cohorts to Meaford, billed as The Muskoka Connection.  The full band will allow him to rock out in a way he’s unable to do as a solo.  He describes his music as having a 70’s, from the stylings of greats such as Bill Withers, Van Morrison and Waylon Jennings.

The free concert on Friday starts at 7 p.m. with the Emma Wright band, fresh from the Boots and Hearts festival, as opener.

Local Players Excited To Be Doing The Last Waltz

The latest production at Meaford Hall by Chris Scerri, a tribute to The Last Waltz scheduled for November 25th, is a bit of a departure from his previous productions.  Up to this point he has put together variety shows that combined local and imported talent, built mainly around the talents of musical director Tyler Yarema and others from the Port Credit area that Chris has introduced to Meaford.  This time around it will be all local talent, some of the best that our area offers, under the musical direction of keyboard player John Hume.

For each member of this tribute band, The Band and their iconic farewell concert both hold special significance.

“It was a magic moment in music history,” says Chris Scerri, “that allowed for some of the most influential modern day artists to get together for the ultimate Jam.”  He adds that the DVD of the concert movie is one which, “I can watch time and time again, and continue to be inspired by both the musical talents and the show itself.”

The Last Waltz was the name Robbie Robertson gave to the farewell concert of The Band, performed on American Thanksgiving Day in 1976 at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.  A film of the concert by Martin Scorcese was released in 1978 and was hailed by film critic Michael Wilmington as “the greatest rock concert movie ever made – and maybe the best rock movie, period”  Time bears that out, with the influence of the movie being felt almost forty years later.

The Party Starts With The Strummers’ Union

When Tomi Swick and The Strummers’ Union kick off this year’s Summer Concert Series in Meaford they intend to bring a party.  The Strummers’ Union is a group of musical friends from the Hamilton area that have been playing together for the past couple of decades off and on.  They vary according to who is available at the time but they are built around the core of Tomi Swick and Joel Guenther.

Tomi makes a point of noting that The Strummers’ Union and Tomi Swick the solo artist are two different entities.  Tomi  Swick is a JUNO winning singer-songwriter who has his own records out and has toured, written and worked with some of the biggest names in the music business.  Although he may be doing one or two of his own songs on July 5th in Meaford, most of what the Strummers Union will be doing is upbeat covers.  “We’re more of a party band,” he says.

Nevertheless, Tomi Swick is an impressive artist in his own right, with an interesting story to tell.

In 2007 he was on the threshold of a very bright future, with a Warner Music contract and a couple of hit singles under his belt.  Overnight he found himself stalled out in the doorway.  Which, in a cruel irony, happened to be the name of his hit record, the album that won him Best New Artist award at that year’s Junos Awards.

Some people have said that winning a Juno in that particular category can be a curse rather than a blessing.  Martin Melhuish, one of Canada’s leading music writers, in a 2008 interview with the Vancouver Sun, outlined his theory that it is often because the winner of that category represents a musical fad that didn’t last.  He cites Claudja Barry and France Joli, who won for disco hits, Leahy who rode in on a (temporary) wave of enthusiasm for Celtic music, and Johnny Favourite who benefited from an all too brief return of swing music.  Those artists can’t be blamed for changing styles, although maybe they were necessarily restricted by their choice of genre.  But the door that slammed on Tomi Swick was much more devastating, and frighteningly sudden.

He woke up the morning after the Junos to find that he had strep throat and pneumonia.   He was on his way to LA to do a series of showcases, designed to make the most of his Juno win, but despite the attention of some high end medical practitioners, he just couldn’t sing.  It kept getting worse and within six months he could no longer sing at all.  Added to that was the personal tragedy of losing both his parents to cancer.  He had surgery to remove polyps and a cyst on his vocal chords and it was almost four years before he was able to sing again.

The momentum was lost.  To make things worse, his second album for Warner released in 2012 wasn’t what either he or the label wanted it to be, in spite of some strong songs.  He ended his relationship with the label within a month of that record’s release.

A lot of soul searching followed, as he played bar gigs and tried to figure out what to do with his life.  He realized the Warner adventure was not a good fit.  The label saw him as an emerging pop star while he leaned toward something more authentic, more soulful.  His idea of the ultimate record is one recorded live off the floor, completely analog, pressed to vinyl.  That’s where his true heart lies.

It’s going to be a great start to the series.  Opening  for The Strummers’ Union will be Meaford’s country star, Scott Almond and Cry For Ophelia’s lead singer, Eden Young in a solo turn.

One night when he was playing to an empty bar, an old acquaintance from Hamilton happened to drop in and expressed surprise to find him there, playing songs that sounded pretty different from the stuff he’d been doing with a major label.  That friend, Dave King, was working on his own album and invited Tomi to help out, particularly to lend his writing talents.

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.