Entertainment writer John Swartz was at our October 27th, 2019 oncert in Orillia and said in SUNonline/Orillia:
The Orillia Silver Band began and ended their Sunday afternoon concert at the Orillia Opera House in a stupendous way.
I would never have chosen to start with The Light Fantastic. The song is loaded with changing dynamics, lots of fast notes and full band isolated hits and is just plain scary to play without being suitably warmed up and having your total concentration along for the ride. I guess you could count O Canada as a warm up tune, but to me it’s more a warm up to play something easy to moderately difficult.
It took the audience a second to respond. I think they were still processing what they just heard the Silver Band do. You don’t have to be a musician of any great degree to know the band just pulled off an amazing chart and they audience loved it.
Randy Hoover carried Cry Me River and Rita Arendz did so with An Untold Story in the second half. Both got great ovations for their solo work. The rest of the program was one well done tune after another until they got to the closer, the 1812 Overture. The OSB conductor, Neil Barlow, told the audience it was one of his favourites and they weren’t going to do a shortened version of it like you usually hear, he’d found a brass band arrangement of the entire thing. Oh boy.
He also found some good smoke and lighting effects for the cannon shots at the end. I’m surprised he didn’t have all the churches play their churchbells too. It was stunning, surprising and stunning.
John Swartz’s review of our “OSB Goes to the Beach” concert on May 12th, 2019
Out On A High Note
Sunday afternoon’s Orillia Silver Band concert was another step up toward a perfect performance. At the level they are playing now, each step is harder to achieve. Think of it this way. Say you are running a long race and come in dead last. A year later you are in the middle of the pack, which takes s bit of work. Third time you are in the top ten, meaning tenth. That really took some dedication to achieve. Now you begin to understand the effort it will take to get to 5th, which you do with much sweat, no donuts, and no beer. Each step from there, 4th, 3rd, etc. gets harder and harder because the difference among the runners at the top is very small. It can take months of training just to get to 4th, twice as many to get to 3rd – that’s if you don’t want to leave it to chance or a strong tailwind.
This is where the OSB is. I’ve heard and worked with some amazing brass ensembles and the OSB is on my list of the best I’ve heard.
Many large music ensembles program their events with an easy tune or two off the top so everyone can catch a stride with long notes, moderate tempos, lots of time to warm up the lips and listen to each other for blend and balance.
Not these folks. They started with Paul Lovett-Copper’s Horizons. It’s 8 bars of short note fanfare, 2 bars of ritard and then the bottom drops out of the mass of the overall sound to the lower brass, followed by cornet solo flitting about on top. It was just an astonishing stamp to put on what that concert was going to be about.
They didn’t let up for the whole afternoon. The first half closer, Kevin Houben’s Lake of the Moon was a showcase kind of number. It had everything – slow, fast, loud, soft, breezy, rambunctious – a critical judge of performance could want to hear – unless it was sloppy, which it was not.
Three of the tunes, God Only Knows and Good Vibrations (Beach Boys) and Girl from Impanema were on the list because the concert was called OSB Goes to the Beach, of which the weather forecast punched all kinds of holes in that thought. Normally those kinds of translations to band or orchestra from rock and jazz go over like a lead balloon from my perspective. Too cheesy. They found some great sophisticated arrangements to play which gave the audience something new to listen to for style.
The second half of the concert started with a movement from Handel’s Water Music and then Malcolm Arnold’s Four Scottish Dances. This was just off the wall good. The players handle their responsibilities, staying in tune, blending with others in their section and balancing against the other sections. Most telling is how the band could alter their tone from brassy and brash to smooth and lush on the fly. Even more telling, I heard the tubas through the entire show. Good brass (and wind) ensembles build their sound from the bottom up (i.e. don’t play louder than the bass) which produces a full, rich sound. Too often those pesky little horns get to thinking they are the reason everyone came to hear the band and overplay, good on you guys for reigning it in.
John Swartz was also at our December 16, 2018 “Sleigh Bells and Brass Concert” in Orillia and said in SUNonline/Orillia:
For the last couple years I’ve had only good things to say about the OSB…..what more can I say without boring you.
Well, it was in the Opera House and it’s been years since they played there. There was a good crowd, 350, largest of the Christmas concerts I’ve been to this year….They warmed up with O Canada. I wondered why they always open with the anthem. Considering the next tune and how well they played it, its genius.
Oh boy, the second tune was James Curnow’s Christmas Tryptich, a suite of Christmas tunes everyone knows, but not the way Curnow arranged it, or the way the OSB played it. It would be absolute suicide to begin a concert with this tune without warm up. I thought – if this is how they start, we’re in for a trip.
The rest of the show was fantastic, as usual. I have to say the Russian Christmas Music piece, which has been done here before – and by the Orillia Wind Ensemble too – was the absolute best ever. Last year was great, this year was better. It made me cry. Honestly, the OSB played with such control, majesty and grace, it took me back to when, where and with whom (the girl from Port Huron) I first heard it.
Entertainment writer John Swartz was at our October 13, 2018 concert in Orillia and said:
Saturday night, the Orillia Silver Band pulled off another great concert. For three years now they have done the jazz festival and played mostly jazz standards like Pennsylvania 6-5000, American Patrol, a Henry Mancini medley and Tico Tico. They opened in stunning fashion with one of the best renditions of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Procession of the Nobles. I’ve only ever heard it done as well once before. It was just brilliant and sparkly, and majestic. It occurred to me near the end of the concert part of what makes the OSB seem so good are the arrangements they find to play.
They also premiered their version of Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas Time Is Here from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. It is a jazz piece (they also did the Linus and Lucy Theme) which can be found on their brand new Christmas CD of the same name. I saw lots of the CDs being snapped up.
Here are some other recent comments about the Band and Muskoka resident and Conductor Neil Barlow from John Swartz, in reference to the Orillia and District Arts Council Awards:
I would not be surprised if someone nominated the Orillia Silver Band for an Arts Achievement Award, and disappointed if it weren’t. The OSB is to my mind the top performing group in Orillia. They weren’t always that way. Since acquiring Neil Barlow as their conductor, they have steadily increased the quality of their performance, and with the release last year of their first CD and then this year’s Christmas Time Is Here album, they documented just how good they are. Their audience has been growing with each concert (last Saturday night’s Jazz Festival concert had 300 people on hand at St. Paul’s Centre).
While everyone else is working hard at presenting quality performances, I don’t think anyone has reached the level of excellence the OSB has. One could argue, Neil Barlow should get the nomination since it’s his direction which lifted the OSB and he has been involved with several other performances in town. I’d be happy either way.
Dave Dawson of Orillia Matters (July 8, 2018) writes:
Orillia Silver Band Dazzles at Orillia’s Aqua Theatre. The Band performed lively and thought-provoking big band classics in addition to a beautiful score (A Life Well Lived) commissioned for the Band.
John Swartz, editor and creator of SUNonline/Orillia, was at our 2017 Sleighbells and Brass Concert in Orillia. He writes:
“With all the great concerts over the last three weeks, I was still feeling a little off because no one had Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride on their dance cards. How can you possibly get through this time of year without hearing it? Well just before intermission at the Orillia Silver Band’s Sunday afternoon full-house concert at St. Paul’s Centre, Neil Barlow (the guy waving his arms around up front) asked the audience if they had any requests. Someone beat me to shouting out Sleigh Ride – and they played it!
The OSB also played a few other requests that weren’t formally on the program. After intermission The OSB made a couple of little girls quite happy when they played Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman, also not on the menu.
The band was sounding pretty good, and they outdid themselves with their commissioned piece, Ty Watson’s A Life Well Lived. This was the second time they’ve performed it, and even though it’s not a Christmas tune I wouldn’t be disappointed or angry if they showed up in the backyard and played it at 3 a.m. I could tell people sitting near me were suitably impressed with the piece and the playing.”
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John Swartz also reviewed our 2017 Orillia Spring Concert. He said: “There were a couple of points when the mid- and lower brass were carrying tunes played so lushly and perfectly, the sound just washed over the audience.” “Just before the intermission, they played Juno 1944, a new piece for everyone, band and audiences. It’s in four movements, the second of which is subtitled Battle. After the expertly done first movement, a cacophony of drums bashing and bleats from the brass caught me off guard….Then it hit me, battle. Composer Ty Watson lulled us all with a choral introduction that belied the approaching storm of sound. He smacked us right between the eyes, and then just as abruptly returned to – music, I guess you’d call it – a lament for the fallen. Well done, composer. Well done, band.” (Orillia Packet and Times, May 10, 2017)
Mark Clairmont of Muskokatodaily.com writes: “It is among the best British-style brass bands in Ontario. The silver is gold…Neil Barlow has pushed the band to new levels.” Read his whole article at muskokatodaily.com.
Mary Beth Hartill of the Bracebridge Examiner says: “The Orillia Silver Band is making its return to the Rene M. Caisse Theatre, led by conductor Neil Barlow, with “Budding Fanfare” that opens with Copland’s goosebump raising Fanfare for the Common Man” on muskokaregion.com.
Here’s what John Swartz of the Orillia Packet & Times had to say about the Orillia Silver Band in 2015:
“The (Band’s) quality of playing in the past two concerts I’ve seen have been like night and day under the arm waving of Neil Barlow compared to the already good reputation the band has.” – April 23, 2015
“I got to the (Orillia Silver Band concert) in time to hear the last four tunes, starting with Paul Lovett-Cooper’s The Dark Side of the Moon (not the Pink Floyd tune). This is a chart no part-time, amateur band has any business playing. It’s too complex for many full-time music groups to tackle. I know this tune well and the Orillia Silver Band played like it could do it in its sleep. Then they sailed throughOpus One and Sing, Sing, Sing like they’d been playing it all their lives. Getting four musicians to swing together is not easy, and the Orillia Silver Band was swinging like it was the last time it would ever get to. Then the band pulled out a fairly sophisticated arrangement of 76 Trombones for an encore that I liked.” – October 21, 2015
“The Orillia Silver Band has jumped several rungs on the greatness scale this year. I heard several instances of music making by the band I thought I’d never hear in Orillia played by Orillians, not the least of which was its contribution to the Jazz Festival.” – December 30, 2015