Orillia Concert Band rehearsing for their “big comeback”



Musicians are waking up from pandemic hibernation and busy planning two special Christmas concerts to be held in St. Paul’s in December

The Orillia Concert Band is back on stage, with passion and energy!

A year and a half after the first stop, we all poke our heads out of our burrows and get back to a somewhat normal life. The Orillia Concert Band has been planning this day for six months.

On Monday November 1st, the group held their first LIVE rehearsal, with 31 socially distant members spread across the beautiful St. Paul stage. It was a magical moment since we played for the first time together!

The Orillia Concert Band is currently rehearsing for their comeback on December 4th where they will perform not one, but two special Christmas concerts at St. Paul’s Center, conducted by Acting Music Director Randy Hoover.

The first concert, a one-hour family “Afternoon Christmas Concert”, is designed for children, young and old. Later in the evening, the Orillia Concert Band presents a tradition of Orillia, the “Christmas Prelude” concert, starting at 7:30 pm, with guest performers, singer Christina Bosco and organist Blair Bailey.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Orillia Opera box office or at the door of St. Paul’s Center on the day of the concert (cash only).

The Orillia Concert Band was the last big band from Orillia to give a concert before the pandemic! On March 7, 2020, the band performed their winter concert with guest star Cassie Dasilva to a full house.

The following week, the severity of the pandemic finally sank everywhere and everything was canceled, literally overnight. We naively thought that the closure would only be for a few months! A year and a half later, we are finally all waking up from our pandemic hibernation!

So how do you restart a large group in times of pandemic? Carefully and deliberately with a lot of research and planning!

It was a lot of work but the reward of finally rehearsing together and soon, playing for you, is worth all the effort! Here are the main areas that the group had to face.

First priority: how to get music to members while minimizing contact. As it turns out, like many bands before the pandemic, the Orillia Concert Band was well into the process of digitizing its extensive music library of sheet music, many of which are out of print and priceless.

This process was completed in the first few months of the pandemic and the library was uploaded to the cloud. The band members got access to the cloud and now the whole music director has to tell the members what the band needs to rehearse, and the members download their parts from the cloud and print them themselves. In some cases, members are using iPads to display their music on their desks, eliminating paper!

The next challenge: getting group members to practice when they can’t get together as a group. The weekly rehearsal is a great source of motivation for members to practice their parts.

A year ago, when it finally became clear that the band weren’t going to be meeting anytime soon in person to rehearse, the Music Director provided music for the band members to rehearse on their own. But without the motivation for a repeat, many members found reason to procrastinate. The solution – Zoom repeats!

The problem with Zoom, however, is that the sound is not synchronized between the computers, so it is impossible for the conductor or others to hear themselves playing in a synchronized fashion. This problem was solved by accessing the YouTube videos of the tracks we were practicing and playing the audio with the video feed of our music director leading the band to the beat of the music.

All of the band members muted their mics and performed at home, followed the conductor while listening to the audio as if the rest of the band were playing with them. It worked very well and during the months of September and October, every Monday evening, the group gathered around their computers and tablets for a “rehearsal”.

Back to live rehearsals: Zoom rehearsals were not enough to prepare the band for a concert. The group needed to rehearse in person. Safely hosting live rehearsals took a lot of preparation and research.

Ultimately, the OCB hired its concert hall, St. Paul’s Center, for rehearsals, as the stage allowed members to spread out. The group followed all provincial requirements for organizational gatherings, including issuing a COVID security plan, screening all members for vaccinations, gathering information on contract research, and completing a COVID self-assessment before each repetition.

In addition, the group had to buy disinfectant and disinfectants. Wearing the mask is mandatory until group members are seated in their socially distant chair where they can remove their mask to play their instruments. As soon as they get up, like in a restaurant, they put their masks back on.

Our first live rehearsal on November 1st was magical. Zoom’s virtual rehearsals had paid off and the band sounded great together again !!!

The final piece of the puzzle is how to organize a public concert: Fortunately, the province and St. Paul’s Center have published detailed guidelines for the public events that the group follows.

Participants must show proof of vaccination and always remain masked. Just like when you walk into a store, each member of the public is asked to self-assess (questions are listed on all entrances) if you pose a risk to others.

Although the group is allowed to fill the room to capacity in accordance with the guidelines in effect, the group has chosen to only fill the room to 50% of its capacity, as many of our audience are elderly and will feel overwhelmed. comfortable and more secure with the extra space. No food or drink is permitted other than personal water bottles. To avoid mix-ups, there will only be a mid-term break and no intermission.

All of that extra preparation and new rehearsal has come at a cost, but the Orillia Concert Band is incredibly fortunate to have such community-minded sponsors: Steve Orr of Dapper Depot; Len Skok of Forest Hill Real Estate; RBC Wealth Management’s Marites Mendoza; Richard Fallows of Richard’s Goldsmithing; and John Mayo of BMO Wealth Management.

And a big thank you to the Community Foundation of Orillia and Area, and the City of Orillia for operating grants that help offset concert costs that help keep ticket prices affordable.

To learn more about the Orillia Concert Band, ticket prices, or to check upcoming concert dates, please visit the band’s website www.OrilliaConcertBand.com or Facebook page @OrilliaConcertBand.

The Orillia Band is always on the lookout for new players, so if you would like to explore the possibility of joining the band, please email the band at [email protected] with your experience and your type of instrument.

Many current members joined after years of not playing while raising the kids etc. and as empty nests they wanted to start playing again. Currently the band has openings for trombone and bassoon players in particular, but everyone is encouraged to inquire about an opening.

Getting back on stage has been a constant desire for the Orillia Concert Band ever since the band had to cancel rehearsals and concerts a year and a half ago.

The group is so excited that everything is in place to allow the group to present a pair of Christmas concerts on December 4th. The Orillia Concert Band hopes you can all join us in celebrating the return of live big band music to Orillia and the surrounding areas.



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