Bravo! Brantford

Cheers to Brantford, Ont., for bringing home one of Canada’s musical icons, Robert Farnon, for a celebration of his music performed by the Brantford Symphony Orchestra in May.Largely responsible for the coup was Peter Appleyard, a musician of formidable talent himself, who organized the concert in the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts.Not only did he get the 80-year-old Farnon to attend, but he persuaded famed musician Skitch Henderson to conduct part of the program.

Toronto born and bred, Farnon has lived in Guernsey, England since the Second World War, and has composed and/or arranged countless British radio, TV, film and stage scores — not to mention numerous records with the likes of George Shearing, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Sarah Vaughan and Joe Williams.

Appleyard’s trio performed and the great maestro himself was MC for the event, which also spotlighted singer Carol Wellsman, harpist Julia Shaw and accordionist Joseph Macerollo. Peter also read congratulatory messages to Farnon from, among others, Oscar Peterson and Andre Previn. (Illness prevented Peterson from appearing).

The Brantford mphony, under its regular music director, Stanley Saunders, expertly interpreted the wide variety of music involved. The acoustically superb Sanderson Centre was built in 1919 as a vaudeville house, later became a cinema, then was bought by the city in 1986 and restored to its former splendor.

Cabot 500
Debate over whether John Cabot landed in Newfoundland or Cape Breton still goes on — as do the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of Cabot’s historic voyage. Downhomer Magazine (St. John’s) lists numerous festivities, including the annual reunion of the Newfoundland Overseas Foresters Association, in Grand Falls-Windsor, Sept. 5-7. And among the commemorative goodies you can purchase include Cabot 500 Squall Jackets and the Cabot 500 edition of Setsail, autographed by author Charlie Falk.

Shaw shines
Do yourself a favor and take in the Shaw Festival — or at least some of it. This season, the Festival’s 36th, there are a dozen plays to choose from, four in each of the three theatres. Playwrights represented include J.M. Synge, Anton Chekhov, Lillian Hellman and, of course, Shaw himself, with two plays: Mrs. Warren’s Profession and In Good King Charles’s Golden Days. One of the treats of the 1997 Festival is the production of The Two Mrs. Carrolls, Martin Vale’s compelling thriller, staged at the cozy Royal George Theatre. I caught a matinee and was dazzled, particularly by the performances of Laurie Paton, Brigitte Robinson (the two wives) and David Schurmann, as the husband.

That same night I took in Mrs. Warren’s Profession, undoubtedly one of Shaw’s most provocative plays and found it a colorful, engaging production, with animated performances by Nora McLellan, Jan Alexandra Smith, Norman Browning and Ben Carlson.

There were times, I confess, when it seemed the cast were not projecting enough for the large Festival Theatre, but I expect this problem has been corrected by now.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is a delightful place to visit, and having such theatrical attractions available makes it doubly inviting.

The Entertainers
Let’s hear it for the four Uxbridge, Ont., seniors known as The Entertainers. They are Barbara Hughes and Ede Barr, who play accordions; Laura Gibson, pianist; and Sadie Johnson, leader and mouth organist. (One of them is 93, but I’m not saying which.)

They perform — free, of course — at social functions, hospitals, nursing homes, etc., and they keep busy all year.

I caught them at the annual Uxbridge Celebrity Doodle Auction, where they played. I told them I always wanted to be the boy singer with an all-girl band, so they let me croak my way through a heartfelt rendition of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.

Calgary crooner
Harry Connick, Jr. and John Pizzarelli, move over and make room for Tim Tamashiro of Calgary, Alberta. The young singer more than does justice to such standards as You Make Me Feel So Young and The Lady Is A Tramp. These and several more are on his first CD, titled Tim Tamashiro, Wiseass Crooner (don’t blame me, I didn’t pick the title). What’s more, Tim gets expert backing by a seven-piece band and fine arrangements by drummer/pianist Dave Pierce, who also produced the session in Calgary.

In the mail
Creelman L. Macarthur, of Halifax, writes to point out that Leslie Nielsen’s one-man play about Clarence Darrow premiered at the new Imperial Theatre in Saint John, N.B. He also mentions that last February in Moncton, Peter Gzowski received a Special Achievement Award for highlighting East Coast music.

Parting Shot: Did you hear the one about the guy who overdosed on the internet? He went W W W dotty.