The historic Coulson Church in Oro-Medonte, ON, which is situated near Barrie on the shore of Lake Simcoe, will play host to a series of concerts this year that are sure to generate buzz within southern Ontario’s folk and roots community. The new series will showcase a number of Ontario-based talents familiar to many folk and roots fans.
Organized by Oro-Medonte’s own Anne Walker, the historic church will be the main stage for the six concerts, which will take place monthly from April to September. Anne kicked off the series on April 30 with the first of her two shows.
Armed with her acoustic guitar and creative songwriting skills, Anne has been a staple in Canada’s folk music scene for decades. Since releasing her debut album, Rainwater, in 1989, the multifaceted artist has led fans to experience nearly every emotion through her clever lyrics.
Over the years, Oro-Medonte has hosted a number of high-profile music festivals and concerts. With its rich history and longtime embrace of artists, it is no wonder that folk musicians, both established and not, have long flocked to the town.
“Horseshoe Valley itself is like a little mystical trip back in time,” said Rick Fines, who will perform at the church on July 30. With his signature raspy voice and blues guitar style, he will provide a unique sound to the concert series.
A Change in Scenery
Given the smaller venue and scope of the event, Anne’s concert series differs greatly from the larger concerts and festivals that the area is known for. For folk musicians in particular, this is a special opportunity to perform in an intimate setting.
“What I really enjoy about smaller venues is the interaction that you can have with the crowd and the chance to chat with people more,” said Allison Lupton, who will be performing with her band on August 27. “You get the connection with the community that you maybe don’t at a festival.”
Allison’s lyrics sometimes recount Canadian historical narratives. She said that she enjoys learning about how her audience relates to her songs through familial or personal experiences.
For many artists, the ability to perform in front of a smaller crowd can allow the artist to better gauge the audience’s reaction and engagement with the music.
“You know, really, its the most direct way to communicate with an audience,” Rick said. “I think you get to be more yourself when you can actually look in the faces of the people you’re communicating with.”
According to Rick, larger shows and festival performances can sometimes force artists to become actors, as the blinding lights of the stage can turn the performance into a theatre spectacle. Smaller venues, he said, allow the artist to simply focus on the music.
A Chance to Come Together
The Coulson Concert series was not created in partnership with the town of Oro-Medonte. Despite this, town officials remain excited about the event and its potential impact.
“All of the artists that we have across the township, I think it brings together that creativity,” said Shawn Binns, the director of operations and community services for the township. “It celebrates who we are as a community and really showcases the aspects that make Oro-Medonte a unique place to live, work and play.”
He pointed to the township’s natural environment, sense of community and plethora of unique venues as central reasons why folk musicians in particular are so drawn to Oro-Medonte.
These intimate shows are also events that allow the local community to come together in a way that may not be possible in a larger city.
According to Rick, intimate shows can create a sense of community building, allowing neighbours to partake in a shared musical experience. When the entire community comes to the shows, it allows residents to meet new acquaintances and create a more cohesive township, he said.
The concert series also allows residents to meet and appreciate artists whom they may not be entirely unfamiliar with.
“Anne’s concert series, I would imagine, gives the people of that community a chance to hear a wide variety of music,” Allison said.
In the future, the town would be open to working with Anne and Coulson Church to further develop the concert series.
“We don’t know an awful lot about it,” said Shawn. “Certainly we’re going to look to get involved and look at what role we can play to help promote it and foster it and grow it as the event continues to evolve.”
The full list of future dates and performers for the Coulson Concert Series can be found below.
May 28 – Boreal
June 25 – John Prince and End of the Road
July 30 – Rick Fines
Aug. 27 – Allison Lupton
Sept. 24 – Paul Mills and Anne Walker
All tickets can be purchased on Anne Walker’s website.