Country Musician Del Barber at The Mary Webb Centre

Del Barber had but a guitar, harmonica and 6 feet 3 inches of cowboy from a cattle ranch in Inglis, Manitoba on January 24th, and if you were there, it may not have occurred to you that he performed alone. His personality and presence kept the audience attentive. Pensive and articulate, Barber recounted tales from home, the road and through his experience as a wandering soul with a restless sense of purpose. His whole heart seemed to fill the once church and the audience laughed along to his well paced punch lines and accounts of spiritual pursuit.

I had a moment to ask Del if he’s ever found what he’s been looking for. He told me that Bible College inspired more questions than answers, “better questions” as he put it. Barber doesn’t have hard opinions, but wishes to be inquisitive, enjoying people, and sharing within the space that aIMG_0782llows several generations to mingle their ideas, like church or a community gathering. People may believe or not believe but everyone can be a part of a community and to Barber, so often he sees Canadians being divided, like the urban and the rural. His music seeks to address those kinds of tensions, differences or lack of difference. He stated “I’m finding more in communities around the world than I’ve found in my pursuits spiritually”.

Although the stories may be repeated, his audience is always new and refreshing. Unlike the popularized country music of today, Del Barber offers a fresh yet nostalgic blend of a more traditional old country meets the young talent of an articulate, introspective and poetic musician. With a certain optimistic grin, and a polished yet cavalier stage presence, Del Barber will not surprise when he continues to climb in popularity.  Barber has just been nominated for a 2015 Juno award for Roots & Tradition Album of the Year and we look forward to following his growing success.  Thanks to John & Kori Wright’s Towing and Repairs for having sponsored the Del Barber concert, a show that had us happily applauding and with standing ovation.

Mona Natvik on behalf of The Mary Webb Centre


The Good Lovelies perform another standing-ovation show at The Mary Webb Centre

Christmas came a little early at The Mary Webb Centre on Saturday December 13th when The Good Lovelies graced the stage for a special Christmas show.  Without the holiday spirit of giving from Kearney Planters and The Investors Group from Dutton, our events would never be such a success and we are so grateful for the support in our community from our sponsors, members and of course you – the concert goer!  Caroline Brooks, Kerri Ought and Sue Passmore were welcomed back to a large warm audience for a third time and earned yet another standing ovation.  Not just musically talented, The Good Lovelies were charming, lively and shared with us their stories from the road, life and family.  Classic Christmas tunes like Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and Blue Christmas, along with their own festive originals made a delightful mix of the traditional and the fresh.  Their sweet disposition, harmonious vocals and diverse range of instruments left no wonder as to why The Good Lovelies are on the rise.  They were loveable, alluring and moved us further into the Christmas spirit.  It was hard not to smile all throughout their performance and patrons lined up during intermission and after their performance to purchase their own piece of The Good Lovelies’ magical music.

Mona Natvik on behalf of The Mary Webb Centre


 James Boraski and the MomentaryEvolution come to The Mary Webb Centre for the first time

James Boraski, a Canadian gem who fuses roots, blues and blues-rock, can now say he’s played at The Mary Webb Centre.  Boraski has been all over the country, but Saturday Nov 22 was his first appearance at our small local venue where he performed with his band MomentaryEvolution.  Boraski took the stage by storm alongside his wife, Connie Boraski, who backed him on vocals, harmony and percussion as well as an entire entourage of talent  that included Lead Guitarist Bob Baggs, Saxophonist Vic Dupuis, Ray Harrison on Keyboards, Al Duffy on Bass Guitar and Dana Cross on Drums.


With pizazz and vitality, the band supported and complimented Boraski’s Rhythm Guitar and seasoned vocals – the show had spunk!!  And intermission was no chance to rest as Boraski et al engaged with new and old fans, many who had heard James on the CBC earlier that same week and were raving between his first and second sets.  During the concert, we heard a layered soundtrack of blues and soul and even a little Johnny Cash with Boraski’s rippin’ version of Folsom Prison Blues – one of the first songs he ever learned – that had the audience clapping along in time.  But moreover, the evening featured Boraski’s somewhat unique sound that mingles both within and outside the boundaries of traditional blues.

Boraski covered songs from some legendary and contemporary blues greats who have influenced his style – BB King and Jack de Keyzer – mixed in with his original songs, musical personality and sound.  Boraski and company earned several standing ovations during their two and a half hour show, and The Mary Webb Centre was grateful for having had their stage graced by a man who we will surely be hearing from again on his journey to what will hopefully be, even more acclaim!  If James Boraski’s work ethic says anything, we will definitely be hearing of him further down his track.

Mona Natvik on behalf of The Mary Webb Centre

Ennis opens The Mary Webb Centre 2012/15 Concerts Series

It came as no surprise to the dedicated Mary Webb Centre audience members that Ennis was welcomed back to the stage on Saturday September 20th to open up the 2014/15 concert series along with percussionist and song writing partner Mark Murphy. TIMG_0649hey brought with them a slice of Irish-Newfoundland culture and a dose of their friendly and occasionally rivalrous wit. Karen and Maureen Ennis are sisters who performed for us not only their musical and vocal talents, but also danced and told us stories with a lively dose of punch lines. The stories are what made Ennis so delightful. In an intimate venue these sisters have come to know well, Karen and Maureen didn’t shy from being open and honest with us from start to finish. We got a taste of life’s bittersweet way of giving us experience, sometimes joyous and sometimes not. Ennis was sincere and engaging, making us laugh and feel at home in The Mary Webb Centre.  With their musical talents and interests having been encouraged by a family of music and story since their earliest years, Ennis has evolved into an act fully capable of entertaining not just the ears but also a part of our souls. Maureen, Karen and Mark were all a genuine delight.

Mona Natvik on behalf of The Mary Webb Centre


The Mary Webb Centre Finishes Another Successful Season

At The Mary Webb Centre, we feel inspired by our community of supporters, volunteers and event sponsors. Without their commitment, we would not be able to engage with so many amazing performing and visual artists. The musicians we support, can normally only be seen in major urban Canada. Having The Mary Webb Centre near, makes us unique. At the end of the 2013/14 music series season, we are grateful for such an awesome base of community volunteers who come together and facilitate the growth of The Mary Webb Centre: a 100% volunteer-operated, not-for-profit cultural centre. As we prepare for our 5th full season of music, beginning in September, we are so pleased to be able to continue our trend of offering great names at great prices.  This community endeavour is also a direct result of the generosity of the Ontario Arts Council, who have supported us with a $5k operations grant.

Not only for music though, has our historically and architecturally significant heritage venue been transformed from once a church to now a small but mighty community hub. We offer a setting for artists and crafters to expose and sell their work. Patrons can sign up for a series of painting workshops or stop in and enjoy a Thursday afternoon of “Tea, Talk and Tour”. For something even more relaxing, there are Pilates classes every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  The diversity of what The Mary Webb Centre supports and offers, and the economic benefit to everyone involved, are part of why we are so thankful to have our community’s loyalty and encouragement to move forward.  Who would have thought such a small town like Highgate could offer top calibre live music and community activities?  We all did! With some mighty determination and a lot of volunteer effort, The Mary Webb Centre is proud to be part of a larger community of local and Ontario tourism.  We look forward to offering you another great season in 2014/15 and hope to see you a few times over the summer as well.

– Mona Natvik on behalf of The Mary Webb Centre


Red Hot Ramble

Dsc_7844UThe Mary Webb Centre closed out the 2013/14 season with the sultry ardour of Red Hot Ramble, a Toronto-based New Orleans jazz, funk, and blues band with heat. This ensemble of energy strolled onto the stage with plenty of personality and sass.  It looked like pure fun on their set. The know-how was obvious and the charisma clear.  Red Hot Ramble doesn’t just have a breadth of talent, but of much diversity as well. Each unique musician as an individual to the whole, had so much to add into the pot. Together they were both smooth and sultry, while vibrant and jovial. It was hard not to find yourself tapping a foot, swinging your head or, in the the case of some of the crowd, dancing at the entrance to the venue!

Roberta Hunt laid down the rhythm piano on our very own Heintzman & Co. piano from 1934, like it had never been played before.  Trombonist Jamie Stager looked to love his art and his expressiveness added such charisma. Alison Young on the reeds was nothing short of fantastic, Jack Zorawski on bass in perfect tune with his instrument and Glenn Anderson played the drums as though it’s as easy as walking but as fun as skipping. Their sound inspired the desire to March off for the Mardi Gras but New Orleans wasn’t so far with Red Hot Ramble putting on a tremendous show which earned them a double-standing ovation.  It’s no wonder why they have a trail of fans when their performances are full of energy, passion, wit and dynamism.  Together, they complimented each other’s talent, responded to each other’s presence and created a red hot spicy mix.  If you could eat music, Red Hot Ramble was a tasty treat off a summer barbecue grill and they even brought their own homemade Red Pepper Jelly for sale!

Mona Natvik on behalf of The Mary Webb Centre

Windsor Symphony 14 Piece String Orchestra at The Mary Webb Centre

Wso#1Friday evening, May 2, a large crowd at The Mary Webb Centre was treated to a delightful and varied performance by the 14 Strings of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. This was the last of 3 three concerts presented by the Symphony, the previous two being their Woodwind Quintet and String Quartet. Audience members were treated to a wide variety of music, from many different composers from as far back as the 17th century right up to modern day musicals. Made up of violins, violas, cellos and a double bass, their music was lively, then quiet and moody, then rousing but all of it was wonderfully presented and greatly appreciated by the audience who gave them a standing ovation at the end of the concert.

Starting off with “Divertimenti” by Franz Joseph Hayden from the 1700s, they moved through a composition by Johann Pachelbel from the 17th century to “Someone to Watch over Me”, a song by George Gershwin, written for the 1926 musical Oh, Kay! The strings provided accompaniment for the wonderful voice of Sara Fontaine, who not only sang this song, but also Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love”, from his 1997 Album Time Out of Mind. From there they moved on to “Serenade for Strings,playing 3 of its 5-parts, a wonderful movement by Antonin Dvorak composed in just two weeks in 1875. This was followed by pieces by George Enescu and Aaron Copland, whose composition “Hoe-Down”, was written for the 1942 ballet Rodeo. Sara Fontaine closed off the evening withLeonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” from West Side Story,George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns”, again with the WSO accompanying each song.

Before each part of the program, the String’s conductor Peter Weibe, who arranged several of the pieces played,described what the composer wanted for each one, and what we should listen for as it was played. The Strings continually shifted focus between the four sections on stage, with all of the musicians coming through at various times during the concert.
Thanks to all of our volunteers for their help in making this a wonderful evening. Without their support, the concert series would not be possible.

– Paul Brown on behalf of The Mary Webb Centre.


Royal Wood Review by Mona Natvik

RolyalWood_8At the start of each new year, the school would send home a survey for parents and students. On it, they requested knowing the child’s potential career interests. Every time, Royal Wood indicated the same choice: music. Following those early inklings and with supportive parents, Wood’s life crafted him a full-time vocation, clearly revealing his passion. I asked Wood if he ever imagined, even in his youth, considering a differing profession. The answer a distinct and satisfied “no”. On stage we all bore witness to what is possible when you follow your pursuit. Royal Wood, without doubt, has the most organic yet sensually rich male voice the The Mary Webb Centre has been graced with thus far. Wood substantiated the acclaim he has accrued these last powerful months on his journey to what will certainly prove to be an ever enriching future. Wood gave us a heartening performance laced with a taste of the often bitter-sweet sources of inspiration. Although seemingly shy, Wood engaged the audience with an authentic charm. Wood’s band mates, Steve Zsirai on bass, Dean Droulliard on guitars, and Mark Mariash on drums, backed him seamlessly and it surely did no harm they had plenty of charisma themselves. The impish and cordial chemistry between bandmates and crowd was both genuine and heartfelt. Royal Wood lacks no hesitation in transitioning from one instrument to another and showcasing a vocal confidence that could simply blow you away with its power and dexterity. Wood’s family history includes our Chatham-Kent, and performing at an intimate venue within this community felt like welcoming home a local pride. We have not only Wood to thank but also our sponsor, Victory Lincoln of Chatham, without whom we would not have enjoyed the show. Not surprisingly, tickets sold out and Royal Wood undeniably reined in new fans and wooed his existing followers.

– Mona Natvik on behalf of The Mary Webb Centre