If you’ve ever driven by an old town hall or a legion building in eastern Ontario and wondered what’s inside, the 2015 Festival of Small Halls could be your chance to find out. Especially if you’re any type of roots, folk, rock or bluegrass-inspired indie music fan.
Every weekend — plus a few Thursdays and Fridays — from September 12 – 27, small towns and villages across eastern Ontario will open the doors of their community halls to host big-name acts like Corb Lund and The Strumbellas, along with local openers like Ali McCormick and Rueben deGroot.
All of it, says Festival Manager Kelly Symes, is a way to tap into the rural heart of this region and simply enjoy good music. “It’s also a chance for people from these small communities and tourists to get together and watch that music together,” she adds. “So it’s going to be a unique experience, and that’s what we’re going for.”
This is the second year for the festival inspired by similar versions in PEI and Australia, and once again it’s being run by the Team Behind Bluesfest (TBB), a group that also organizes Ottawa’s Bluesfest and CityFolk Festival.
There are some significant changes to this year’s Festival of Small Halls, though. One is that it won’t be a travelling show like it was last year with Old Man Luedecke, but perhaps the biggest change is that the TBB is even more focussed on working with these small communities.
“Without the community’s support, you really can’t make it successful, and that’s what we really learned last year,” says Symes. “So the communities are completely involved this year, everything from selling tickets, to suggesting local openers, to putting on community suppers on the same night as the show.” (See the list at end of this post for supper details.)
One way they got that support was by asking communities across the region to write to them, detailing why they wanted to be a part of the festival and why their hall would make sense. They received a whopping 50 submissions and painstakingly narrowed the list down to 13.
Those that made the cut include Chaffey’s Locks Community Hall, built in 1932 from the proceeds of bake sales, dances and raffles; Delta Old Town Hall, which has served as a meeting place, courthouse, jail, community theatre, masonic lodge, municipal office and museum since 1880; and The Spencerville Mill, the last remaining mill on the South Nation River.
“Having artists perform in these legions, churches and town halls of various communities sounded like such a great idea,” says Jon Hembrey, lead guitarist with The Strumbellas, who will play at Almonte Old Town Hall on the 24th and Delta Old Town Hall on the 25th. “Playing a show in a cherished community building seems like a nice way for us to get back to our own small-town roots.”
For Good Lovelies’ Caroline Brooks, playing in a smaller space is a way to engage with the audience on a level her three-piece folk/country band has always enjoyed. “It creates a special intimacy and allows us to really connect with the audience,” she says. “We’ve heard wonderful things from fellow musicians and friends who have played The Festival of Small Halls, and are so looking forward to experiencing it ourselves.” Good Lovelies close the festival on the 27th at Morton Community Hall.
If you’re thinking of going to any of the shows this year, decide soon. As of writing, 4 of the 15 shows have already sold out. Keep reading for the full lineup, along with details about the community suppers. Visit thefestivalofsmallhalls.com for tickets.
Saturday Sep 12, 7:30 pm, Seeley’s Bay Community Hall: Corb Lund with Rueben deGroot *SOLD OUT*
Thursday Sep 17, 7:30 pm, Chaffey’s Lock Community Hall: Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys with Chris Murphy and Brian Flynn
Thursday Sep 17, 7:30 pm, The Ivy on William in Smiths Falls: The East Pointers with The Gordon Pipe Band
Friday Sep 18, 7:30 pm, Chaffey’s Lock Community Hall: Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys with Chris Murphy and Brian Flynn *SOLD OUT*
Saturday Sep 19, 7:30 pm, Pembroke Festival Hall: Corb Lund with Kelly Prescott
Saturday Sep 19, 7:30 pm, McDonald’s Corners Agricultural Hall: Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys with Long Sault Trio
Sunday Sep 20, 4:00 pm, Maberly Community Hall: The East Pointers with The Unspoken Rests
Thursday Sep 24, 7:30 pm, Almonte Old Town Hall: The Strumbellas with Danny Albert
Thursday Sep 24, 7:30 pm, St. Luke’s Anglican Church Hall in Lyndhurst: Fortunate Ones with The Rifle and The Writer
Friday Sep 25, 7:30 pm, Union Hall in Clayton: Fortunate Ones with The Noisy Locomotive
Friday Sep 25, 7:30 pm, Delta Old Town Hall: The Strumbellas *SOLD OUT*
Saturday Sep 26, 7:30 pm, Westmeath Recreation Centre: Beòlach with The Donohue Enrights
Saturday Sep 26, 7:30 pm, The Spencerville Mill: Good Lovelies with Pat Moore and Maple Hill
Sunday Sep 27, 3:00 pm, Althorpe Bolingbroke Community Hall: Beòlach with Jessica Wedden
Sunday Sep 27, 3:00 pm, Morton Community Hall: Good Lovelies with Ali McCormick *SOLD OUT*
Thursday Sep 17 and Friday 18, Chaffey’s Lock Community Hall
Regular priced menu served, beginning at 5:00 pm. Reservations required at (613) 359-5233.
Saturday Sep 19, McDonald’s Corners Agricultural Hall
$15 buffet dinner served from 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm. Show and dinner tickets available at The Hill Store in McDonald’s Corners and from Dragon Moon in Perth.
Friday Sep 25, Delta Old Town Hall
$10 hot supper served, beginning at 5:30 pm. Reservations required at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cash bar. All proceeds go to support the Old Stone Mill NHS.
Saturday Sep 26, Spencerville United Church Ham Supper
$15 ham supper served at 16 Centre Street, Spencerville, beginning at 5:30 pm. Reservations required at 613-658-5885, Sheila 613-658-5290, Brenda 613-803-1176, or Sandra 613-658-2777.
Sunday Sep 27, Althorpe Bolingbroke Community Hall
$10 hot supper served following the matinee concert.