Sometimes in order to see the bigger picture, you have to start by looking at the small picture. You know, kind of like that saying, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” The Festival of Small Halls is one of those turn-your-thinking-on-its-ear ideas that does exactly that, by introducing music on a small, local scale, while accomplishing big things.
Things like fostering community. Supporting social networking. Encouraging an appreciation of the arts. Getting people out and dancing and engaging and talking and…well you get the picture.
Let’s put it this way: I love music, but the thought of getting dressed up and schlepping to some overcrowded stadium, where I’m surrounded by thousands of people doesn’t really appeal to me. But the Festival of Small Halls does. And it’s not just me, since its introduction four years ago, the Festival of Small Halls Ontario has grown and grown and grown, adding new halls, new activities, and selling out for almost every performance in its 2016 season, with expectations for a repeat in 2017 (click here to see which shows still have tickets left!).
Talk about thinking small having a big impact! The Festival of Small Halls is reinvigorating the popularity of small halls in rural (and not so rural) Ontario, the halls that we often only think about a few times a year, but that at one time were the centre of a community. I was lucky enough to attend a Small Halls performance last year in McDonald’s Corners, and wrote about the experience here, which was – in one word – phenomenal.
Picture a warm, bustling community hall filled with people sitting shoulder to shoulder, clapping and tapping and singing along with the musicians on stage, almost close enough to touch. The floorboards bouncing from the dancing on the dance floor, the laughter, the lights…people who may not have known each other before entering the hall chatting away and laughing like old friends.
And the musicians aren’t ones that leave you squinting and saying “who”? Picture big-name faces playing the kind of music that gets into your blood: roots, folk, pop, soul and blue-grass inspired music. This is why the Small Halls sold out last year, and is expected to sell out again!
The Festival of Small Halls is hosting performances in 2017 beginning Sept. 14 and ending Oct. 1, with many performances already sold out only weeks into ticket sales. New this year is the addition of community events at a number of small halls prior to the show. You can purchase a ticket to the show and an old-fashioned community dinner before the music starts, to really get you into the small hall swing before the show.
On Sept. 14 you can enjoy a BBQ family-style dinner before the performance at Stonefields, with a mouth-watering menu of roasted chicken, Texas-style short-ribs, peaches and cream freshly steamed corn, southern-style potato salad, baby spinach salad, garden fresh vegetables and dessert! Or on Sept. 21 at Spencerville Mill you can sample a tapas-style dinner by Tapas by Zolas. And that’s just two options for community events, the list is much longer. Go for the show or go for dinner, or both!
Many of the shows are already sold out, but there are still some tickets left (I know, I shouldn’t procrastinate). A couple of shows I’m particularly excited about are:
- Sept. 28, Batstone’s Northern Ramble – Ian Sherwood with Dean Batstone
- Sept. 23, Merrickville United Church – Leif Vollebekk with Off the Grid – Tickets Here! or Mrs. McGarrigle’s Fine Food Shop at 311 St. Lawrence Street
- Sept. 29, McDonald’s Corners Agricultural Hall – The Abrams with Ali McCormick
The show at Batstone’s Northern Ramble is exciting not only because it’s featuring Ian Sherwood (with Dean Batstone) but also because it’s BYOB! But Merrickville United Church is beautiful, and I’ve heard Leif Vollebekk and Off the Grid give a phenomenal performance. Then again, I was fortunate enough to catch Ali McCormick’s performance at a recent Two Rivers Food Hub event in Smiths Falls, and would love to see her play again. And of course, the attraction of The Abrams goes without saying…
The only question now is…how do I narrow it down to just one?