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MuskokaONline.com News - #GOTLOCAL



Posted: 2022-05-02 14:39:18 By: thebay

Almost a decade ago, I was invited by one of my musician friends to attend a monthly gathering in Burk’s Falls known as the 3rd Friday Coffee House. Hosted by Bob Gray and Peter Hall, it was a venue for local and sometimes not-so-local musicians, gathering to play three or four songs each for a willing and attentive audience. From the very first 3rd Friday event I attended, I knew it was something in which I wanted to participate, because it was an opportunity for musicians in the local community to perform for a receptive and enthusiastic local audience. Unlike a bar gig, where the performers are often ignored, or are, at best, secondary entertainment, those coffee houses provided a loyal listening audience of anywhere from 50 to 100 attendees. Some of the performances I watched were excellent, and in their own unique ways, they were all entertaining. A songwriter for over 25 years at that point, I’d never been involved with anything like that, and it was inspiring to be a part of that positive energy.

Let it suffice to say that, when I threw my hat in the ring and played my first 3rd Friday back in late 2013, that resurrected my long dormant love of songwriting. Through the event, I met many of the local musicians I now call friends, and I discovered that in our small community, there are A LOT of people who love and play good music. I have since collaborated with many of those musicians. I played my very first Coffee House at the then Village Tavern in Burk’s Falls and became a regular participant when the venue moved to the Burk’s Falls Legion. Through that event, I met fellow songwriter Douglas McLean who introduced me to the folks at Hunters Bay Radio, and I have been involved with that station ever since.  

In short, through Bob Gray, the Gray family, and Peter Hall, I found a receptive audience for my original songs, and that has meant the world to me. Due to the pandemic, the last two years have been devastating for everyone who loves live music, and the Burk’s Falls Coffee Houses were cancelled indefinitely. Recently, when things did finally begin to open up, Bob Gray became very ill with cancer, and was not able to resume producing the shows. It’s a lot of work! He called me up several months ago, and asked if I would be willing to carry the torch for him. With the help of my very talented friends Sean Cotton and Billy Stewart, we are going to resume the 3rd Friday Coffee House at the Burk’s Falls Legion, beginning May 20th. We have lined up some entertainers for this first show and hope that we can keep the plate spinning for a long time to come. Wish us luck!  

I owe much of my renewed enthusiasm for music to my attendance at those Burk’s Falls coffee houses, and I am deeply indebted to all the local music lovers in the Almaguin Highlands and Muskoka, including Hunters Bay Radio, The Bay 88.7FM, for their unwavering support of local artists. Local support is absolutely essential for any artist who seeks recognition. We will do our best to provide a stage and venue to showcase some of the diamonds and diamonds in the rough that we have in our own backyard. My talented wife, Shauna Leigh will be posting more about the May 20th event. I hope you can save the dates and set aside 2 hours from 7-9pm on the third Friday of each month to join us for some local magic at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 405, at 9 Mary Street in Burk’s Falls. Finally, I want to thank Bob Gray and Peter Hall of Gray/Hall Productions (River Run Productions) for all the years of tireless service in providing a worthwhile venue for established and aspiring musicians and songwriters. It’s time for me to pay it forward.

Written by Jamie Oppenheimer ©2022 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED