story pole 3

Nestled between two beautiful lakes, Couchiching and Simcoe, lies the “sunshine” city of Orillia. The drive north from Toronto takes approximately an hour, however, summer cottage traffic usually makes the trip longer – but still definitely worth the trek.

Visiting the beaches and golf courses in the area is reason enough to find your way north  during summer. Orillia always seems to be brimming with creativity making art, music, and culture the hallmarks that attract tourists by the dozens.

Two very important summer attractions have already happened in Orillia this year as the city recently hosted its annual Mariposa Folk Festival  and the annual Streets Alive! outdoor pop-up art exhibition launched in late June.


Steph Whalen, 2016

As an Orillia “ex-pat” I have many connections to my former home town and am generally aware of events that happen within the city’s thriving arts community. When local artist (and long-time friend) Steph Whalen first approached me to write a few words about music and culture through the decades for her Streets Alive! project website – I knew she was working on a very special project and I was more than happy to contribute.

Since making the decision to focus more of her time on her art, Whalen has been involved in many initiatives as a painter and an illustrator. Her illustrations and paintings of the natural world feature an elegant use of colour and a focal point that is often of an animal, flowers, and/or trees.

Her Streets Alive! story pole, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, is entitled Generation Music Station and was a joint venture with her husband Brian McLeod. The husband/wife team wanted to create a story pole that would be engaging and memorable. Spending countless hours on the project, Steph and Brian found the perfect way to balance her painting and illustrations with his woodworking craftsmanship to complete the “solar powered, internally lit, Bluetooth compatible labour of love” that has been named Generation Music Station.

For more information about The Generation Music Station please click here.


A Brief History of Modern Music (The Generation Music Station)

The Roaring Twenties

Sporting bold, luxurious colours and textiles while expertly pulling off high energy dance moves – music lovers in the 1920s were as smooth as the jazz they favoured. Known as “the roaring twenties” for good reason, this decade of indulgence and boisterous celebration was most aptly depicted in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby. The music of Broadway was very popular with audiences during the decade. In addition to Jazz, Ragtime music was also popular during the 1920s. Radio was an affordable source of entertainment at home, making it easy to listen to the music of the day. Also known as the prohibition era, a ban on the sale of alcohol resulted in many underground booze clubs. Patrons of these underground clubs could dance the Charleston all night, partake in the banned substance, and enjoy live musical acts – Dionysus would have loved the twenties. Top musicians of the decade: Duke Ellington, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Al Jolson and Louis Armstrong.

The Dirty Thirties

The 1930s have been called “the dirty thirties” and “the dust bowl” for the dry, dusty, windy weather that caused wide-spread drought and ultimately devastated North American agriculture during the decade. The combination of crop shortages and the stock market crash in 1929, have also caused the era to be known as “The Great Depression”. Jazz and Broadway remained popular during the 1930s and the radio continued to be a great way to experience music at home. Big band music and swing gained a lot of attention during this decade spawning new dance crazes as audiences would jump and jive during live performances. Uplifting music was a welcome reprieve from overwhelmingly depressing economic conditions and the beginnings of the second World War. Popular musicians of the decade: Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Harry James, and Glen Miller.

The Swinging (and Singing) Forties

Even though Swing began its rise to popularity during the previous decade, during the 1940s Swing music was a very popular escape from the turbulence of living in a world that was once again at war. Hollywood glamour and motion pictures likewise provided escape and entertainment, affording a break from negative daily news reports. The Second World War remains one of the darkest and ugliest periods of human history, yet the music produced during this devastating war was both uplifting and beautiful. In addition to the trend of swing music carrying forward from the previous decade, the 1940s also saw the evolution and rise to popularity of the “crooner” singer. Beautiful voices could be heard everywhere, singers such as Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby soared to new heights of fandom. Popular musicians of the 1940s also included Billie Holliday, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole.

The Rocking Fifties

Picture the soundtrack of a victorious post-war North America – breathing a collective sigh of relief in the wake of a vicious storm. The Second World War represents one of the most devastating periods of prolonged suffering, violence and hatred in documented human history. By the time 1950 arrived, the war had come to an end, progress and optimism for the future restored. Popular music during the decade, similar to middle class North American family life, was generally pleasant, sweet and as smooth as Elvis Presley’s dance moves. Fashion of the decade included bobby socks, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and sweater sets. Youth culture and the concept of the modern teenager developed – peace meant no threat of deployment to fight a deadly war on foreign soil. Malt shops were hopping and jukeboxes played songs of innocence to the back-beat no one could lose. The advent of the electric guitar meant that by the mid-late 1950s rock and roll had fast become a dominating force in popular music. Elvis Presley soared to the top of the charts, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard wowed audiences with high octane songs and live performances. Music of the decade often fluctuated between these two extremes – the heavier, faster-paced music of early rock and roll and the slower, softer music of artists like Connie Francis and Pat Boone. The wholesome concept of the “teen idol” was born with the arrival of singers such as Ricky Nelson and Frankie Avalon. The 1950s marked the beginning of a major shift in popular music, influencing many of the most revered musicians of the twentieth century that would follow in the coming decades.

The Turbulent Sixties

The 1960’s was a turbulent decade full of innovative music that boldly responded to the horrors of the Vietnam war in addition to many important civil and human rights movements. The combat in Vietnam existed for the entire duration of the sixties and many American casualties were lost. Activism and protest found its way into popular music often becoming the voice of an entire generation. Rock and folk music were the dominant vehicles that would deliver important social messages to the masses. Sex, drugs, rock and roll became the mantra for many and raging against the injustices of society became a way of life for even more. Some of the most important voices in history were heard in the 1960’s– and then silenced (John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr.). African American civil rights activists, women’s rights activists, LGBTQ rights activists, and anti-war protesters proved that many voices together can not only be heard, but will continue to echo for many years to come. Change began during this decade, and with it came some excellent music. The British Invasion ushered in the era of Beatlemania, and other artists from overseas followed suit with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Eric Clapton, and Led Zeppelin attracting global attention as well as the Beatles. Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, The Doors, The Guess Who and Janis Joplin were among the many popular North American artists to top the charts. Motown records delivered the great Diana Ross and The Supremes, as well as The Jackson 5 – marking the world’s first look at the future king of pop. The Man In Black, Johnny Cash, was at the height of his popularity with country music fans during the sixties, often crossing over to other audiences with his timeless, universal songwriting.