It’s never a wise investment for municipalities to throw good public money after bad private profit. Nonetheless, municipal bureaucrats and politicians are often seduced by big, inefficient operators at the expense of small, efficient, community based groups.

It’s amazing how readily gullible politicians, aided and abetted by a misguided bureaucracy, parted with $270,000 of taxpayers’ money to underwrite the Big Music Fest. Mark Higgins, the smooth-talking promoter behind the mid-summer weekend rock music bash, went to local government with tin cup in hand, boasting that such tiresome international retreads as Rod Stewart and Blondie were Kitchener-bound.

When he cancelled their shows because of poor ticket sales (surprise, surprise!) Higgins wasn’t impelled to refund any of the money he received from municipal coffers. Moreover the promoter claims he lost money on the venture because of the cancelled shows, according to a report in the Waterloo Region Record. A skeptic can be forgiven for questioning Higgins’ smarts as a concert promoter.

The sorry tale doesn’t end there.

  • The provincial tourism ministry is holding back grant money as it determines whether the festival met criteria under which funding was approved.
  • And Higgins is refusing to pay a local contractor $12,000 for services rendered, arguing the work did not meet his high standards. Given the debacle otherwise known as Big Music Fest, a skeptic might doubt Higgins’ standards.

The whole business smells like fish left too long in the summer sun which, by the way, has nothing to do with the festival being staged on Kitchener’s notorious ‘Mount Trashmore’ reclaimed landfill site.

Happily for discriminating citizens who believe governments should support arts and culture with tax dollars, there’s The Registry Theatre, complete with its intimacy, accessibility and affordability.

The vibrant performing arts presenter located in the heart of downtown Kitchener has unveiled programming for its 15th season.

For less than $250,000 annually, the Registry offers an assortment of in-house programming — spanning folk, jazz and classical music, film, dance, visual art and children’s theatre — extending from September through June.

It also partners with various community performing arts organizations including Lost & Found Theatre, MT Space and IMPACT International Theatre, ACTone Play Festival and KW Musical Productions, not to mention JM Drama Youth and JM Drama (which manages the venue on behalf of the City of Kitchener).

It’s not only money well spent, it’s a bargain; enough to put smiles on the grumpiest of taxpayer watchdogs.

‘It’s a momentous season,’ announced programming director Lawrence McNaught at a reception. ‘It’s a season of anniversaries. Arts groups come and arts groups go; we are fortunate to not only be surviving but to be thriving as we celebrate our 15th season.’

Programming ‘continues to grow and expand,’ as two of the Registry’s most popular series — Folk Night at the Registry and Jazz at the Registry — celebrate their 10th anniversaries.

I’m thrilled Lawrence has asked me to present selected music concerts in partnership with the Registry. Our first concert features Michael Jerome Brown, a terrific blues artist who lives in Montreal. Simply said, Brown is one of the best acoustic bluesmen on the continent.

Following is the 2015-16 season lineup, excluding Folk Night at the Registry which will be outlined in an accompanying blog post.


Classics at The Registry returns with another Sunday afternoon series of Baroque music. Featuring resident ensemble Nota Bene Baroque Players led by artistic director/violinist Julie Baumgartel, the series is expanding from six to seven concerts. The series has four additional concerts, including Kevin Ramessar. Better known for his popular music concerts at The Registry, the local guitar virtuoso returns to his first love, the Baroque era.

October 25
Ben Bolt-Martin & George Meanwell
2 Cellos & Banjo

It’s been said you can’t play a sad song on banjo or a happy song on cello. In music by Telemann, Barrière, among others including original compositions, these notions will be challenged in an afternoon of whimsy, eclecticism and soulful reflection. Featuring two cello virtuosos and Meanwell doubling on banjo.

November 22
Nota Bene Baroque Players
Plucked Strings & Gutstrings

Pluck and Guts: These girls have it. Two fine soloists perform works from the German and Italian late Baroque, including J.S Bach and Geminiani, performed by Cynthia Hiebert (harpsichord) and Julie Baumgartel (Baroque violin).

January 24
Terry McKenna & Susan Kennedy
Fool’s Paradyce

Music and words from Old and New France. A translation of Perrault’s Cinderella paired with the Cendrillon guitar divertissement by Carulli, fables by LaFontaine, a folktale from Québec and traditional tunes round out this afternoon à la française! Terry McKenna (Baroque and Romantic guitars) is joined by storyteller Susan Kennedy, former artistic director of Stratford’s Playmakers Theatre School. The concert features special guest countertenor Daniel Cabena.

February 14
Bene Baroque Players
The Whims of Love

A concert designed for Valentine’s Day. Early 17th century canzonettas from England and Italy for voice and plucked instruments. Composers include Kapsberger, Stefani, Monteverdi and others. Special guests feature vocalists Stephanie Kramer (soprano) and Jennifer Enns Modolo (mezzo soprano) and Magdalena Tomsinska on Renaissance lute, Baroque guitar and theorbo.


Kevin Ramessar

March 13
Kevin Ramessar & Friends
Guitarra Barroca, etcétera

Ramessar is making a name for himself in the world of popular music, including on Broadway as guitarist in the TONY winning Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. However, his first love is classical guitar. Accompanied by special guests, he returns to his roots in a program of Baroque and Elizabethan compositions for guitar, plus music from the New World.

May 1
Streicher Ensemble
Brahms Masterpieces

Named for the famous Austrian piano builder J. B. Streicher, the ensemble features Boyd McDonald on Wilfrid Laurier University’s 1851 Streicher fortepiano, and fellow ensemble founder Paul Pulford on cello. The quintet is rounded out with Baumgartel and Leslie Ting on violin and Jody Davenport on viola. The concert features quintets, solos and duos by the great Romantic composer.

May 29
Nota Bene Baroque Players
So Many Sonatas, So Little Time

Alison Melville, one of North America’s leading performers on recorder and historical flutes, and harpsichordist Borys Medicky, former artistic director of Nota Bene, take a musical sojourn through the world of the late Baroque sonata to the 18th century, featuring works for harpsichord and obbligato flute by J. Bodin de Boismortier and Johann Christian Bach, as well and sonatas and sonatinas by Telemann and Mancini (not Henry!).

‘We love to play here,’ Baumgartel confirmed. ‘The audience sits right on our collective lap, it’s so intimate.’

All concerts Sundays at 3 pm

Nota Bene Baroque: 28 adult / $25 senior / $5 eyeGO & University, under 12 free

Other 4 concerts: $25 adult / $25 senior / $5 eyeGO & university, under 12 free


One Night Only is a genre-bending music series designed to offer a variety of musical styles. This anniversary season is no exception, featuring the return of three popular acts.



September 19
Sultans of String
CD Release Concert

The Registry launches its 15th anniversary season with the return of Canada’s foremost worldbeat ensemble. From Spanish flamenco, Celtic and Arabic folk, to Gypsy jazz, Afro-Cuban rhythms and everything in between, the multi-award winning Sultans rocked the Registry a couple seasons ago. Delighted to have them back to release their new CD Subcontinental Drift, featuring special guest sitar virtuoso Anwar Khurshid.

Tickets: $30

November 26 & 27
Kevin Ramessar Group
Registry 15th Anniversary Celebration

A Registry fave is back briefly from New York to make his annual appearance to celebrate our 15th anniversary by showcasing new arrangements of some of his favourite cover songs from previous concerts, plus new original music from his next CD.

Tickets: $25

March 19

Kruger Brothers

Bluegrass, Newgrass & Beyond

Believe it or not, two of America’s finest bluegrass musicians are actually Swiss. Uwe and Jens Kruger grew up listening to the great music of America. The boys were so taken with bluegrass they became virtuoso players. When they met American musician Joel Landsberg, The Kruger Brothers were born. The trio returns to the Registry following last season’s spectacular concert.

Tickets: $35



May 27
John Tank’s All-Star Jazz Quintet
The Great Composers of Jazz

If you think Waterloo Region is confined to producing great blues musicians, you haven’t heard KW’s illustrious tenor sax man John Tank, who returns from New York to mark the Registry’s anniversary. Tank’s last Registry concert, which featured music of the giants of the tenor sax, was everything that real jazz is meant to be. On this visit he shines the spotlight on the great composers of jazz including Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, among others. Once again, he brings some of Canada’s best jazz musicians: Don Thompson on piano, Kevin Turcotte on trumpet, Dave Young on bass and Terry Clarke on drums.

Tickets: $27

All concerts at 8 pm


Jazz at The Registry celebrates its 10th anniversary with three groups who headlined its debut season, plus a concert by one of Canada’s great jazz singers Alana Bridgwater, as part of the first annual K-W Winter Jazz Festival presented at The Registry Theatre, The Boathouse in Victoria Park and Waterloo’s Jazz Room.


Waterloo Region’s longest running jazz band released the first Live at the Registry CD. They return with their latest CD Rocket In My Top Pocket. For the concert, the group has expanded from a trio to a quintet.

Tickets: $25




K-W Symphony principal trumpet Larry Larson and his Jazz Guys have appeared every year since since the Registry’s inaugural season. For the concert the group is expanding from a quintet to an eight-piece ensemble. Larson (trumpet and flugelhorn) pulls out all the stops with an expanded bunch of guys including Paul Shilton on piano, Dave Wiffen on saxes, Dave Martin on trombone, Matthew Lima on bass, Dave Thompson on guitar, Dave Campion on drums and Erik Larson on bass and vocals.

Tickets: $25


The great lady of jazz & soul is also an accomplished actor in musical theatre. The Registry welcomes Alana for the first time. Featuring original songs from her new CD, plus some of her jazz favourites. This concert is part of K-W’s first Winter Jazz Festival, presented by The Registry Theatre in partnership with The Boathouse and The Jazz Room.

Tickets: $25

‘I have long wanted to present a winter jazz festival, but it took some time to find the right partners,’ Lawrence said.

SINATRA CENTENNIAL CONCERT                                                                                                                                                

Tim Louis played the first season of Jazz at The Registry. We welcome him back with his expanded ensemble The Ambassadors. Originally from Hoboken, New Jersey, the home of Frank Sinatra, Tim plays a centennial tribute to The Voice of America. This concert is a Jazz at The Registry 10th anniversary fundraiser for The May Court Club of Kitchener-Waterloo. Includes special intermission reception.

Tickets: $35

4 concert series pass: $90

All concerts at 8 pm


Young audiences 12 & under are introduced to live theatre with delightful adaptations of children’s favourites.

December 3-5 at 6:30 pm and December 5 & 6 at 2 pm
Charlotte’s Web
Adapted from book by E.B. White by Joseph Robinette

Working with the advice of E.B. White, Joseph Robinette has created a play that captures this beloved work in a thrilling theatrical presentation.

Tickets: $15, $10 for children 12 & under, $5 eyeGO

March 16-18 at 10 am and 1 pm and March 18 at 6:30 pm
Cinderella: CEO
Adapted by Amy Neufeld

This hilarious and fun adaptation by a local writer promises to be fun for young and old alike. A great March Break outing – camp groups are welcome.

Tickets: $15, $10 for children 12 & under, $5 eyeGO

October 17 & March 12 at 10 am
Saturday Morning Cartoon Party 
A tribute to the delightfully brain-addling Saturday morning cartoons of yore, complete with ‘all-you-can-eat cereal buffet.’ PJs are encouraged.

Tickets: $12, $6 for children 6 & under


Dance at The Registry continues its commitment to nurturing contemporary dance and developing audiences for Canadian dancers and choreographers. Registry general manager Sam Varteniuk curates the novel Pay-As-You-Leave ticketing option which allows audience members to experience contemporary dance before determining the value of the experience.
November 13, 7:30 pm
Kate Hilliard: Album

Choreographed by Hilliard and performed and developed with collaborators Luke Garwood and Andrya Duff, Album is a work about favourite songs and the personal histories that accompany them. Album features the work of sound artist Jeremy Mimnagh, designer Gram Schmalz, lighting designer Simon Rossiter with costumes by Alana Elmer. The physical performance responds to, and reconstructs stories captured in interviews from a wide variety of Toronto residents.
May 26, 7:30 pm
Julia Aplin: The Yellow Wallpaper

Drawing inspiration from the Charlotte Perkins Gilman short story, this dark, complex unravelling explores the psychological drama of Charlotte as she succumbs to the pressure of family and parenthood and deals with the consequences of denying her true creative spirit. Featuring original composition and sound design by John Gzowski, The Yellow Wallpaper is an interdisciplinary performance piece combining the skills and insights of the collaborators into a complex duet for dancer and actor.


The VOC Silent Film Harmonic is a group of accomplished local musicians whose approach to playing a live soundtrack to silent movies is explained by bassist and group leader Ted Harms. ‘The blockbuster movies of the 1920’s came with symphonic scores and big-city theatres had their own orchestras. However, most film music was supplied by pianists or small ensembles that worked from classical themes or cue sheets of generic-themed music serving as the basis for improvisations. This is the tradition that the VOC pursues’.

October 23
The Golem

1920 classic starring Paul Wegener who co-directed. A landmark film of early German expressionism.

January 15

1927 gangster movie directed by Josef von Sternberg and written by Oscar-winner Ben Hecht (The Front Page, Notorious and uncredited for his contribution to Gone with The Wind).

March 10
Most Dangerous Game

1932 thriller starring Joel McCrea and Faye Wray. The film was shot on RKO’s standing King Kong sets utilizing a number of the Kong personnel, including Kong’s love interest Wray.

All performances at 8 pm

Tickets: $15 /  $5 eyeGO  / $10 at door with food bank donation. Includes free popcorn

A selection of concerts that don’t fit regular series

October 16, 8 pm
Robi Botos Family Trio

Originally from Hungary, Botos is one of Canada’s best new generation jazz pianists, and a favourite performer in the K-W area. Don’t miss this special trio concert featuring the Botos family featuring Boots on piano, father Lajos on drums and brother Lajos on bass. This concert is fundraiser for the oppressed Roma Community.

Tickets: $20 advance / $22 door

November 14, 8 pm
Light of East Ensemble
CD Release Concert

From London, Ontario, the Light Of East Ensemble performs music from the Near and Middle East, including traditional, folk, classical Arabic and Sephardic, as well as music from Egypt, Lebanon, Israel and Syria. A celebration of their brand new CD Live at The Aeolian. The concert also features a special guest dance ensemble.

Tickets: $20 advance / $22 door

February 5, 8 pm
Dan Beacock Group
British Blues Vol. 1

Beacock is one of the area’s finest rock, blues and jazz guitarists. He has performed at the Registry with local supergroup Stealing Dan, as well as with his own group, celebrating the music of Dire Straits and Eric Clapton. Peacock returns to play the music of some of the seminal British blues bands, including John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Eric Clapton.

Tickets: $20 advance / $22 door


micael jerome browne2

April 1, 8 pm
Reid Between The Lines and The Registry Theatre present Michael Jerome Browne
The Delta Blues

Michael Jerome Browne is one of the finest blues musicians playing in Canada today. His original songs are inspired by the Mississippi Delta. The Montreal-based American musician’s beautiful guitar picking and a voice like honey make for a truly enjoyable and satisfying concert.

Tickets: $20 advance /  $22 door

The Registry Theatre
122 Frederick St
519-745-6565 or

Tickets at Centre in the Square Box Office
519-578-1570 / / and at the door


Please check out individual websites for additional info


November 4-7
Broadway Our Way: Comedy Edition
at the Registry Theatre

February 11-2
Grease: The Musical
at St. Jacobs Playhouse Theatre
Info and tickets at


April 20-30
Pocket Rocket, a play in three periods by Lea Daniels and Gary Kirkham
Info at


Round One: October 15, 7:30 pm
Round Two: February 4, 7:30 pm
Round Three: May 19, 7:30 pm
Tickets: $5
Info on submitting a film at


December 11-13

February 26-27
Double bill of Around the World in 80 Days & The Yellow Wallpaper

May 13-14
The Giver
Info at or phone 519-568-1425


May 5-8, 7:30 pm
The Araba-Israeli Cookbook by Robin Soans
Tickets: $18 advance / $22 at the door, students & seniors $15 advance / $20 at the door
Info at email donbourgeois@gmail.comJune 9-11

June 9-11
ACTone Play Festival
Submit plays by November 20 and visit for details

(Featured image shows bluegrass sensations The Kruger Brothers)