Remembering Louis Armstrong, a celebration at the Gravenhurst Opera House

It has been almost half a century since the late Louis Armstrong, known to millions as “Satchmo”, brought record crowds to Dunn’s Pavilion Bala in the early 1960s.  On Wednesday, May 25th, Armstrong’s love affair with Muskoka is going to be celebrated at the Gravenhurst Opera House.

Jack Hutton
Jack Hutton and Neville Dickie. Submitted photo

Jack Hutton, an international ragtime pianist from Bala, will be joined by Neville Dickie, England’s top ragtime/stride pianist, and Jon Seiger, a top jazz pianist in the U.S. who also happens to play trumpet and sing like his idol, Louis Armstrong.  The evening will celebrate the music of both Armstrong and early jazz pianist Thomas “Fats” Waller who composed tunes like “Ain’t Misbehavin’ “ and “Honeysuckle Rose”.

Jack and Neville played duelling pianos at Gravenhurst one year ago and then decided to do it again this year. They took it up a couple of notches by inviting Jon Seiger to join them on a third piano and also play trumpet and sing like Louis Armstrong.

Jack, who has been bringing fellow ragtime/jazz performers  like Ragtime Bob Darch, Colm O’Brien, Mimi Blais and Dick Hyman to Gravenhurst over the last 25 years, says he has never been more excited about an upcoming concert.  “We started planning this last November,” he says.  “We’ll start with Armstrong’s signature tune, ‘Sleepy Time Down South’ and keep going up from there.  We’ll close the evening with all three of us going crazy with Waller’s ‘Honeysuckle Rose’.”

Did you ever meet Louis Armstrong?

Jack says he is looking for cottagers or local people who heard or met Louis Armstrong at Bala.  “We need to share those memories,” he says.  “If time doesn’t permit during the concert we’ll keep telling stories downstairs in the Trillium Room [at the Opera House].”

Jack can be reached in Bala at 705-762-5876 or balamus@muskoka.com .