Listen Up; Oshawa is the Music City

Will McGuirk

"...there is music to be heard in the sound of sirens, the trill of birdsong, in the clarion of bells, and the clamour of conversation."

It’s the bells that ring out over Downtown Oshawa that set the tone for the city. The sonorous peals are a joy to hear, and one’s mood is lifted by such a musical soundtrack. Music can be found throughout the city’s core, and not just on the many stages the entertainment district of Durham Region is home to. From large to small, Oshawa has plenty of venues, and they cater to all types and tastes. 

The 6,000 capacity Tribute Community Centre serves as the place to see the international big-name acts. It is also home to the Oshawa Generals and their boisterous fans. Goals by the 2015 Memorial Cup winners are met by a roof rattling roar. The enthusiastic and vocal support of game day fans is the inspiration for Noel Harding’s sculpture ‘Reverb’ which is situated in the central plaza outside the main doors of the area. This metal piece is curved to amplify the sound back out and is covered in half-cut out speech bubbles to represent the diverse voices of the Region’s biggest city.

North of the TCC on King sits the historic Regent Theatre, which has been restored and repurposed for use by Ontario Tech. The soft-seater is also home to the Ontario Philharmonic. The curves of the hall and the high ceiling, envelope the audience in an intimate acoustic experience. 

Ears of a more popular bent can walk across the street to the Music Hall Concert Theatre, the best place in town to see a nationally known rock band. The sightlines and sound are among the very best, and a second-floor area only adds to the fun. Bands from the local area are also regularly featured on the ample stage. 

Photo of downtown Oshawa, facing north up Simcoe Street at Athol Street

Cork & Bean is a cafe on Simcoe Street which specialises in supporting local artisans. They host weekly open mics and acoustic performances, showcase local art on the walls, and sell a vast array of craft beers as well as the selection of coffees and wines. Grab one of the high tables at the windows. These open up completely in the warmer weather turning the inside out, and one can enjoy the sounds of the streets with what is playing on stage.

Brew Wizards Board Game Cafe manages to balance the much needed quiet for a game of chess, with conversation at the 16 tap craft beer bar and the incessant chirping of a two table deep game of Dungeons and Dragons. It is the place downtown to spend social time with family in friendly competition. 

The game cafe sits next door to Oshawa’s oldest building, a church with foundations that date back to the earliest days of the village originally called Skae’s Corners. Across from the church is Memorial Park on Simcoe Street, a public park with an elegant bandshell designed to catch the last warm rays of the setting sun. The acoustics are such that even a single voice can be heard out along the streets around it. 

Also on Simcoe Street is the Canadian Automotive Museum, which speaks to the city’s history of car manufacturing. The museum is one revelation after another as one strolls past a 1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost used by British royalty, a life-sized model of Lightning McQueen from the Disney movie ‘Cars,’ a 1965 Amphicar, which is half car half boat and a 1931 Alfa Romeo among scores of other historic vehicles on display. One can almost hear the engines croon and purr, and one can easily imagine them in all their vigor touring roads and racetracks of bygone ears.

Live music may seem like it’s from a bygone era of late, and the only music we hear in the city lately is the ‘sound of silence.’  Still,  there is music to be heard in the sound of sirens, the trill of birdsong, in the clarion of bells, and the clamour of conversation. At some point, there will be sound on stages and until then the city centre is the stage, and the music is the sound of the city itself.