August 1, 2019

Maple Hill Project a hit at waterfront

North Bay Summer Concert Series on the Lake Nipissing waterfront featuring the Maple Hill Project at the Kiwanis bandshell July 31, 2019. 


The free concert will start at 7 pm and we are excited to announce that the amazing Chris Vega has been added to the line-up.

Chris is an incredible solo performer. His show includes a very wide range of music and he has crafted his show to make clever use of technologies. He has the ability to add layers of music during the live performance. This is a must-see performance.

Headlining the night will be Heart of Gold - A tribute to Neil Young. This band delivers an incredible celebration of the music provided by Neil Young, Crosby-Stills-Nash & Young, The Stills-Young Band, Buffalo Springfield, and Crazy Horse. You can expect the classics like Cinnamon Girl, Suite Judy Blue Eyes, Ohio, Southern Man, Rocking in the Free World, Hey-Hey, My My and so much more. Prepare to time travel back to a time of hippies, protest songs, and incredible harmonies.

Show time is 7pm. Parking and admission are free. Bring your lawn chair.

Unfortunately, Broken Down Lori who was previously scheduled to play this event are not available for the show.

Below is a post about the Maple Hill Project band on the A Bit of the Bay Facebook Group:

Jeff Fournier

I attended a benefit concert at the Moose June 14 to help raise money for the Chemo Unit at the North Bay Regional Health Centre. Good friends, Lisa Hillis-O'Kane and Pat O'Kane organized the event which raised over $5,000 for the cause. It was a fabulous night with several local bands lending their talents to the evening. A few of you may remember Pat from his days as manager of TD Bank and Lisa from her days as principal at Widdifield high school, although these two outstanding North Bay community-minded citizens have a lot more to their resumes and community involvement than this.A few years ago (2016), I wrote an article about the history of Maple Hill Project - the final group to perform last evening - and a group that Pat O'Kane spearheaded in 2013. I thought you folks might enjoy reading about the band here. The way I see it, there's 200+ years of musical history in that band when one considers the musical experience of each of the band members incluing, Pat O'Kane, Mark Robinson, Doug Herbrand, Robin Bilan and Rob Aultman.


By Jeff Fournier

The Maple Hill Project (MHP) is a homegrown band that is beginning to make a name for itself in North Bay and surrounding areas. The five-piece vocal, harmonizing band, have been filling bars with multi-aged patrons since its formation in 2013.Not your typical bar crowdIt’s Saturday night and as I scan the room at Cecil’s, I notice that this is not your typical bar crowd. The audience is unusually diverse, ranging from twenty-somethings to octogenarians. 

The whole room is abuzz. Everyone is having a good time, singing along, chatting, clapping and sharing their enthusiasm with each other and the band. The age-gap doesn’t exist here.At the front of the stage, a small group gathers, dancing and swaying with the music. There are smiles all around as the band breaks into a Mumford and Sons tune, “I will wait for you.” A group of younger patrons socialize at the bar while some of the older folks get comfortable in their seats and are soon enjoying being a part of the scene, while seeming rather surprised by the wide-ranging appeal of the band’s music.Songs from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s roll effortlessly from the five talented band members as the night wears on. Tunes by Billy Joel, Supertramp, the Doobie Brothers and Blue Rodeo fill the air. 

When Neil Diamond’s, “Sweet Caroline” begins, the room goes ballistic and everyone is soon singing along – young and old – prodded by the affable members of the band.This isn’t your typical band. “We’ve done a pretty good job of filling a void,” says Pat O’Kane, the founding member of the group. “There isn’t another band like us anywhere around. We appeal especially to the middle-aged crowd, but we are attracting a very wide audience from every age group, and filling a niche along the way,” he points out.O’Kane plays a six-string rhythm guitar, while fellow band-mate, Doug Herbrand, adds some acoustics with his 12-string. Rob Aultman plays lead guitar and mandolin, while Robin Bilan handles the keyboard with flair. Mark Robinson rounds out the band with his skilled bass playing and on occasion, adds a harmonica to the mix.It’s no accident that the band lacks a drummer.

“All five of us are good at melodies and harmonies. We can pick up most songs in short order. We’re very versatile,” says O’Kane. “We can play in a wide-range of venues and we never have to match our sound to the drums, which allows us to explore the full range of our vocals, which is exactly what we want to do.”Band FormsO’Kane struck upon the idea for the MHP at Christmas in 2013. 

The band had formed earlier that year and were having a blast playing at house parties and private gatherings. He passed the idea of moving beyond that (at the local bars) to his wife, Lisa, who supported and encouraged him to go ahead with the idea.“It didn’t take much to convince the other four that we should expand,” explained O’Kane.“Before the MHP came along, we (the band members) were all involved in music to some extent,” says O’Kane. “In fact, Mark (Robinson) and I had been playing at local bars and restaurants as “Guys Without Ties” for several years prior to forming this band.”“Doug (Herbrand), was really the only one who didn’t have a lot of public entertaining experience, but had been playing the guitar for years,” adds O’Kane. 

“I’ve known Doug for a long time and he kept his vocal talent pretty well hidden, but he really has quite an impressive range and is an asset to the group.”O’Kane has been creating music for most of his life, having grown up in a very musical family. His dad has a wicked Irish musical streak and can really belt out a tune. His brother is a professional trumpet player. His son plays in a band and his daughter has been known to join in the singing whenever the family gets together.As for the band, “we all sing and we take our turns at leading in the vocals. 

There are no egos here. Typically, if you introduce a song that you think the band can play well, then you lead it,” explains O’Kane.”So, just how did the MHP name come about?O’Kane lives on Maple Hill Road in Powassan, which is where the band first began practicing. “The name, Maple Hill Project just came up naturally and we thought it would work out ok until a better name came along, but it kind of caught on with the audience”, explains O’Kane, “so we embraced it.”Says Nancy Bethune, one member of the appreciative audience who was enjoying the tunes at Cecil’s along with a group of friends: “Maple Hill Project is truly a home grown band….it is so special for me to see (the group) performing on stage and recreating the sounds of the songs that we grew up around.”

“These guys are so talented. They create harmonies that are so lovely and they play to the audience while they are performing. They invite us to sing along. We know the lyrics. We know the melodies and we know the guys,” enthuses Bethune.The best thing about harmony is that you can’t sing it alone, which is something MHP seems to understand very well.

You can check out the MHP’s Facebook page to keep up on the group and to find out where they will play their next show, at Maple Hill Project.  


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