The Queer Songbook Orchestra (QSO) and Vivek Shraya are coming to St. Catharines as part of Brock University’s Pride Week festivities.
The QSO aims to bring queer narratives to the stage as a 12 piece chamber pop ensemble that has collaborated with guest narrators, singers and storytellers to bring a wide variety of experiences to light.
“We look at queer narratives through the lens of pop music. We explore people’s own personal stories of queer experience, bring those to the front and give them a platform on stage, as well as stories of historical figures who may have not had a chance to have their real truth known during their lifetimes,” said Director of the QSO Shaun Brodie.
The show will focus on personal narratives rather than historical ones, including work from the album that QSO and Shraya created together, Part-Time Woman, which was included in a list of Best Canadian Albums of 2017 compiled by CBC. Shraya currently resides in Calgary, making the performance particularly noteworthy to Brodie, as the distance often makes it difficult to find opportunities to work together.
“This show is a bit unique in that the bill is split with [Shraya]. The first half will be [Shraya] and the QSO doing the album that we collaborated on,” said Brodie. “The second half of the show will be these personal narratives and drawing on this really extensive catalogue of songs and stories that we’ve developed over the past few years.”
The event is a part of Brock’s expanded LGBTQ+ Pride Week, which the Director of Human Rights and Equity (HRE) Leela MadhavaRau is citing as an effort by many groups to create a diverse celebration of LGBTQ+ pride. To maintain accessibility, HRE is offering free tickets to students for whom price may be an obstacle.
“As someone new to Brock, I am excited to see the range of events represented during these two weeks. No identity group should be seen as monolithic and these events reflect the diverse community that falls within the LGBTQ+ umbrella. I encourage everyone to take advantage of at least one event — educate yourself while celebrating the community,” said MadhavaRau. “This week provides a chance for the university community to engage with the history of a community often marginalized and absent from the historical record.”
The Toronto-based QSO is eager to perform in St. Catharines, as part of the group’s mandate is to bring queer narratives to smaller communities in which visibility of the LGBTQ+ community is often not at the same level as large cities such as Toronto.
“When we play outside of our home base, where we haven’t been before, it’s an unknown thing and people don’t necessarily want to take a chance on it. I’d like to encourage people to take that chance,” said Brodie. “It’s hard to give a quick description of what it is we’re doing because I don’t think it exists in an easily definable way. Part of why I wanted to start this group is that I didn’t see that anything like it already existed. I felt there could be space for something like this.”
The QSO is celebrating its five year anniversary this month, with Mar. 28 marking the anniversary of its first performance.
“If we’d have spoken five years ago leading up to do the first show, I might have hoped but I don’t think I would have fully imagined that we’d have done all of the things we’ve done in that time or that the project would still be viable and exist,” said Brodie.
In addition to the performance by the QSO and Shraya, Pride Week features a workshop discussing the history of the Pride movement, a drag show, a two-spirit panel and a wide variety of other programming.
“People around campus have been looking at the posters and commenting on the way in which Brock’s LGBTQ+ Pride Week has expanded this year. That expansion is a testament to the many different entities that planned events in order to provide a comprehensive calendar of events, including events focusing on education and others presented in a spirit of community and celebration,” said MadhavaRau. “[HRE] simply pulled together these strands and took a lead on the promotion of the week.”
According to MadhavaRau, some of the week’s hosts include: the President’s Advisory Committee on Human Rights, Equity and Decolonization (PACHRED) LGBTQ+ Affinity Group, Brock Pride, the Student Justice Centre, the departments of Women’s and Gender Studies and Sociology, OPIRG Brock, the Residence Education Dons, the Indigenous Solidarity Coalition, CUPE 4207, and the CUPE 4207 Equity Committee.
The QSO and Shraya performance will take place March 8 from 7:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. at the Recital Hall within the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre. Regular admission will be $20, with a student price of $13 as well as available free tickets available through contact with HRE’s Michelle Poirier. The event is sponsored by the department of Women’s and Gender Studies, HRE and the Women’s Campus Safety Grant.