The natural phases of death and rebirth wash over us often throughout life. It’s the realization of something not working any longer which inspires change. This is precisely how the Queer Songbook Orchestra came to be. Based mainly in Toronto, the 11 piece chamber pop collective was born of a transitional period in the life of artistic director Shaun Brodie.
A freelance musician for upwards of a decade, Brodie wanted to trade in his former lifestyle for something else—he just wasn’t sure what that would look like.
“It came to a point where I didn’t see a future in what I was doing,” Brodie says. “I actually applied for journalism school, but it’s when I didn’t get accepted that it occurred to me something like this project could exist. I asked a few of my friends if this was something they’d be involved in, and we began work on our first few songs right away.”
From the very first show at a small, queer performance gallery in Toronto called Video Fag, the burgeoning collective knew their work resonated with the audience. As the orchestra grew into an 11 piece, it maintained the storytelling aspect, which seeks to pay respect to queer artists as well as help vocalize experiences within the LGBTQ community as they connect to music.
“We’re sharing contemporary personal stories people have given us who are aware of the project,” says Brodie. “Stories that are connected to particular songs that may have helped them to get through a difficult time whether it was coming to terms with their sexuality or still in the closet and the song offered some comfort or empowerment. We’re making space for queer stories on stage.”
This is the first time the orchestra has visited Edmonton, and they will require lots of help from the community. A local collaborator acts as the narrator during the storytelling aspects of each performance.
One of the most commonly used words in Vue’s interview with Brodie was “community.” Brodie feels it’s important for these stories to be heard not only by LGBTQ people, but anybody who wants to see continued change and positive growth within society.
“I think it’s really important to have projects like this and evenings where there’s an opportunity to come together so bonds can be created and solidified,” Brodie says. “Where we can grow stronger as a community to face whatever it is we have to face. Good and bad. It’s important to make space for queer stories and have them reflected on stage.”
Sat., Jan. 7 (8 pm)
Queer Songbook Orchestra
presents: Songs of Resilience
The Needle, $15 at the door