This hasn’t happened in so long, it was almost confusing to see it in the calendar. But we had a concert date on Friday night, then another one on Saturday might.
The first was a Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Pops concerts, Thorgy and the Thorchestra. Thorgy Thor is a classically trained musician who plays violin, viola, and cello (!). And she is also a drag queen who has been featured on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Despite knowing the drag queen part (and not the musician part, actually) before going, this was more of a gay pride kind of event than I was expecting. It was conducted by Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, who is gay, and in between Thorgy’s comic antics and demonstrations of musicianship, we got the history of gay rights in Canada (to the tune of Oh, Canada) and a documentary featurette about the Brunswick Four, three of whom were arrested for performing a parody song, “I Enjoy Being a Dyke”. This was followed by a performance of said parody.
Thorgy was very funny, and is quite a talented musician, but she wasn’t the only guest performer. Keiko Larocque from Wilfrid Laurier provided vocals on some numbers, and the Eastwood Collegiate Dance Team performed some choreography on others, from ballet to Vogue-ing. Along with a rainbow of humanity, we got a range of musical styles, from Brahms, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky to Rogers & Hammerstein to Cyndi Lauper and Lady Gaga. It was a fun night!
Saturday we had to make the slightly longer drive to Stratford, Ontario to see the Art of Time Ensemble perform A Singer Must Die: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen. The Art of Time musicians are a sextet who play piano, saxophone, violin, cello, bass, and guitar. They seem to specialize in performing new and novel arrangements of popular songs. In this case, of course, it was all songs by Leonard Cohen.
The featured singers were Steven Page (formerly of Barenaked Ladies), Gregory Hoskins (of Gregory Hoskins and the Stickpeople), Tom Wilson (of commercials and Lee Harvey Osmond), Sarah Slean (of… Sarah Slean), and Tamara Lindeman (also known as Tamara Hope, apparently). Each singer brought their own style. Page could handle the serious and the light, as he does in all his work.
Sarah Slean flitted happily onto the stage, even though, as she then noted, some of the songs covered were a bit devastating. (“But that’s how the light gets in.”) She also apologized for a voice somewhat damaged by weeks of colds (not that I noticed), which even required one song substitution from the program (but I was happy to hear “Take This Waltz”).
Tamara Lindeman was a bit more earnest, and I believe she’s the one who handled “The Partisan”, the one song not written by Leonard Cohen, though famously covered by him. (Hadn’t actually realized til this that he didn’t write it…) Quite lovely.
Tom Wilson was pretty funny, and possessed the most Leonard Cohen-like voice of the bunch. He covered “Closing Time” and “Who by Fire”. Gregory Hoskins was very intense! His version of “Treaty” was particularly striking.
“Hallelujah” wasn’t on the program, but was performed as the encore, by Page and Hoskins.
I quite enjoyed the whole evening. Jean, as less of a Cohen fan, struggled with the first half but ended up enjoying the second.
(And both performances featured a pretty good amount of masking in the audience. In the case of the symphony, even the musicians were masked—except the singers and wind instrument players, of course.)