Tenth year of Go Green adds to city le­gacy

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Front Page - BY MATTHEW LIEBENBERG — mlieben­berg@prairiepos­t.com

A large num­ber of vol­un­teers helped to plant trees and shrubs and to beau­tify the com­mu­nity dur­ing the 10th an­niver­sary Go Green in Swift Cur­rent, Sept. 21.

Ac­cord­ing to Stark & Marsh CEO Elden Moberg there were around 150 vol­un­teers who worked morn­ing and af­ter­noon shifts at var­i­ous sites around the city.

“We're get­ting to a higher level than we've had,” he said. “When we started in 2009, we were prob­a­bly around 70 or 80 and so we've dou­bled the pop­u­la­tion over that pe­riod of time. The City says that on this day from a Parks and Rec per­spec­tive they get about as much work done as in one month with their reg­u­lar staff, and so that's quite im­pres­sive that we give them some ad­di­tional sup­port. They can get some ad­di­tional projects done that oth­er­wise just wouldn't hap­pen.”

The event started when Stark & Marsh was look­ing for a project that will make a dif­fer­ence in the com­mu­nity. The com­pany had dis­cus­sions with the City and a need was iden­ti­fied for a fall clean-up.

“It's hard to be­lieve ac­tu­ally that we've been able to do this for 10 years,” he said. “When we spawned the idea back in 2009 I think we were hop­ing that we would get some peo­ple in­volved and that they'd come and help out and that we'd be able to do this for a lit­tle while. To think that we've been able to do it for 10 years and that it has grown and that the projects have im­proved and the amount of peo­ple vol­un­teer­ing has in­creased, is pretty hum­bling and quite re­ward­ing.”

For Stark & Marsh the ini­tia­tive has be­come an af­fir­ma­tion of the com­pany's com­mit­ment to the com­mu­nity. It re­cently cre­ated a video to cel­e­brate Go Green's 10th an­niver­sary, which was launched at a Swift Cur­rent & District Cham­ber of Com­merce net­work­ing event.

“It's re­ally a pro­mo­tional piece that we can use for dif­fer­ent things,” he said. “Whether that helps in our re­cruit­ing ef­forts or helps with peo­ple who un­der­stand that we have a com­mit­ment to the com­mu­nity, and that's some­thing we feel is very im­por­tant.”

This was the third year of In­no­va­tion Credit Union's part­ner­ship with Stark & Marsh and the City of Swift Cur­rent to host and spon­sor the event.

In­no­va­tion Credit Union CEO Dan John­son noted that em­ploy­ees have been vol­un­teer­ing at Go Green over the years, but the com­pany wanted to take its in­volve­ment to the next level.

“As a credit union, we share out a lot and some­times it's just a cheque to an or­ga­ni­za­tion, but this one is a bit dif­fer­ent,” he said. “Not only do you get to share out fi­nan­cially, but you get to vol­un­teer and you get to beau­tify the city. So there's a lot of ad­di­tional el­e­ments to this. It seemed to be ex­actly what we thought to be im­por­tant and we're just happy that the other two or­ga­ni­za­tions al­lowed us to.”

For credit union staff mem­bers the event is a use­ful means to vol­un­teer in the com­mu­nity and also to build team spirit.

“I just look at the staff that's here to­day and it's a dif­fer­ent set­ting, it's more ca­sual, there's a lot of smiles, and it's a dif­fer­ent type of work,” he said.

“We spend a lot of time at a desk and at a com­puter, and this gets us out. This is a re­ally good way to get out and to spend some time in a dif­fer­ent set­ting with some of the peo­ple that you work with all of the time.”

A new mu­si­cal tour by the ac­claimed Queer Song­book Or­ches­tra uses a com­bi­na­tion of per­sonal sto­ries and pop mu­sic to re­flect on the lived ex­pe­ri­ences of in­di­vid­u­als from the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der, queer and two-spirit (LGBTQ2S) com­mu­nity. The Toronto based 12-piece cham­ber pop en­sem­ble will be per­form­ing at the Lyric The­atre in Swift Cur­rent on Oct. 4 as part of their Tour of Heart and Mind across Canada.

Queer Song­book Or­ches­tra Artis­tic Di­rec­tor Shaun Brodie said this tour to 11 smaller cities in seven prov­inces is a sig­nif­i­cant change from the group's pre­vi­ous per­for­mances at fes­ti­vals and events in Canada's larger cities.

“Those kinds of places have fes­ti­vals that have the in­fra­struc­ture that are large enough to bring a group of 12 or 13 peo­ple and not just a group that large, but with an ex­pressly queer fo­cus,” he said. “There's not al­ways space for it or a will­ing­ness to take the risk by fes­ti­vals or pre­sen­ters. So for us to have this op­por­tu­nity now to take the project ev­ery­where ex­cept those big­ger cities; I think it's the most im­por­tant thing we've done to this point.”

The tour starts in White­horse on Sept. 30 and there­after the group will have a num­ber of per­for­mances across the prairies, in­clud­ing Brodie's home­town of Regina on Oct. 3. Af­ter tour stops in Swift Cur­rent, Saska­toon (Oct. 5) and Win­nipeg (Oct. 6), the or­ches­tra will per­form at var­i­ous venues in the four At­lantic prov­inces. The in­ten­tion of the tour to smaller cities is to in­crease queer vis­i­bil­ity in lo­ca­tions where there might not be such an aware­ness of the LGBTQ2S com­mu­nity.

“I think there's value in that and what we've done with this tour is also col­lect sto­ries from peo­ple within the LGTBQ com­mu­nity from across Canada, their own per­sonal sto­ries of queer ex­pe­ri­ence, and we've in­cor­po­rated those into the show,” he said. “Those are the nar­ra­tives we're telling in the show and those sto­ries come from all over and a lot of times smaller com­mu­ni­ties, like a town of 1,500 in New Brunswick or Gan­der, New­found­land, or small town On­tario. So these sto­ries, in a lot of cases, orig­i­nate from these smaller com­mu­ni­ties. We're just car­ry­ing them around and tak­ing them back to those kind of places where they came from.”

Mem­bers of the LGBTQ2S com­mu­nity who at­tend these shows will there­fore see them­selves re­flected in these per­sonal nar­ra­tives, but the in­ten­tion of the tour is also to use these sto­ries to reach all au­di­ence mem­bers and to cre­ate a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of queer lives.

“It's def­i­nitely for the broader com­mu­nity and that's the nice thing about in­cor­po­rat­ing mu­sic into it this way,” he said. “The songs we're play­ing will be fa­mil­iar to al­most every­body, and to have that as a bridge to these ex­pe­ri­ences and these sto­ries and how that is a con­nect­ing piece be­tween us. We've seen it hap­pen over the past few years in shows we're do­ing. Peo­ple get it, and there's a vul­ner­a­bil­ity to the per­for­mance and these sto­ries we're telling.”

Each song per­formed by the or­ches­tra has a di­rect link to the pre­ced­ing in­di­vid­ual story and it has been a mean­ing­ful song to that per­son.

“There are songs that we're play­ing that I wouldn't have thought of or I would not nec­es­sar­ily have cho­sen by my­self, but it's not re­ally up to me,” he said. “It's up to the com­mu­nity. I see it as a com­mu­nity project. We take in­put from the com­mu­nity and build the show from that.”

An­other unique part of this tour will be the use of nar­ra­tors from the lo­cal com­mu­nity where the or­ches­tra is per­form­ing, who will tell the dif­fer­ent sto­ries that in­tro­duce each mu­si­cal piece.

“Ev­ery­where we go we find two or three peo­ple from the lo­cal queer com­mu­nity and in­vite them to be part of the show with us,” he ex­plained.“We give them the sto­ries that have been sub­mit­ted to us that are part of the show, and they de­liver then on stage to the au­di­ence and they set the stage. We also don't an­nounce or print in the pro­gram what songs we're play­ing. So the sto­ries act as the en­try point into the song. You don't re­ally know what's com­ing next and you're lead to that through the nar­ra­tive.”

The size of the or­ches­tra and the use of a va­ri­ety of in­stru­ments, which are played by mu­si­cians from dif­fer­ent mu­si­cal back­grounds, re­sult in the creative pre­sen­ta­tion of these pop songs.

“They've all been rein­ter­preted be­cause our in­stru­men­ta­tion is more ro­bust than your typ­i­cal pop band,” he said.“We have a vi­o­lin and a cello and an oboe and a French horn. So be­cause of the larger in­stru­men­ta­tion and be­cause we're re­flect­ing back on these songs through the nar­ra­tives, it's nice to rein­ter­pret them and to have them done a bit dif­fer­ently. They're still fa­mil­iar as the song, but they're not done as a di­rect cover of it. We've in­cor­po­rated many dif­fer­ent ar­rangers and we com­mis­sion new ar­range­ments of the ma­te­rial.”

The Queer Song­book Or­ches­tra was founded in 2014. It has per­formed at art fes­ti­vals across Canada, in­clud­ing Lu­mi­nato (Toronto), High Per­for­mance Rodeo (Cal­gary), PuSh (Van­cou­ver), and Canada Scene (Na­tional Arts Cen­tre), and they have been in res­i­dence at the Banff Cen­tre for Arts and Cre­ativ­ity.

“The or­ches­tra started re­ally in my apart­ment at my desk,” Brodie re­called. “It was late 2013 when I started hav­ing the idea and at the time I was look­ing for a way out of mu­sic. I did free­lanc­ing for a dozen years and I didn't re­ally see a ca­reer in that world. It was good when I was young and tour­ing and do­ing this and that, but I didn't see the long game in it.”

He wanted to go to jour­nal­ism school, but his ap­pli­ca­tion was not suc­cess­ful. He de­cided to carry on with this idea for the Queer Song­book Or­ches­tra, which has al­lowed him to com­bine his dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests and con­tinue to play mu­sic.

“It has re­ally grown be­yond my dreams from five years ago, when I didn't know what I was go­ing to do with my life,” he said.

He is look­ing for­ward to re­turn to Saskatchew­an and to his home­town dur­ing this tour, and he be­lieves the or­ches­tra's per­for­mance in Swift Cur­rent will be a re­ally spe­cial night.

“We chose the Lyric The­atre be­cause I've known of it for a while and I know some peo­ple who are con­nected to it and one of my best friends grew up on a farm out­side of Cabri,” he said. “So Swift Cur­rent is very fa­mil­iar to me and when we had this idea to visit smaller cities, Regina was al­ways go­ing to be one, be­cause that's where I'm from and it means a lot to me to take the project back there. I wanted to in­clude Swift Cur­rent as well, be­cause I know there's this beau­ti­ful the­atre there and I just think it will be a re­ally nice thing to come to that com­mu­nity.”

The Queer Song­book Or­ches­tra per­forms at the Lyric The­atre on Oct. 4. Doors open 6:30 p.m. and the show starts 7 p.m. Tick­ets are $20, avail­able at Phar­masave or at the door.

Pho­tos by Matthew Liebenberg

Vol­un­teers plant indige­nous plants for the rain gar­den project in a cul­vert next to South Ser­vice Road East, Sept. 21.

In­no­va­tion Credit Union vol­un­teer Michele White re­moves weeds at the Friends of the Walk­way flower bed in River­dene Park, Sept. 21.

Pho­tos con­trib­uted by Tanja Tiziana

The Queer Song­book Or­ches­tra per­forms with vo­cal­ist Alanna Stu­art dur­ing the re­lease of the group's first solo stu­dio al­bum An­thems & Icons in Toronto, June 17.

The Queer Song­book Or­ches­tra per­forms with vo­cal­ist Alex Sa­ma­ras dur­ing the re­lease of the group's first solo stu­dio al­bum An­thems & Icons in Toronto, June 17.

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