Tenth year of Go Green adds to city legacy
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.
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.
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.