AS Canberra’s famous LGBTQI+ Qwire gears up for its 30th anniversary birthday concert “Singing Out with Pride,” conductor Lachlan Snow is busy putting the choristers through their paces.
Snow – no, not a member of a very well-known Canberra family – is the University of Queensland-trained baritone turned music teacher turned choral expert who started with the Qwire in 2022 just after its return from covid.
He tells me that after contemplating a career teaching French and music in schools, he realised years ago that his true calling was working with community choirs, orchestras, bands and ensembles.
The Qwire is the very first queer ensemble he has conducted.
Snow doesn’t sing solo any more himself, but he used to, and describes his own voice as “a generic male voice, neither high tenor nor low bass”.
“A choir is not just about vocal output, it’s about making sure you’re engaging with something more than just what’s coming out of your mouth,” he says.
It’s a non-auditioned choir, which means that the singers are of mixed ability, with some members some able to read music, others not.
“Conducting a non-auditioned choir is like going back to teaching… like being in a classroom in a way,” he says.
“With varying abilities, it’s on the teacher to make sure that it works for all abilities… fortunately, the Qwire has fantastic teaching resources.”
Prime among those is what is known as the “teaching track” for people who can’t read music. That’s prepared by his predecessor Karen Wilden, who does it as a labour of love, though it’s not easy.
Snow says: “The sheer act of singing in a choir is affirmative, but when you add the next level, being allied to a special community, in this case the queer community, it gives extra meaning and depth.”
Other than that, he confesses, it’s almost indistinguishable from running any other choir rehearsal, with perhaps greater sensitivity, emphasis on inclusivity and allowing people to be who they are.
“The message of inclusivity is very important for our community and finding music which resonates with that is important,” Snow says.
On The Qwire’s website, for instance, favourite songs include “Imagine” by John Lennon, “Let Love Rule” by Archie Roach and “Walk a Mile in my Shoes” by Rebecca Spalding.
“That’s because the music centres on affirmation of who you are,” he says.
“The act of singing publicly or to friends and family is very powerful and we want to support that.”
“We have fantastic allies too, who have queer children or a sibling and want to be connected to the community.
“The choir is proudly LGBTQI+ but we are open to anyone who wants to sing with us.”
Of the current 120 members, there are 100 who are active and the weekly Thursday night attendances usually number about 70 to 80.
An unusual aspect of the 30th anniversary concert in Llewellyn Hall will be the songs chosen by some individual choristers, who will share the stories related to each piece.
“It’s going to be a lovely opportunity to hear from choristers, just what the Qwire means to them, and it will be bringing another layer of enjoyment, a secondary meaning,” says Snow.
Other highlights will be a performance by folk singer Judy Small, who proudly identifies as lesbian and a string quartet.
Oh, yes, there’ll be the chance for audience members to sing along – “community singing needs to be done by everyone,” Snow says.
“Singing Out with Pride”, The Qwire’s 30th anniversary concert, Llewellyn Hall, November 11.
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