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Qwire celebrates 30 years at SpringOUT

Qwire in front of Old Parliament House

Canberra's Qwire celebrates 30 years of glorious music this Saturday at their concert, 'Singing Out With Pride'. STUN spoke with Qwire's Music Director, Lachlan Snow.

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Congratulations on 30 years of Qwire. You must be busy with rehearsals and concerts!

Yes, we started the year with a concert at Sydney WorldPride so it was a big start to Qwire’s 30th year!

How long have you been the Music Director?

I’m the 8th Music Director and I’ve been out the front waving my hands around since the beginning of last year. I came to a Bush Dance back in 2017 and met some people there who said that I should go to a Qwire concert the following day. So I went to the concert and thought it was great. The opportunity came up for a new conductor and so I put my hat in the ring. I’ve actually been catching the bus down and back commuting between Canberra and Sydney for Qwire but now I’m making the move permanent because my parents and my partner also live in Canberra now.

How have you selected the songs that will be performed on the day?

When thinking about how to celebrate 30 years of Qwire, I thought about how your 30th is a milestone birthday and a time to share stories, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. At the beginning of the year, I asked our Qwire community to nominate a piece and to tell me and the music team why they chose that piece. It was those nominations that formed the backbone of the repertoire that we’re performing and you’ll have an opportunity to hear the stories from the people who had nominated the pieces at the concert, which will just add another layer of meaning to what is already beautiful music.

What special place does guest performer Judy Small play in the group?

Judy is a fantastic advocate for our community and has been for almost as long as Qwire has been around, if not longer. One of Qwire’s first public performances was performing as backup singers for Judy at Tilley’s. Over the years, we’ve continued to enjoy a wonderful relationship. Our original singers, the 1993’ers, are also coming back together again for the concert. It’s lovely to have all those special people around you to celebrate. 

30 years is a long time for any organisation. How do you think that things have changed?

I think that the most symbolic thing is looking at the name. It started as the Canberra Gay & Lesbian Qwire and in 2019 we moved with the times and became Canberra Qwire, proudly LGBTIQ+. I think that’s a rather obvious example of where we are at as a community. Back in the ‘90s, when Qwire was started, it was a pretty hard and trying time for the queer community with the AIDS epidemic, so visibility and showing that we can celebrate and be joyous and a general emphasis on visibility was important. A lot of pride choirs were established around that time: Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir celebrated their 30th birthday last year. I think for the community now, visibility is still important but it’s also about pride and showing a connection and  reminding the community that we are still vibrant. The community where we’re really having to stand up and show support is for our non-binary and trans members and Qwire is reflecting that change with our name change and our membership is fully diverse with the full gamut of our community. We’re very aware that our gay and lesbian members have a role to play in supporting where the fight is for other parts of our community.

How has 2023 been in terms of attracting new members?

We have about 120 active singers on our books now. We’re incredibly robust and our membership has grown. There was obviously a lull in membership during the COVID period because we couldn’t do what we love. We did Zoom rehearsals, but it wasn’t the same and people just sort of took stock. But we’ve come back bigger and better than before. Our youngest singer is 17 and oldest singer is in their 80s. We’re truly an intergenerational group.

I really enjoyed your performance of ‘Beds Are Burning’ at the SpringOUT launch and felt that absolutely reflected the times with the Voice referendum. If you had to choose one song that summed up the times that we live in currently, what would it be?  

As you can imagine, I’ve been listening to a lot of Qwire repertoire at the moment so that one’s bouncing around a lot. With Judy Small, we’ll be singing a sweet arrangement of ‘Everything Possible’, a song by Fred Small. I’ve had it in my head since our last rehearsal, especially the line: “The only measure of your words and your deeds will be the love you leave behind when you’re done.” My aim is that our singers and audience will feel that love when I’m done!



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