Past, Present, and Future with Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser

Past, Present, and Future with Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser

By D.T. Baker, Musicologist

Today’s grammar lesson will be on the three tenses: past, present, and future. It is brought to you by Edmonton Symphony Orchestra guest conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser.

Past Tense: Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser made his ESO debut almost exactly four years ago, when he accompanied drag performer Thorgy Thor in a show Bartholomew-Poyser proudly calls a first.

“This show was originally done in 2019 in Nova Scotia – that was the first orchestral drag show in Canada,” he said in a recent interview for the ESO. “Nova Scotia, at that time, was a province where all the political parties in the Nova Scotia legislature unanimously banned conversion therapy.”

Bartholomew-Poyser himself is a proud Albertan, and has launched his career by uniting his strengths as both a conductor and an educator.

Present Tense: Bartholomew-Poyser currently holds a number of positions with orchestras in North America that take advantage of his specialties. “I’ve definitely steered myself in the direction of orchestral activities that fit who I am, and that is essentially a conductor who also communicates at the same level that an orchestral conductor conducts,” he states. “For me, communicating with the audience and being the bridge of understanding between them and the composers and the orchestra is important.”

He is in the midst of preparations for his next appearance with the ESO – once again uniting with Thorgy Thor for “The Regal Sequel,” a new orchestral drag show on June 14 at the Winspear Centre. “(This show) has different music, it’s a different theme, there’s a different arc to the show,” he says of what the audience can expect. “It has more of Thorgy playing – there’s still a lot of shenanigans. The first show was a lot of just drag, and that continues through this show – but the theme of this show is more about community and love, whereas the theme of the last show was about rights – a little more militant. The music is more about love, there’s more love songs – that’s kind of the theme, but it’s still a drag show.”

Bartholomew-Poyser is aware that the very nature of the show is one that is not everyone’s cup of tea. “Is it going to cause a ruckus?” he considers. “Potentially, because we have seen all over Canada drag shows being protested by a small and very vocal minority of people. People do have a right to not like things. It’s OK. So, are we trying to be militant or subversive? We’re just trying to put on a drag show and have people enjoy it, and take from that what they will.”

It's worth noting that one dollar from every ticket sold will be donated to iHuman Youth Society, an Edmonton non-profit that works with marginalized youth in our community.

Future Tense: Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser was thoroughly impressed by the ESO on his first visit, and is looking forward to June 14. But the ESO obviously feels the same way, as the emerging conductor will lead the ESO this coming November 30 in a more traditionally-programmed concert of all contemporary music, including two works by composers from Edmonton.

“It’s one thing to do a boutique concert like the Thorgy concert, and you get invited back for another boutique concert – great, fantastic,” Bartholomew-Poyser enthuses. “But to go from a boutique concert to a masterworks, new music – where you have to exert more of the métier of conducting … In the Thorgy concert, the music is not that difficult. What’s difficult is the concentration and the timing and all that stuff. That was very meaningful to me here in Edmonton. So, I’m super excited to do this one, because I also love this kind of music. Flames Nurtured the Rose by Derrick Skye – this is going to be the Canadian and world premiere by a professional orchestra. It’s a piece I did in Washington, D.C. last year, and I absolutely love it. So, to bring that piece to new audiences – and it’s hard, it is hard – but beautiful. So, it’s very exciting. And I’m an Albertan too, right, so I was happy to have the (Edmonton pieces) – keep it in the family! Albertans sticking together.”

Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser’s future also includes new collaborations with Thorgy Thor. “It's a partnership, it’s a creative partnership, and we do the shows together as much as possible,” he says. “The creation, the organization, the order – we collaborate. So we have ‘Thorgy and the Thorchestra,’ and we have other shows in development. This show is about Pride, it’s for the LGBTQ community – but that’s only part of what both of us do. With Thorgy’s work as a professional, concert-giving violinist, her interest in fashion, history, and my interest in the fashion industry, that world, esthetics – there are a lot of different avenues, things that we’re going to be collaborating on in the future to bring to different audiences – not just drag and LGBTQ.”

Tickets are still available for Thorgy and the Thorchestra II: The Regal Sequel on June 14 at the Winspear Centre. Click here to get yours.