Former RuPaul's Drag Race contestant collaborates with Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra for one-of-a-kind show

A former contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race is bringing her charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.

Thorgy Thor, who competed on season 8 of Drag Race and season 3 of All Stars, is a classically-trained musician who plays the violin, viola and cello.

When she started doing drag, she said she created her own mixes to perform to at nightclubs.

“I would always be the only one using live recordings of Brahms or Mendelssohn that I would record and it would be me, me, me and me on violin, violin, viola and cello recording at my house and then I would do all these performances. So, I’ve always kind of been melding the two worlds together.”

Thorgy said she was encouraged by RuPaul to play the violin on the show and dreamed of one day performing live with symphony orchestras around the world. That dream has now become a reality — something she calls Thorgy and the Thorchestra.

Her first-ever show was with Symphony Nova Scotia alongside conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser.

“He really called me and said listen, let’s make this a reality, let’s do Thorgy and the Thorcestra, we’ll write the show together and we just came up with a bunch of random ideas and we didn’t know if it was going to work to be honest,” she said.

“We sold out within a couple hours and the theatre was like ‘wow, this is amazing.’ The reception from everyone was just amazing.”

Thorgy has also performed with the symphony orchestras in Vancouver, Thunder Bay, Pittsburgh, and Charlotte.

The performances combine the beauty and precision of the symphony and the flamboyance and spark of drag. 

“I perform at two o'clock in the morning at clubs and I love that, I love nightlife, but those kids are very different than the folks that buy season tickets to symphony orchestras, so it's nice that we get to meet everyone in one room for an entertaining, amazing music-filled gorgeous high heels wig-wearing show,” Thorgy said.

The New York City-based drag artist was scheduled to close out the season with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra in April 2020 but the show was postponed due to COVID-19.

“This has been a year and half, and it’s also my first one back, so I’m a little nervous, but that nervous energy as a performer is just going to be electric once we hit that stage,” she said.

Eric Paetkau, music director and conductor with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, said he has been looking forward to the collaboration.

“It’s going to be outrageously fun. It’s basically a comedy show with music,” he said.

“I think generally, classical musicians get an identity of pretty staid and conformed performers, but we as individuals of course love to hang out, go have a lot of fun, that sort of thing, so these kind of shows bring out our character anyway, so when we have that so upfront, it’s a lot of fun not just for Thorgy, not just the audience but for ourselves.”

The show will include well-known classical music and hit pop songs from the likes of Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars. It will also involve painting and Thorgy jumping from one instrument to another.

“People think they have to be very quiet, but I’ve already told the orchestra players people are going to scream, it’s okay. This is a new kind of show,” Thorgy said.

Since the concert is close to Halloween, it will include a lot of festive elements. People who come are encouraged to dress up and participate in a costume contest, with Thorgy choosing the winners.

Thorgy said being able to perform in-person again is something she’s looking forward to, as it has been hard to connect with people the same way virtually during the pandemic.

“I’m going to start crying on that stage because it is magnificent. It’s humanity,” she said.

“I thrive from other people’s energy and I’m just so excited to hit that stage and actually see people laughing, having a good time, seeing them smile because that is why I do what I do is to look at people and give them entertainment and joy.”

The show takes place Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at TCU Place.