evalyn parry

evalyn parry

 Toronto, Ontario, CAN
DuoSpoken WordSinger/Songwriter

Witty, poetic and theatrical, parry is a powerful storyteller with the ability to engage both the heart and the mind of her audience. Her genre-blurring performances hold out a powerful vision of social change, while her irreverent humour holds nothing (and everything) sacred.


"Equally funny and dangerous, this is a songwriter who takes us into uncharted waters"  CBC Radio

evalyn parry is an award-winning Canadian songwriter, poet and theatre creator. Steeped in the folk tradition but born to innovate, her genre-blurring work is inspired by intersections of history, autobiography and contemporary social activism; her performances have explored everything from 19th century cycling heroines to bottled water, from queer identity to the quest for the Northwest Passage.  Whether accompanying herself on guitar, water bottle, shruti box or loop pedals or joined by a percussionist playing an amplified bicycle -- parry takes her unique perspective on the world and transforms it into art that spans genres, genders and generations.

parry's acclaimed theatrical song cycle SPIN (starring The Bicycle as  Musical Instrument, Muse, and Agent of Social Change) has toured extensively around Canada and the USA over the last three years, with recent presentations including The Yukon Arts Centre (Whitehorse), The Cultch (Vancouver),  The Northern Arts and Culture Centre (Yellowknife), UNO Fest (Victoria), The Fredericton Playhouse (NB), The Grand Theatre (Kingston, ON), Thalian Hall (Wilmington NC), The Rose Theatre (Brampton ON) among many others.

SPIN tours as a duo (guitar and bicycle). 

evalyn also performs solo or in a small band configuration, and her unique blend of poetry and music has made her a favourite at music, poetry, storytelling and theatre festivals across the continent.  She has released four CD's (Borealis Records); her most recent (soon-to-be released) project - inspired by a recent trip from the Canadian Arctic to Greenland - explores ideas about global warming, colonial history and Arctic Sovereignty through an epic, musical deconstruction of Stan Roger's classic folk song Northwest Passage. 

evalyn is the winner of the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award and the Beth Ferguson Songwriting Award, as well as the 2013 KM Hunter Award for Theatre (Ontario Arts Council) and the Ken McDougall Award for Upcoming Director.

"Parry breathes new life into the folk tradition with her politics, passion and poetry"  PENGUIN EGGS, Canada's folk, roots and world music magazine

One part musician, two parts performance artist, three parts quirky, evalyn parry could very well be dubbed Laurie Anderson Jr. Xtra West, Vancouver


"part musical gig, part spoken-word poetry and part documentary...whatever it is, it is brilliant". Toronto Star

"SPIN is polished folk performance artthe lyrics are potently lean and the arrangements, including Parry and Hart's harmonies, are sensuously textured " Georgia Straight

 In her tour-de-force performance celebrating the Bicycle, Toronto artist evalyn parry takes her audience on an innovative theatrical and musical journey. Inspired by the incredible true tale of Annie Londonderry - the  first woman to ride around the world on a bicycle in 1895 -  parry weaves a web of stories that travel from 19th century women's emancipation to 21st century consumer culture, from the political to the personal. Her co-star is a vintage bicycle, suspended in a mechanics stand on stage and connected to simple electronics, it is played from fenders to spokes to bells by talented percussionist Brad Hart, conjuring a unique and fascinating accompaniment to parry's captivating SPIN.

"Superb" NOW Magazine

Written and Performed by evalyn parry
Featuring Brad Hart
Video and Production Design Beth Kates

Directed by Ruth Madoc-Jones


War Dream

Written By: Evalyn Parry

In the dim dark hours
the world is turning
toward the dawn
the time for sleeping
the hours for dreaming
nearly gone
Nothing ever stays where it begins sometimes I want to slip this skin begin again

But in the big white building
the wheels are turning
yes they prepare
a might of muscle
a greenback tussle
a dangerous affair
big man says “give me your young
I wanna give that son a gun
so he can shoot the clouds
'cause I want the sun”

and isn’t this a dream
isn’t this a dream
isn’t this a dream

my country lying
and elsewhere crying
rises to a boil
Lit a cigarette
dropped the match
in a field of oil
I thought it was just a lake
there must be some mistake thought I was awake

But in the burning water the lies swim farther than hands can reach
Truth is drowning
she didn’t learn swimming
and now, the beach
rises up, swallows her whole
the ocean an enormous bowl
which begins to swell
it begins to roll

and isn’t this a dream, isn’t this a dream, isn’t this a dream…

the off-shore workers
sill drill deeper toward the core
sea starts to circle,
sky turns purple, rain begins to pour
"we’ve found the source!"
I hear them shout
while the earth turns inside out
renounce your doubt

‘Cause you can be certain
that while you’re sleeping
they’ll steal your bed
leave you lying in the empty ocean the sand beneath your head.
go to the polls, cast your vote
capsize this sinking boat
grab hold of each other
learn to float
yeah go to the polls
cast your vote
capsize this sinking boat
grab hold of each other
learn to float

‘Cause this in not a dream
this is not a dream
this is not a dream
this is not a dream
this is not a dream
this is not a dream

Credits from Small Theatres:
Evalyn: acoustic and electric guitar
Brad Hart: drums and harmony vocals
Burke Caroll: pedal steel
Jenn Gillmor: fretless bass
Pietro Amato: french horn
Suzie Vinnick: harmony vocals
horn arrangement by Richard Reed Parry

The Gay Rover

Written By: Evalyn Parry

I’m a rover, seldom sober;
I’m a young lass, gay and free,
I’m always single when I’m drinking,
Never a man will marry me!

“Oh my young lass, fair and pretty,
I’ve been watching you,” said he
“Gold and silver and riches a-plenty
will be yours if you’ll marry me!”

“Oh young man, I thank you kindly
for your offer grand,” said she,
“but not by your great jewels
nor your riches
will I ever tempted be"

'cause I’m a rover, seldom sober;
I’m a young lass, gay and free,
I’m always single when I’m drinking,
Never a man will marry me!

“Oh sweet baby, cute and sexy,
Do you come here oftenly”
I could make you sing sweet music
If you will come home with me!”

“Oh young man,
I think you’re sleezy,
and I never will,” said she
go to bed with you, or any man,
not the likes of you for me!

'cause I’m a rover, seldom sober;
I’m a young lass, gay and free,
I’m always single when I’m drinking,
Never a man will marry me!

“Oh young woman, smart and witty,
I would your companion be,
I’ll do your dishes, make your breakfast,
If my common-law wife you’ll be!”

“Oh young man, you’re very crafty,
but I never will said she,
pledge my love to you or any man,
you’re too politically correct for me!”

I’m a rover, seldom sober;
I’m a young lass, gay and free,
I’m always single when I’m drinking,
Never a man will marry me!

“Oh sweet rover, seldom sober,
I’ve been watching you, said she,
we could make sweet music together,
if you’ll my companion be.”

“Oh young woman, thank you kindly,
I’ve been waiting patiently
for you to ask me to be your companion,
I’ll go home with you gladly,

‘cause I’m a rover, seldom sober,
I’m a young lass gay and free,
It took them a while
to catch my meaning...
when I said 'gay',
I didn’t mean 'happy'!"

Once in a Blue Moon

Written By: Evalyn Parry

Once in a Blue Moon, Minneapolis, Minnesota:
with my book and my pen and behind the counter
a girl with blue hair serves the java
and Ani Difranco provides the backdrop
of yet another alternative coffee shop
just like the one I worked at way back when
and we had her first album then,
the one with both hands, now use both hands, oh no don’t close your eyes:
I am writing graffiti on your body, i am drawing the story of how hard we...

I find myself tight inside, a seatbelt of anxiety across my chest:
it’s that perpetual drive to be the best,
but what can I say,
it’s been an insecure day,
I’m feeling unsure of my edges,
I’m feeling unsure of what my own edge is
I’m feeling blunt and dull,
more of a spoon than a knife, more nap than nightlife,
and what kind of artist wants to be a ladle?
what kind of artist wants to be asleep at the table.
Not me of course:
I want to be the one splitting
the silence with my words
chopping convention with my axe...
I never sleep well these days, I never seem to relax
we’re all trying so hard, me and my friends,
for that small slice of pie, those minor dividends
our face in the paper,
the end of being a waiter

the girl with the blue hair who is serving the coffee
is talking to a girl with orange hair about Ani:
orange hair says I love this album
yes, says blue hair, I think it’s her best one
orange hair says have you heard “revelling, reckoning”?
Blue hair says no
orange hair says oh, you should come over this weekend, and I’ll play it for you

outside the snow falling on the eves: inside, I sip my fairly traded tea-leaves
as orange hair and blue hair start talking about gender
outside the window, two cars collide in a fender-bender
the icy roads a slippery surprise,
a reminder of how fast one can slide, collide

And it’s strange but it doesn’t feel like that long since Ani arrived
on the scene,
but what is this now, album number 17?
I think I lost track sometime back in the late 90's,
after I heard her siren call,
and I took to writing my own songs, and now look at us all:
a movement of girls with our own guitars
criss-crossing the continent in our little cars
hoping not to be compared,
and today maybe I’m just scared
that the world doesn’t need me, or any of my friends
and we’ll all wind up working in a coffee shop again
listening to someone else’s songs on the radio
instead of driving through the snow
to another gig,
hoping this will be our big
break, hoping ours will be the
once in a blue moon star
that skyrockets to the top.

You know I’ve seen these two girls before somewhere:
with their funky glasses and their chunky hair
and bell hooks books:
if I’ve seen them once, I’ve seen them a thousand times,
heard this conversation that runs along the same lines:
orange hair holds forth
about how she herself doesn’t want to be filed on a shelf:
gender is fluid: she doesn’t really feel a need to identify either way,
gender is just a construct, and being gay
is so much more than being a boy or a girl, being a woman or man,
and if Ani can get married, well then anyone can
surprise us: all that matters is what’s inside us:
gender is fluid, they agree with authority,
as though this is the first time these things have ever been said,
like these are concepts they’re inventing, not something they recently read

fluid, like liquid
like the tea that’s in my cup
and I look down and I think: well for god’s sake, drink up
this is identity I’m consuming,
this is the smell of gender, brewing:
the water that flows inside me:
my fluid, watery humanity

and I could tell blue hair, lately, I’ve taken to crying into my cup,
just crying gently, just to watch the cup fill back up,
art giving no points for imitation
leaving no choice but re-invention
and yes, Ms. Difranco, all your innovation is an inspiration
but now your album’s over
and I can drink my tea
with no further challenge to my own artistic identity
thank god I never wanted to do the big band thing,
or I’d never have another peaceful cup of coffee again.

A phone rings: it’s mine. I take it out of my bag
you say how are you darling?
I say rung out like a wet rag
you say oh, how did it go? How was the show?
I say I just don’t know
some days why I persist in pursuing
it seems all I’m doing is reheating, not brewing.
Well it’s good to keep warm, you say, ‘cause it’s starting to snow
and here at home, it’s 29 degrees below
I say, I’m on my way; I’ll be back soon
I’m just on my way now
out of Once in a Blue Moon

This One is For

Written By: Evalyn Parry

This one is for

the non-conformers and the system buckers
it’s for the girly men and the lady truckers
the organic farmers, the local food growers
the old-school, mechanical, push lawn mowers
the two wheel riders, the trouble makers
the public-transportation-takers

it’s for the girls who cut their hair, and the ladies who refuse to shave
it’s for everyone who has ever been brave
it’s for the time you didn’t behave

it’s for those who remain hopeful when hope seems lost
it’s for my first year women studies prof
hell, all my patient first year professors, my true hearts,
my midnight confessors, for all the dressers
I’ve ever found at the curbside
and all the things that have saved my backside

it’s for the Michigan Womyn’s Festival founding foremothers
my tranny sisters and brothers
the straight-but-not-narrow
all my ex-lovers
the crunchy granola hippies who dance
aviators, horse back riders, gals who wore pants
before pants were something a proper lady should wear
it’s for the bleeding hearts, and the ones who care
and the ones that march and the ones that fight
the people who bother to write
a letter to the editor, who stand up to their managers
the union organizers, the city counsellors
it’s for everyone that dares and everyone that speaks
for those who listen, for those who can’t sleep
and those who can’t rest
for those who are trying their best
for the freaks and the punks, the misfits and the nerds
for everyone who ever contributed words
and meanings
to the Oxford English Dictionary
for those who know they will never marry
for the rebels and the genderqueers and polyamorous
for my grade 11 boyfriend who drove a VW bus
for the outlaws, and the in-laws who got over their misgivings
and attended their first same sex wedding
for everything with wings

it’s for the radical thinkers and the babies in incubators
for second-chancers, and the morris dancers
for those whom, given the choice, always chose “other”
it’s for Stephen Lewis and all the grandmothers
for the fearful who took to the streets anyway
for the artists who keep going even though it might never pay
for those who light the way
for those who made it through another day without a drink
for all those who think
for anyone who chooses to get things done
for the catholic priests who are handing out condoms
for the improvisers, and the bathhouse raid committee organizers
and the war tax resisters and the brave fighters
for those who go to serve in anyway they can
for the ones who were shot down and for those ran
for those who defied their orders, for the doctors without borders
the single mothers, the sperm donors and the Henry Morgentalers
the crisis phone line callers
for those who refuse to give up and refuse to give in
who won’t shut up
who know it’s not about whether you win
or you lose
but about the scope of your dream and your right to chose
an opinion and your right to change your mind
for those who are kind
it’s for those who hold fast
and for those who are outcast
or downcast, for those who can’t move very fast
for the flags at half mast
for the tired organizers and the ones who outlast
and all those who have already past
this one is for you
this one is for you
this one is for you

© evalyn parry all rights reserved 2008

Love in the Greater Toronto Area Takes Public Transportation

Written By: Evalyn Parry

i The Yonge/University Subway line

We begin our journey at Mount Pleasant and Eglinton:
walking from school to the subway station
me and my grade ten crush, circa 1987
he was in grade 11
and his name was Mason.

As we walk and we talk
I feel my words start to flutter
like my language is melting, my sentences butter
I wish he would slip a word my way
I wish I had something smart to say
or if he would
or if I could
or if I knew
where this might be going,
where is my love going....
looks like it’s going underground
cause we’ve reached Young and Eglington.
And this is where I go down,
To get on the train
to ride

ii. Southbound Platform

There are still landmarks I ride by everyday
that remind me who I used to be:
Davisville Subway.
Now this is the stop that remains in my memory
the place I would always get off to go and see
my grade nine heart throb, Tom,
with whom eventually
I became good friends
and the crush kinda died away
and several years later in grade 12,
he came out as gay.
He was the first, and he must have thought he set a trend
‘Cause later all the girls he ever dated became lesbians
including me
but that’s another story
and anyway

iii. We’re not there yet.

We’re only at St. Clair station
which was the location of the first time
I went out with Mason
It was a grade ten movie
at Yonge and St.Clair
couldn’t tell you what the film was, all I remember about being there
is gathering the courage
to slip my hand (which held my heart, bared)
into his hand, which lay on the arm rest we shared.

After the movie our hands go their separate ways
Back into pockets, leaving me perplexed about what to say
even though every day, after school we rehearse a play
where we are in love and we kiss on stage
tonight we have no script printed on a page.

iv. To get to Roselawn Avenue, take the Avenue Road Bus several stops past Eglinton

I went to Mason’s house once: he lived in North Toronto
with his super-nice parents and a big white poodle
his mom was really sweet to me, like she thought we were together.
I wondered secretly what he had told her,
since he never told me anything.
He showed me his guitar, and I tried to act normal,
like I wasn’t dying inside to be his date to the formal
but he never asked, and I didn’t either
so I took the bus home, and that night I lay there
imagining all the conversations
we should have had

v. Today in therapy we talk about my dad

vi. The heart of the city

It smells like hotdogs
at the corner of Bloor and Yonge.
We’ve been waiting half an hour
for the night bus to come

when I last stood here on the corner of three am
I think was sixteen, but here we are again,
now we’re nearly thirty and Mason stands beside me
clean cut and good looking as if he’d never
tied me up in knots, made my knees quiver
But tonight it’s just the cold that makes me shiver.
Sure, we’ve been drinking, though I only had two beers
it’s enough to make me honest tonight, it appears.

Let me tell you, I say
how I felt all those years ago,
when we were in high school
and had to kiss in that show
we were acting in,
oh god, do you even know
how much I liked you,
how I longed for you to tell me
you liked me too.
Oh, he says, yeah, well sure, I really liked you –
I guess I just never really knew what to do.

A man asks me for change
and we both turn to him hastily,
relieved, perhaps, that he can look away from me.

vii. The Night Bus

When it finally comes, we let it drive by,
we’re eating hot dogs from the vendor
and we’re still talking about why.

He says I guess you were
the first in what’s become a long line of
me trying to find
my way
in that relationship landmine:
it’s full of self-doubt and
mis-communications and
look, I’m still single,
and you’re a part of the lesbian nation.
What is it with all the girls we went to school with, anyway?
was it something in the air or in the water fountains?
I know I have a tendency to turn molehill’s into mountains,
but tell me as my friend now, tell me honestly,
it is something that I said or did –
was it me?
No, it wasn’t you. All I know is, Mason,
we never seemed to be able to have this conversation.
And I didn’t yet know that much about love,
and I was waiting to find out who I was,
and I wished someone would answer
a few of my questions,
like would anyone ever like me as “more than a friend”
and it’s not that I’m no longer attracted to men,
it’s just that true love found me,
and she is a woman.

viii. The Bloor Danforth Line, above ground, westbound.

When the night bus comes again,
he gets on and I get on my bike,
the bus lurches away, and I ride into the night.
I live at Bloor and Dufferin, which isn’t very close by,
but the streets are dead, I don’t stop for red and the blocks fly by.
There is a light on in the bedroom,
Which tells me maybe she’s still up;
the light

SPIN: she rides

Written By: evalyn parry

spin me like I have already spoken
like a spoke holds its tension
like it’s together that the spokes are the invention of a wheel
that a wheel is only as round as it’s tension
that a wheel is a round invention

She gets on her bicycle, she gets on her bicycle
She gets on her bicycle, she rides!

fragile bodies soaring through the city
on two-wheeled cycles through the traffic and people
steering clear of the potholes and car doors and the streetcar tracks
tuned into our own personal soundtrack
I’m singing out loud as I pedal through the streets
spinning to the rhythm of 4.5 million heart beats

I tend to miss my turnoffs
when I’m tuned in to my turn-on’s
I tend to write sentences that turn into run-on’s
I tend to recycle the same thoughts that circle round
the way I re-cycle the same stretches of ground
on my two-wheeled bicycle that gets me around.

She gets on her bicycle
She gets on her bicycle
She gets on her bicycle, and she rides!

I get this feeling on my two-wheeled steed:
when I pick up speed: it feeds something free
the desire for autonomy, moving outside the dominant economy
under my own steam two wheels, not four:
no gas, no oil, no war for this machine
all I need is air, two legs, two wheels,
a crank and a chain, two pedals and a frame
A revolution that keep me arriving, again and again

She gets on her bicycle, she gets on her bicycle
She gets on her bicycle, she rides!

Bridge: The backwheel is attached to the chain!
It’s the backwheel that’s attached to the chain!
The backwheel that’s attached to the chain!
It’s the past that drives us forward, again and again

The past is behind us; the back wheel is the power
The front wheel freewheels, hour after hour
The past is behind us; the back wheel is the power
The front wheel freewheels, hour after hour
Spin spin spin

You can’t ride a bike in 30 pounds of petticoats
You don’t have a voice in a democracy without a vote
A wheel would collapse if it wasn’t for the spokes
She rides…she rides…she rides