evalyn parry
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evalyn parry

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE | AFM

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2014
Duo Spoken Word Singer/Songwriter

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Review: Spin (Outspoke Productions)

By George Perry

Photo of Evalyn Parry in Spin by Tanja-Tiziana, doublecrossed.ca

Spin, written and performed by Evalyn Parry, previewed at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre on March 15 in Toronto. I strongly suggest you cycle on over before it closes on March 27.

Spin is like nothing I’ve seen before. Part spoken word performance, part rock concert, part political manifesto, but completely awesome. It’s a play about passion; it’s a play about Lust For Life.

I’d never been to Buddies in Bad Times before, and what a mistake that has been. Buddies is a wonderful venue. It is very comfortable, boasts super-friendly staff and provides every amenity one could ask for.

One of my favourite things in life has always been riding a bike. I love the freedom, the thrill and borderline danger, the isolation and time to think while also exploring new parts of the world.

These days, my shattered hip, pelvis and spine beg to differ. Getting out of bed can be a challenge. Putting on a pair of pants can require a team of professionals. Some days cycling is a challenge, but as they say “no pain, no gain.” This is the kind of passion that cycling enthusiasts, their family and friends have to deal with. It’s also the kind of passion that Evalyn Parry brings to stage.

So seeing Spin at Buddies, and meeting a couple of people from Niagara, really made me happy.

Evalyn Parry takes centre stage and is flanked by a musician on either side. Anna Friz lights up stage left, playing a variety of instruments, namely the synth and accordion. Meanwhile, Brad Hart blossoms while playing an old bicycle stage right. The spokes, frame and seat all produce different, fascinating sounds played like instruments by Hart.

Parry is incredible at painting so many vivid mental pictures. Seeing her with Friz and Hart brought back another passionate memory: seeing Bjork for the first time. Instead of Matmos creating music with an electric tattoo needle, Hart creates music using a dangling bike. Instead of a symphony, Friz uses a synth and accordion.

Parry creates a wonderfully precise rhythm. It’s hard to not fall victim to her spell: like taking a cross-Canada train, you’ll love her ride.

She’ll teach you about some extraordinary women, but not lecture. She’ll tell you how Henry Ford stole the idea for an assembly line after he saw a bike factory. She’ll remind you that the Wright brothers developed flight after being bike mechanics.

It won’t be preachy though, and it won’t be sad. It might just get you off your behind and put a smile on your face.

I thought it interesting that Parry brings up the idea of being married to a company. She introduces us to Annie Londonderry. Annie was the first woman to cycle around the globe. Originally born in Latvia, Annie changed her last name to the company that sponsored her. She also sold parts of her body for advertising. In that respect, Annie Londonderry was a corporate whore.

These days, most people sell their souls to the company before they email their resumes. I`m not so sure I’d pick Annie as a freedom fighter.

Parry on the other hand, is most certainly a captivating performer.

There were a Lot of things to like about this play. Parry is incredibly charismatic. The story she tells, not only about the bicycle, but also about women’s rights, is important. We’ve come a long way, baby!

It was incredible running into cycling and theatre nuts from Niagara at the show. They made the trip up from St. Catharines and represent the kind of passion that makes life worth living. Bless those grape stompers from down south!

Visiting Buddies for the first time was incredible. What a hidden gem of a theatre, and what a great performance from Evalyn Parry. I look forward to many future visits. - Mooney on Theatre


Review: Spin (Outspoke Productions)

By George Perry

Photo of Evalyn Parry in Spin by Tanja-Tiziana, doublecrossed.ca

Spin, written and performed by Evalyn Parry, previewed at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre on March 15 in Toronto. I strongly suggest you cycle on over before it closes on March 27.

Spin is like nothing I’ve seen before. Part spoken word performance, part rock concert, part political manifesto, but completely awesome. It’s a play about passion; it’s a play about Lust For Life.

I’d never been to Buddies in Bad Times before, and what a mistake that has been. Buddies is a wonderful venue. It is very comfortable, boasts super-friendly staff and provides every amenity one could ask for.

One of my favourite things in life has always been riding a bike. I love the freedom, the thrill and borderline danger, the isolation and time to think while also exploring new parts of the world.

These days, my shattered hip, pelvis and spine beg to differ. Getting out of bed can be a challenge. Putting on a pair of pants can require a team of professionals. Some days cycling is a challenge, but as they say “no pain, no gain.” This is the kind of passion that cycling enthusiasts, their family and friends have to deal with. It’s also the kind of passion that Evalyn Parry brings to stage.

So seeing Spin at Buddies, and meeting a couple of people from Niagara, really made me happy.

Evalyn Parry takes centre stage and is flanked by a musician on either side. Anna Friz lights up stage left, playing a variety of instruments, namely the synth and accordion. Meanwhile, Brad Hart blossoms while playing an old bicycle stage right. The spokes, frame and seat all produce different, fascinating sounds played like instruments by Hart.

Parry is incredible at painting so many vivid mental pictures. Seeing her with Friz and Hart brought back another passionate memory: seeing Bjork for the first time. Instead of Matmos creating music with an electric tattoo needle, Hart creates music using a dangling bike. Instead of a symphony, Friz uses a synth and accordion.

Parry creates a wonderfully precise rhythm. It’s hard to not fall victim to her spell: like taking a cross-Canada train, you’ll love her ride.

She’ll teach you about some extraordinary women, but not lecture. She’ll tell you how Henry Ford stole the idea for an assembly line after he saw a bike factory. She’ll remind you that the Wright brothers developed flight after being bike mechanics.

It won’t be preachy though, and it won’t be sad. It might just get you off your behind and put a smile on your face.

I thought it interesting that Parry brings up the idea of being married to a company. She introduces us to Annie Londonderry. Annie was the first woman to cycle around the globe. Originally born in Latvia, Annie changed her last name to the company that sponsored her. She also sold parts of her body for advertising. In that respect, Annie Londonderry was a corporate whore.

These days, most people sell their souls to the company before they email their resumes. I`m not so sure I’d pick Annie as a freedom fighter.

Parry on the other hand, is most certainly a captivating performer.

There were a Lot of things to like about this play. Parry is incredibly charismatic. The story she tells, not only about the bicycle, but also about women’s rights, is important. We’ve come a long way, baby!

It was incredible running into cycling and theatre nuts from Niagara at the show. They made the trip up from St. Catharines and represent the kind of passion that makes life worth living. Bless those grape stompers from down south!

Visiting Buddies for the first time was incredible. What a hidden gem of a theatre, and what a great performance from Evalyn Parry. I look forward to many future visits. - Mooney on Theatre


Spin: An ode to two-wheeling in time for spring 3 Stars
J. KELLY NESTRUCK
From Friday's Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Mar. 17, 2011 1:58PM EDT

Spin
Created and performed by Evalyn Parry
Directed by Ruth Madoc-Jones
At Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto

Spin, musician and story-teller Evalyn Parry's ode to the political and personal power of the bike, opened on the first nice day for cycling in Toronto this year. (Full disclosure: This theatre critic arrived on two wheels, filled with the joy that comes from getting back in the saddle after a winter of slow streetcar and jerky taxi rides, and couldn't have been more in the mood for a sonic celebration of cycling.)

A performance that is half concert, half spoken word, Spin might most fittingly be slotted under the category of song cycle. In the first half, Parry, dressed in Victorian garb, sings or speaks sweet, indie-folk songs about the bicycle's pre-automobile heyday in the 1890s, with particular emphasis on its impact on the women's movement.

Then, she shifts gears and zooms ahead to her own “gay Nineties,” living in Montreal and dating a woman whose preferred mode of transportation was the car – a relationship disaster waiting to happen.

The Ballad of Annie Londonderry concerns an early feminist icon who left her three children at home with her husband to become the first woman to bicycle around the world, from 1894 to 1895. (Later, she wrote for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World under the byline “The New Woman.”) Instructions on Learning to Ride a Bicycle by Miss Frances Willard, meanwhile, takes its lyrics from a 1895 pamphlet that declared that women “must all learn to ride, or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair.”

Parry has a highly unusual (and accomplished) two-person band backing her up. Percussionist Brad Hart, who sports an appropriate handlebar mustache, actually plays a bicycle: an attractively rusty 1972 CCM, suspended on a stand and hooked up with contact microphones. Using brushes on the fenders, violin bows on the spokes and drum sticks on a variety of tuned bells, Hart creates an astonishing array of sounds with this iron horse. Even spinning the pedals make a gentle, maraca-like whir.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the stage, sound designer Anna Friz plays instruments that are much more traditional (accordion) and even more out there (amplified buzz from flashing bike lights).

For Toronto cyclists worn down by the recurrent antipathy expressed by politicians and tabloids toward two-wheeled travellers in this city – most recently, Don Cherry's dismissal of “all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles” at the new mayor's investiture – Spin is welcome breath of fresh air. Parry takes the cyclo-phobic concern that riding a bike in Toronto involves “taking your life into your own hands,” and turns that phrase into a beautiful mantra.

Spin’s certainly an original piece of work, but not entirely so: Ironically enough, what Spin most reminded me of was another local music-performance project, Andrew Penner's Detroit Time Machine, which pays tribute to the Motor City and era of mechanization and includes what look like car parts as instruments. I saw it at Buddies in Bad Times, where Spin is playing, just a few weeks ago. Perhaps, a double-bill of the two might end the ongoing bikes-versus-cars war, or at least allow these antagonists to briefly make beautiful music together. - The Globe and Mail


Evalyn Parry’s show about women and bicycles is the wheel deal
By Glenn Sumi

Evalyn Parry’s multimedia show about women and cycling feels at times like a series of seven-minute performance pieces patched together to make something larger. But the magnetic artist and her winning production team invest the work with such intelligence and playfulness, it’s hard not to be charmed.

Outfitted at the outset like a carnival barker, Parry cycles through a series of songs and stories, from Miss Frances Willard’s 1895 instructions on how to learn to ride a bicycle to an account of Annie Londonderry, the first woman to ride around the world. Channelling her inner beat poet, Parry revels in the euphonious sounds of Londonderry’s (made-up) name, and then goes on to pun on the show’s title when she reveals the woman had a way with spinning the facts to suit her ends.

There’s lots of fascinating information here: about women’s restrictive clothing (they could barely show an ankle in the gay 1890s), the bicycle as a means of freedom and women’s purchasing patterns compared to their earning power.

Things take a turn for the personal when Parry – who’s changed to more contemporary dress – recounts her own gay 90s as a young woman stuck in a dysfunctional relationship with a woman in Montreal. A gift of a bicycle becomes a symbol fraught with meaning, especially when tragedy hits.

Completely confident and with an ethereally beautiful singing voice, Parry stumbles during this sequence (at least on opening night), as if unsure about its effect. But without it, the show – nicely directed by Ruth Madoc-Jones – would be a much colder affair.

Beth Kates’s set and video design makes great use of bike shop paraphernalia and archival footage, while much of the show’s ambience comes from Anna Friz and Brad Hart plucking, pumping and ringing their bike-related instruments.

What a great reminder to bring out you-know-what from winter hibernation. - Now Magazine


By Alison Broverman, National Post

Evalyn Parry was supposed to be braving traffic on College Street (her preferred cross-town bike route home to Parkdale), or maybe cruising along a trail through the Don Valley or along the lakeshore. But due to the chilly March rain, her planned bike excursion never makes it out of the parkette next to Buddies in Bad Times theatre.

Parry is an avid enough cyclist to have written Spin, an entire theatre piece inspired by her beloved two-wheeler that opened at Buddies this week, and she’s normally not such a fair-weather rider. But she didn’t bring her rain pants today, and is famished after a morning of rehearsal, anyway. So she’s sipping warm miso soup at Kokyo Sushi, just down the street from Buddies, and talking about all the places she’d be biking if spring were here already.

Parry’s new favourite place to bike is the Humber Trail. “I can’t believe I grew up in this city and only just discovered it,” she says. “You can ride north on it for a couple of hours at least — I’m not even sure where it ends.” (Post-interview Internet research says the Humber Trail can take you from Etobicoke all the way up to Vaughan, with a few interruptions, such as crossing Weston Road.)

For lack of a better east-west bike route (“It’s so stupid!” she exclaims, as she rhapsodizes about the pipe dream of bike lanes on Bloor Street), she makes her way to Buddies along College most days, despite having scored “door prizes” twice along that street. Even when she’s not rehearsing a show there, she coordinates a youth program at the theatre, and is generally there several times a week.

Even better, she says, are the rare but treasured occasions she has to go to Harbourfront. “I love cutting through Exhibition Place,” she explains. “And then going all along the lakeshore.”

Parry’s bike enthusiasm runs in the family — she grew up in downtown Toronto, and her family didn’t own a car, so bicycles were taken for granted as a means of transport. A year living in bike-friendly Cambridge, England, helped cement the bicycle as her favourite vehicle.

She tries to cycle in any city she visits, and she longingly compares Toronto’s troubled bike routes to those of Minneapolis, where she performed Spin last year. “Minneapolis is an amazing bike town! They’ve turned these old railway lines into bike paths, so they’re sunken down below street level and you can bike the equivalent of east to west in our city but right downtown,” she enthuses.

“Someone who came to see the show became our ‘Fairy Bike Father’ and lent us bikes so we got to ride while we were there, which was amazing.”

And now, in addition to being her preferred way to get around town, the bicycle has served as artistic inspiration as well.

“I wanted to do something that bridged my worlds of theatre and music and spoken word, and I wanted to write something longer form than a single song,” she says. “I thought I’d look at bikes and I’d look at advertising.”

She was also inspired by early feminist pioneer Susan B. Anthony’s famous comment that “the bicycle has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” And so her research led her to incorporate the theme of how early women’s liberation is tied up with the invention of the bicycle.

“I found this amazing connection between women and cycling in the 19th century, and the birth of the advertising industry being really concurrent with that same period of time — the bike was the first luxury item to be mass marketed in North America,” she says. “So I got excited about that, and then I discovered the story of Annie Londonderry, the first woman to ride around the world on a bike in 1895, and the way she did it was by selling advertising space on her body to pay her way across the world. So all these themes kind of came together.”

Spin plays at Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander St.) until March 27. Visit buddiesinbadtimes.com for tickets and more information.
- The National Post


Evalyn Parry wants to take Rob Ford for a ride.

The queer musician and theatre artist is fervently hoping the new mayor of Toronto will attend her musical performance piece SPIN, which premieres at Buddies March 15.

“I bet he’d enjoy himself,” she says, on a break from renovating the Parkdale home she recently purchased. “I’ve called his office to invite him, but I’m still waiting to hear back.”

Getting the man in charge to turn up isn’t just about demonstrating his support for the arts. It would also be a chance for him to learn more about one of Parry’s other passions — cycling.

“I want Ford to understand that cars and bikes have to coexist in the city,” she says. “I have no interest in fighting a war on cars. I realize they are here to stay. But encouraging more Torontonians to cycle safely would be so good for the health of our city, improving our physical health, our air quality and reducing traffic congestion.”

Created in collaboration with musicians Brad Hard and Anna Friz, as well as director Ruth Madoc-Jones, SPIN explores the bicycle as both means of transportation and tool of political emancipation.

The show tells the story of Annie Londonderry, an early feminist icon and cycling pioneer.

“She made a bet with two men she could cycle around the world, funding her trip entirely by money she made along the way,” Parry says. “She ended up selling advertising space on her body, making her the first example of women and sports endorsements.”

Evalyn Parry.
(David Hawe)
The piece also explores Parry’s breakup with her first girlfriend, which was directly connected to her passion for cycling.

“I was fresh out of university and she was much older,” Parry says. “One of the main points of contention in our relationship was that she didn’t understand why I wanted to ride a bike. She was always offering to drive me around or pick me up and put my bike in the trunk of her car. She was trying to do me a favour, but it felt like she wanted to control my autonomy.”

They eventually split, but not before the lady-friend bought Parry a new bike, one of the few things she kept when she moved back to Toronto from Montreal. In an ironic twist, that bike was swiped one night while she was having a romantic dinner with the woman who would one day become Parry’s wife.

“Having your bike stolen is about much more than the economic reality of having to replace it,” she says. “It’s an object you have a deep psychic connection with. Having it ripped away from you can be devastating.”

Not only is the bicycle at the centre of both stories, it also serves as the primary musical instrument in the show. Parry and Hart have rigged a rusty 1972 CCM Galaxy with contact mics, which capture sound from the timeworn two-wheeler.

“We use sounds that originate from the bike when it is brushed or tapped and then manipulate them using effects pedals,” she says. “The seat was the most amazing discovery. It’s one of those old vinyl ones with springs that create a lot of reverb, and so it acts like the bass drum in the musical arrangements. We’ve also tuned some of the spokes to different pitches so that we can use them to make melodies.”

Parry’s work as a writer and actor will be well known to gay audiences. The Toronto native co-helms award-winning theatre company The Independent Aunties with Anna Chatterton and Karin Randoja, who most recently turned out the self-help nightmare Breakfast at Buddies in March 2010. She’s also appeared in several of Ecce Homo’s works, including a turn in The Pastor Phelps Project as fag-hating Christ-crusader Shirley Phelps-Roper. The show drew international attention when it premiered at SummerWorks in August 2008, after members of the Westboro Baptist Church, which the play mocks, announced they would come to Canada to picket the event. Though the Phelpses failed to show, the resulting publicity made the play a massive hit.

Whether she’s writing a play or recording an album (she has three full-length discs on the market and a fourth being released at the opening of SPIN) politics are at the centre of everything Parry does, even riding her bike.

“Cycling is one of the best examples of how the personal is political,” she says. “It’s an individual activity, but it follows that ‘Many drops of water make the ocean’ sentiment. It questions how we relate to the geography of our city, our environment and our health.”

“It’s also an economic necessity for a lot of people,” she adds. “Most of us who ride can’t afford a car or even public transportation. Toronto is a tough city to be poor in and a tough city to be an artist in. Riding a bike is a big part of what makes it economically possible for a lot of us to do what we do. It would be great if our city council would acknowledge that by building proper bike lanes.”

SPIN
Created & performed by Evalyn Parry
With Anna Friz & Brad Hart
Directed by Ruth Madoc-Jones
Tues, March 15–Sun, March 27
$16–20
Buddies in Ba - Xtra Magazine, Pink Triangle Press


I’ve thought of my bike as a freedom-maker, moral high ground, traffic decongestant and my continual introduction to the city. But never before have I pictured it a musical instrument. Or a link, between my legs, to women’s liberation.

I’ve been selling it short.

“Frances Willard who ran the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in the 1890s learned to ride a bike at 53,” performer Evalyn Parry tells me, as we pedal side-by-side up the leafy, one-way streets of Parkdale. Parry, a Toronto performer, is wearing a pink helmet and red sneakers. I like her immediately.

“She wrote a book encouraging all women to ride bikes.”

It makes sense, of course. Women on bikes could leave their homes, unchaperoned, to visit friends, or say, attend suffragette meetings where people like Willard were soapboxing about hysterical things like women voting. On their way back, they might take a wrong turn, pedaling along the lake, taking it all in, letting their minds wander. . .

Men were threatened. That’s understandable, too. Doctors called it the sterility machine. “It may rattle the fertility out of the womb,” Parry says, holding a wooden mustache up to her lips in one scene from her two-hour womanly tribute to the bicycle, called SPIN.

Parry, 37, comes from a musical family. Her brother, Richard, is a member of Arcade Fire. She calls SPIN a “performance,” since it is part theatre, part musical gig, part spoken-word poetry and part documentary. She spent a year researching the history of the bicycle while writing her script. I watched most of a rehearsal on Monday and I can tell you, whatever it is, it is brilliant. It has made me look down at my creaking wheels with even more adoring eyes.

Parry’s percussionist, Brad Hart, plays drums, bells and bass on his own rusty, red and white bike, built in 1972.

“To be free, a woman needs mobility,” they sing, accompanied by Anna Friz. “She needs to use her legs, her legs, her legs, her political legs.”

In a city obsessed with the so-called “war on the car,” we cyclists need all the inspiration we can get. And ammunition. So, in case you can’t make it to see SPIN later this week, here are a few things I gleaned from Parry:

• The first woman to ride her bicycle around the world was coaxed by a bet. “Two businessmen in Boston said no woman could do what a man had done a few years earlier,” Parry says. She set off in 1894, leaving three children and her husband behind for 15 months, carrying nothing but a pearl-handled revolver and a change of underwear. Her name was Annie Kopchovsky, but she was known as Annie Londonderry. Why? Well, the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company was one of her sponsors, offering her $100 to wear their brand.

“We think the bike is the symbol of everything good,” says Parry. “It’s as vulnerable to being sold as any other consumer item.”

• Bloomers were symbols of women’s mobility and became popular among women riding their bikes at the turn of the century. I always thought they were underwear. I was wrong. They were voluminous pants that stretched all the way down to the ankles. Still, they were scandalous compared with the women’s fashion of the day — corsets, heavy, multi-layered skirts worn over a hoop or petticoats, and long-sleeve shirts with high collars.

Try cycling in that! So, women on their bikes took to wearing less-restrictive clothing. Freedom begets freedom.

• “Wheelmen’s” clubs were the first organized lobby for better roads. It would be decades before the car arrived and, by then, much of the infrastructure — including factories where standardized bike parts were made — was in place. “Car manufacturers took them over,” says Parry.

• The bicycle we ride today is more or less the same as the model called “The Safety,” created in the 1870s. It was safer than its predecessor, the unstable and difficult-to-mount “Ordinary,” which had a huge front wheel and tiny back wheel. The Safety’s two air-filled wheels were the same size, with the pedals attached to a chain and not to the front wheel. “It makes me excited to imagine a time when the bike was the height of technology, like an iPhone,” says Parry. Can you imagine that in 140 years we’ll still be using the iPhone?

This is a lot to ponder, while I pedal home on my as-of-yet-unnamed bicycle. Parry has named her black, three-speed Dutch commuter bike Stein, after Gertrude Stein. With its missing bolts and rusted chain, my bike is not that sophisticated. For now, I’ll just call it my liberation machine.

Catherine Porter’s column usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. She can be reached at cporter@thestar.ca.
SPIN is playing Thursday night at The Tranzac Club at 8:30 p.m., as a Toronto Cyclists Union warm-up to Bike Month. For more information, go to www.evalynparry.com. - The Toronto Star


Small Theatres (Borealis Records)

Toronto songwriter, poet and ironic social commentator Parry has surpassed expectations with this expansive two-CD set, a collection of 16 originals produced by John Switzer that range from the haunting ("14," about the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal) to the quirky ("Please Stop Following Me," about an obsessive former lover), from the quaintly romantic ("The Stars") to the outright eerie ("Lady Margaret," a sinister reworking of the folk boom-era British Song Circle ballad) and wryly urbane ("Love In The Greater Toronto Area Takes Public Transportation"). Inventive instrumentation and imaginative arrangements enhance the theatrical spark of Parry's verbal wit, as she builds a complex series of vignettes occupied not just by her own thoughts and preoccupations but also by lively characters, apparently the remnants of real-life encounters, acting out their own perplexing parts. Adventurous stuff.
Greg Quill
- The Toronto Star


War Dream:
"Toronto musician Parry glides between song and speech in this slippery, sinister number about a world turned inside out."

Robert Everett Green’s “Essential Tracks”, March 2007
- The Globe & Mail


“…however fine the music might be, it’s the lyrics by the Canadian songwriter, actress and spoken word waterfall Evalyn Parry that form the focus point of Unreasonable. They call it “folk’’over there, whatever that may mean, but it comes close to what was so popular in the sixties and seventies in the Lowlands: militant cabaret. In Canada and the States this causes a lot of mayhem. Because Parry, a lesbian gifted with a sharp pen, constantly raises hell. We gather her cd’s are ritually burned in the Bible Belt and in the more fundamentalist parts of the American bush. She goes into the attack with wit, refined humour, verbally clever, without any restraint, but also without using fist clenching slogans, because she’s always saying it with the right innuendo. Strong lyrics…She just tells it like it is. - Mazz Musicas,Belgium


evalyn parry's second CD is called Unreasonable. It's been produced by Canadian music legend Ken Whiteley, and released by her own label, Outspoke. This is the follow up to her debut CD, Things That Should Be Warnings, which came out in 2001. Parry's combination of music, singing and spokenword is slowly earning her a loyal audience, and deservedly so: her voice is theatrical, vulnerable and robust, and her song-writing skills have reached a new level on this disc. The songs are filled with tongue-in-cheek humour, neo-folk lingo and paced throughout with a wonderful, quirky sense of rhythm and meter.

It sounds like this could be all too precious: the punky, literate, queer song-smith is just what the cool kids on Wall street are pushing as the next marketing wave. Parry is well aware of the irony, that once again, being "out" is "in". Her song Profit in the Margins with it's Shuffle Demons beat, and Parry's Gordon Gekko impression, is an anti-anthem.

"Wait a second, Just a second....did I blink? how did I miss this? when did “gay” become a gold mine? When did homo-sex go prime time? When did my previously marginal identity become a marketable entity?"

Along with the humour, Parry says, "when you see me walking down the street with my girlfriend, we're not just a market, we're a target." This is good political music, which unfortunately, has become as rare as a sighting of a barn owl.

On Unreasonable, Parry brings out her songs of love and life, by mixing traditional folk songs with jazzy vamps and country twang. The result is a stream of streetwise discourse on relationships, gender and interpersonal politics, which holds your attention from beginning to end. On the opening track, Canada dreams of California, Parry accompanies herself on the concertina. The melancholic notes of the diminutive squeeze box provide the backdrop for the modern need to go west.

This flows nicely into the Walking Song, with plucked notes from Oliver Schroers’ fiddle. evalyn takes the listener on a walk through the daily grind. Plagued by self-doubt, she asks: if she'll never be Ani or Joni, is it worth it? Is there any reason to make the effort? Thankfully, the answer isn't provided by Tony Robbins and his posse of celebrities. Instead, it is left to drift off into the sunset, like Alan Ladd riding out of town in shame.

The Stone and the Bumblebee features Marilyn Lerner on piano and Roman Borys on cello. This is classic storytelling, in the tradition that her father, singer songwriter David Parry, mined with the Friends of Fiddlers Green and on his solo projects. Always is the show piece of evalyn's live shows, and it takes a prominent place on the CD as well. In concert, evalyn dresses up as a maxipad, to get the point across. But even without the visual aids, it quickly becomes apparent that this cabaret informed exploration of the toxicology of feminine hygiene is unsettling. Equally funny and disturbing, this is a songwriter who takes us into uncharted waters.

The disc concludes with the lonesome lament "Bucket of Time". "I was bare feet and you were broken glass" is a breakup line you won't soon forget. Unreasonable, with it's cast of the "who's who" of Toronto's music scene providing the musical backing, could have dominated most singer-songwriters. But it is evalyn parry's vocals, and in particular her lyrics, that linger long after the last note is note. This is a singer-songwriter to keep an eye on.

Matthew Crosier

- CBC Radio One


Curtains Rise & Fall
Music review- Serafin

"'Cause girls are doing it/They're not just talking
about it/They're dreaming it, scheming it/Really
believing it".

Evalyn Parry is certainly one of those girls she
sings about. Well known to Fringe audiences for
quirky and incisive productions like Clean Irene And
Dirty Maxine, the actor, director and playwright has
recently released a CD entitled Small Theatres.
It's the third recording endevour for Parry, who won
the Colleen Peterson Songwriting Award for work on her
previous albums, Unreasonable, and Things That Should
Be Warnings. This new CD continues the songstresses's
penchant for marrying spoken word with folk music
sensibilities. It goes one step further in dividing
Small Theatres in to two discs; one containing the
more straight ahead musical pieces, while the other
delves more deeply into the combination of spoken word
and impressionistic instrumentation she flirted with
on her other albums.
"December sixth is a dark building that haunts me/It
serves to remind us what it means to be a woman in
this world".
Parry's voice cuts through a steady rhythm of choral
singing and drumming in "Fourteen For December 6" as
she revisits the tragedy of Montreal's Ecole
Polytechnique shootings where 14 women were murdered.
She cleverly dances the line between bottled rage and
listenable prose, paying tribute to her fallen sisters
and cautioning continued vigilance.
These sombre notes are balanced nicely with the sweet
hilarity of numbers like "My Swedish Roomates", a
tribute to IKEA's omnipresent influence in our homes.
"Ivar and Sten, Ivar and Sten/ I feel like I'm living
with big Swedish men/ Klinga and Omar, Duktig and Ben/
My home is so organized since they moved in."
"My work is really quite eclectic", says Parry, "The
music I write is all over the map".
She and producer John Switzer work to ensure Parry's
distinctive words were the thread weaving together the
group of stylistically diverse songs.
"We were thinking a little more conceptually for this
album", Parry says, "treating each song as its own
theatre and taking on other people's voices to tell
these stories... these small dramas. Each song has
its own curtain rise and fall".
The result is a surprisingly cohesive group of pieces
that run the gamut from the dreaded stalker girlfriend
in "Please Stop Following Me", to a brief dalliance
with heterosexuality (with a closeted gay man) in
"Love In The Greater Toronto Area Takes Public
Transportation". An affectionate wink at the
earnestness of youth makes "Once In A Blue Moon" a
cringe-worthy delight as parry relates a conversation
overheard between two baristas regarding the nature of
feminism and Ani DiFranco.
Parry launches Small Theatres at the Gladstone Hotel
on Sun. Feb 18 in an intimate setting suitable for the
personal nature of her performance and writing. As
she sings: "All I can do is open wide/ Throw my head
back to the sky/And try to find the words that I've
been looking for".

Small Theatres CD Launch
$10, 7:30pm, Sun. Feb 18, Gladstone Ballroom - Xtra! Magazine


CD Review
By Catherine Litt
The News Bulletin

Put away those Joni Mitchell CDs and those old Janis
Ian recordings. After listening to Toronto songwriter
Evalyn Parry, you'll have a new political folk goddess
to worship.
Trust me, I've already set up my Evalyn shrine.
Having just listened to Parry's new CD, Unreasonable,
in which she weaves a profound lyrical tapestry
through each song, I can't help but marvel at the
talent and wisdom this young singer displays.
Parry is 31 years old but sings with the kind of
sageness and life experience you'd expect from someone
twice her age.
Part spoken word poet, part folk singer, she tackles
sociopolitical issues with humour and intelligence.
An activist, she sings about everything from
consumerism to humanism, everything from lawn
herbicides to gay rights.
Her voice is captivating whether she's in full song
or her rhythmic and theatrical poetry. Her vocal
quality is refreshingly robust and clear, yet delicate
when it needs to be - as if you took Joni and Janis
and combined them with Ani Difranco.
But, unlike those singers, Parry has the ability to
add humor to her lyrical message, which is part of her
charm as a performer.
On Monday, July 4th, Nanaimo audiences get a chance
to see that charm in action when Parry performs at the
Cambie Pub, 63 Victoria Cres.
She's coming to B.C. to take part in the West Coast
Poetry Festival (July 7th in Vancouver) and has
decided to add some performance dates to her schedule.

This is one performer you don't want to miss.

Catherine Litt is the News Bulletin's arts and
entertainment editor. She maintains a second shrine to Janis Ian. - Naniamo News, British Columbia


Songs of wrestling bears, fateful sailors
Feb 15, 2007
GREG QUILL
ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST

For most of her life Toronto songwriter Evalyn Parry has had one foot in music, the other in the theatre.

So it's no surprise that the daughter of folk musician, writer and actor, the late David Parry, is able to embrace both worlds in her performances and recordings, juxtaposing long spoken-word monologues with quaintly poignant songs, and to conjure up colourful characters and often extravagant dramas seemingly at whim.

Parry's craft and technique have reached their apex with the two-disc set Small Theatres, which will be launched Sunday night with an all-star concert at the Gladstone Hotel. Featured guests include singer/bassist Suzie Vinnick, violinist Anne Lindsay, slide/steel guitarist Burke Carroll, multi-instrumentalist Ken Whiteley, drummer Brad Hart and a 12-piece women's choir.

Small Theatres extends Parry's trademark personal style. Much of the material comes from other voices, from characters the writer has met or conjured.

One of them is Sailor Dave, whose voice and life story Parry borrows for one of the album's key pieces, "Sailor." Featured in a recent segment on CBC Radio's morning program Sounds Like Canada, the song sparked a nationwide search for its laconic protagonist, a Great Lakes merchant seaman and ship's cook, who a couple of years ago spoke with Parry in a parking lot after a gig in Sault Ste. Marie. He had unspooled the threads of his life – a marriage and family lost in the wake of his wanderlust, a bout with cancer that should have killed him, a shipwreck that killed 29 others and spared him – trying to convince the composer that it was the foundation of a song. Little did he know that Parry was mentally recording not just his story, but his voice as well.

"The CBC put out a call for listeners to help find Sailor Dave, and this week I got to speak to him on the air," Parry says.

"He was really sweet, and totally surprised. He said he never thought his story was important enough to find its way into a song ... It was more than the story – it was the way he told it, with such wonder and grace. He had my father's first name, and my father used to be fascinated by sea songs, so perhaps that's why Sailor Dave stuck in my mind."Another song, "Honey," is taken from a story by Parry's partner's uncle, a veteran wrestler who once had to fight a live bear in the ring unaware that someone had smeared his own backside with honey.

"Storytelling comes naturally to me," continues Parry, who has written and composed for many theatrical projects with the Independent Auntie troupe, including the award-winning Clean Irene and Dirty Maxine, Frances, Mathilda & Tea and The Mysterious Short at Theatre Passe Muraille, as well as the original musical The Freelance Lover at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

It was not her or producer John Switzer's intention to make a series of musical dramas when sessions for her CD Small Theatres began over a year ago, Parry says.

"At some point it became apparent that the unifying factor in these songs is that they all seemed to be coming from different characters, and that curtains were rising and falling on the scenes they were creating. Small Theatres seemed an appropriate title."

The album is divided into two CDs to give the spoken word and musical compositions their own space, she adds.

"Listening to the spoken word can be difficult if you've set yourself up for music. It's a different experience ... you can listen to a song over and over, but you have to be in the mood for spoken word."

Like songs, spoken word monologues have worked their way into Parry's bones.

"I have a pretty good memory for them," she says. "I keep a stock in my current repertoire, but I can usually pull out the older ones with just a quick rehearsal.

"The secret with the spoken word stuff is not to think too much about what you're saying. It's not like music – you can't cover your mistakes. If you get lost, you have to start again, and in all the years I've been doing this, that has only happened once." - The Toronto Star


Evalyn Parry grew up in a household surrounded by traditional music. She remembers how cool it seemed listening to Stan Rogers singing with her dad’s band, The Friends of Fiddlers Green. Now she too breathes new life into the folk tradition with her politics and passion. Roddy Campbell catches her in a moment of rare respite.

She doesn’t do things by halves, does Evalyn Parry. Actor. Performance poet. Impresario. Youth counsellor. Gay activist. Oh yes, and did I mention she also sings the odd folk song when not at lunch with Bono and The Edge.
Now there’s a great story to start us rolling.
You see, Evalyn’s younger brother, Richard Reed Parry, plays a variety of instruments with Montreal’s brilliant Arcade Fire. Sis’ and bro’ were meeting for lunch prior to his band opening for U2 at the Montreal Forum. As it turns out, both bands were in the out-of-the-way restaurant where the pair had agreed to meet.
“Well, that was surreal,” says Evalyn. “What do you say, ‘Hi, The Edge’ (she laughs). I was sort of in on the tail end of the dinner. I more or less just got to shake hands with everybody and off we all went.”
So. I was telling you about what a busy bee Evalyn Parry is, wasn’t I. Well, she recently released not only a new double CD, Small Theatres, but also a DVD, Live at Lula, and a powerful single, 14 (For December 6) – her first new recordings since making Unreasonable in 2003. And if that appears like a flurry of sudden activity, these projects have been ongoing for several years, apparently.
“The thing with me is that I’m always doing 7,000 projects at once. I’m a bit of a chronic multi-tasker and have trouble saying no to exciting new creative projects. I have a theatre company [Independent Aunties] here in Toronto. Suddenly, last year, we had all this production stuff going on and so my CD recording had to get squished in between my rehearsal blocks and my performing theatre stuff. Anyways, it all just took a little while to get finished.”
Small Theatres separates into Songs on one disc and Spoken Word on the other. Her poetry – poignant, scathing, nostalgic, flippant and often fabulously funny – tackles subjects as diverse as puppy love (Love In The Greater Toronto Area Takes Public Transportation) and the pleasures of her favourite novel, Anne of Green Gables (The Anne In My Mind).
There’s also Once In A Blue Moon about an afternoon of deliberation in a coffee shop where the waitresses discuss the merits of Ani DiFranco albums. And yes, Ani’s confessional frankness and passionate politicized voice, as well as her ability to chart her own successful independent musical course without compromise, has provided inspiration for Parry.
“She has made a mark on a generation that is very unique. I think that for a young woman of my generation, that plays acoustic music, to deny her as an influence would be like denying Bob Dylan’s influence on singer-songwriters.”
A powerful social and political commentator in her own right, Parry brilliantly takes to task the billion-dollar bottled water industry and its ability to convince the public that tap water, used for decades, is now no good.
‘We’re swallowing the idea that good water isn’t free/That of course one must pay for water of quality.’ So goes Bottle This!
But it’s the confrontational yet uplifting 14 (For December 6) – a commemoration for the 14 female students at Montreal’s l’École Polytechnique gunned down by the psychopath Marc Lepine in1989 – that really sparks emotions. Released as a single to coincide with the massacre’s anniversary, it received radio play throughout the country.
“I’ve had some fantastic responses to it. I’ve made an effort to get it out to universities, to people teaching women’s studies. Part of the motivation was this feeling that that date and that event had been largely forgotten in a younger generation. It’s not something that impacts younger women in the way that it impacted me as a young woman. [I wanted] to connect that with the way that gender and inequality still exist so profoundly in the world. And how that event, and that date, can serve as a reminder and point of connection in Canadian history.”
Evalyn Parry was raised as a Quaker. One of their core values is social justice for the persecuted and underprivileged. Her American mom, the poet Caroline Parry, often took her to peace marches and women’s rights rallies at a very young age. The die was cast. In more ways than one, it seems. Poetry gives Parry her political voice.
“There’s such a satisfaction as a writer to turn outrage into rhyme,”she says. “There’s something about that simple act that is so satisfying. Because of a double entendre, or because of a turn of phrase that turns an idea into a metaphor, that sort of creativity and transformation of idea into art I find very satisfying as both a creator and a performer. People really respond to it. It makes people excited to hear ideas that they’ve thought about but not in the form of a news repor - Penguin Eggs, the folk, roots and world music magazine


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

"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

MORE ABOUT SPIN

"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

Band Members