Skip to content

Artist Q&A - Bronwyn Churcher

The actress and musician is set to perform at Tir-na-nOg in May
Bronwyn Churcher transforms into the Bardesse in As I Roved Out.

In this issue we talk with actress and musician Bronwyn Churcher, who is performing her new show As I Roved Out on Bowen Island next month.

Q: The last time we spoke you were preparing to take us on a journey in the Maiden’s Lament. Now you are bringing As I Roved Out to Tir-na-nOg. What can the audience expect from the new voyage with the Bardesse? 

A: Ah! This is a voyage that is one for everyone: it is universally relevant by its very nature because it’s about our early shared ancestry and the dawn of creativity, as explored through sound, story and song. We will journey out together through time from the very beginning when the first sound waves pulsed through the Universe, gathering in the caves of our earliest ancestors and exploring the origins of music, from the first lullabies sung by our ancient mothers to traditional Celtic folk songs that date back over hundreds of years.

The audience will be called upon to use their imagination and to participate now and again as well! I hope audiences will feel fully immersed in the experience and like they’ve been transported to another time and place with my storytelling and the ancient histories and music that is all woven into the fabric of the show. 

Q: Where did the inspiration for the show come from? And what was the writing/composing process like?

A: I have been really fascinated for a long time about our earliest ancestors - I did my Masters in Social Anthropology ages ago, but this was also always my favourite subject to teach as a Social Studies teacher back when I taught at both Island Pacifc School and Island Discovery Learning Centre! And I also got an amazing opportunity to go visit the Lascaux caves last year while I was travelling around France. I couldn’t stop thinking about the first sounds that early humans would have made and the beginning of creativity.

What would’ve been happening deep in these caves and what did it lead to? These ancient caves are not only incredible because of the art but because of the acoustics. Scientists have found that the art was actually located in areas that had the best amplification. So what did the dawn of creativity look and sound like and what stirs within us when we think about and hear these ancient songs?

The Bardesse character that takes us on this journey is a time-travelling troubadour and I loved the idea of her imagining the first voices and whether or not it was words or song that came first. And then having important messages from the past to share as a bard who would have seen so much! The role of the bard was an important one back in the day too, and I wanted to explore how that has changed over time and what that has meant to our society.

I loved the process of immersing myself in research on early history, on the wisdom of Indigenous cultures the world over, on myths about music, and the history of the bard, as well as the stories behind all of the Celtic folk songs I love to sing and share as the Bardesse. There’s a lot packed into this 1.5 hour show, so it required a lot of careful crafting and workshopping.

Q: What was the experience like performing As I Roved Out at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year?

A: It was a dream come true! I had wanted to perform there since I was a university student there, and it was surreal actually being part of it. There are 4,000 shows over the course of a month there - so you can imagine how intense the energy is and the incredible amount of FOMO you can have when you need to make sure you've slept well enough to get up for your 11 am show every day!

I also got the chance to join another production playing music along for an improv comedy troupe from Boston which was incredible. So I was performing twice a day, doing 14 shows in 14 days! Needless to say I was exhausted by the end of it... but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!

Q: You've acted in several productions at Tir-na-nOg but last year was your first time performing music there. How did you find that? 

A: It was so special being back and I love Jack and Julie dearly. The imagination they cultivated in me as a child through all of the productions I did with them over the years is a huge reason why I do what I do today! So it was pretty amazing being in that space again with a show I created all by myself! And the acoustics are amazing, the Bowen audiences amazing. What more could you ask for? And I'm really excited to be back with a show that I am even more proud of sharing!

Q: Why do you find it important to include a Bowen stop on your tours?

A: Growing up on Bowen and being connected with the forests and the nature and the ocean there was formative to me. It’s a special experience to go back every little while and see how much has changed within me (and also how much has actually changed on the island - that part is a bit harder to face to be honest!) The community is so special too and I miss having a place I call home. Bowen feels like my heart home in a way - and probably will be until I settle down in one place (if that ever happens!) 

Q: What impressions/reactions have you found people are leaving the show with?

A: The main message of my show is about community building: joining our voices together and telling stories to keep the lore alive and well. And I try to cultivate that throughout with the audience participation and playing with the audience. The Bardesse is a bit of a trickster in her own way, and I have been really enjoying seeing the different energies of each audience and how to work with them to make everyone feel comfortable and able to go to their own place with the messages of the show and with the music itself.

It’s ultimately a feel-good experience and I think the audiences I’ve performed to so far have left with smiles on their faces, perhaps a new friend, and also a reminder of the things that have been the most important since the beginning of time. I like to say that the Bardesse reveals the secrets of the Universe through the show - so you’ll just have to come see it to find out!

Q: What have you been up to in addition to the show since last year?

A: I have spent the last year being a true troubadour, travelling around Europe and performing - but then I ended up hiking the Camino in Portugal and kind of just fell in love with the country! I moved to Lisbon and within three weeks of being there, got a job as a bike tour guide which was pretty hilarious. I had to learn the city history pretty fast (again, years of teaching history to school kids helped with that!) and I think showing the city to travellers as if it was my own helped me get to know it so well and feel so fondly about it.

Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe so there are a lot of fascinating stories to tell about it as I'm sure you can imagine! I also ended up doing a lot of sound healing work there and have been incorporating that more and more into my own creative practice through facilitating singing circles and sound journeys.

Q: Any other comments/thoughts?

A: The show is an all ages event and there will be a Q & A afterwards. I'd love to see lots of young people out to this one, but also feel like it appeals to anyone no matter what their age. And tickets are limited so people should definitely buy in advance (on Eventbrite or e-transfer).

As I Roved Out is showing on Bowen on Saturday, May 4 at Tir-na-nOg Theatre. The show begins at 7:30 pm and last approximately two hours. Tickets are available at Eventbrite, and some may be available at the door.