Thorgy Thor Source: Instagram/EDGE composite

'Drag Race' Star and Brooklyn Girl Thorgy Thor Brings Pink Violin to Boston Pops for Pride on June 1

Robert Nesti READ TIME: 11 MIN.

Pride Special: Remaining tickets for Pride Night with the Boston Pops starring Thorgy Thor on June 1 are priced at $25.00. follow this link to purchase tickets.

There is a famous saying about Ginger Rogers that she did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels. That statement can also apply to drag superstar Thorgy Thor, who often takes to the concert stage with major orchestras holding a violin while in full drag.

"It can be tough," Thorgy recently explained to EDGE from her Brooklyn digs. "Everyone says, 'oh, she just looks so beautiful.' But as I play, I am thinking of how I can't breathe in this corset. Or will I trip when I walk? And I am wearing these big eyelashes that make it difficult to see everything. When I first started playing in full drag, I realized I couldn't wear earrings or bracelets because they make too much noise when I am playing the fiddle."

Playing the fiddle is a colloquial way of saying that Thorgy (Shane Thor Galligan) is a professional musician trained in the violin, viola and cello. She has played with such major symphony orchestras as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, and on June 1 she will debut with the Boston Pops as part of the orchestra's first Pride concert. (For more details, click here.) The concert will be conducted by Keith Lockhart with GBH's host of "The Culture Show" Jared Bowen hosting and Provincetown-based drag star 03 as special guest.

But don't expect a typical classical performance. Thorgy, who also conducts, brings the same hilarious energy to her classical performances that she brought to her appearances on two "Drag Race" franchises – Season 8 of "RuPaul's Drag Race" (2016) and Season 3 of "RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars" (2017). "I am a two-time 'Drag Race' loser," she joked when the show was mentioned. Thorgy finished sixth on "Drag Race" and ninth on "All Stars." Her response to being cut – "Oh Jesus, gross," was turned into a three-second video clip and became a viral meme.

Bringing together the worlds of drag and classical music has become Thorgy's mantra since the debut of "Thorgy and the Thorchestra," a concert she developed with conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser that displays Thorgy's virtuosity in a program combining classical and pop music. "I have a lot of weight on my shoulders, Thorgy told the Seattle television channel KING 5 last year while rehearsing with the Seattle Symphony. "(I want) to make drag lovers fall in love with classical music. And have classical music lovers fall in love with drag."

EDGE spoke to Thorgy recently about her music career, playing with the Pops, and, of course, her "Drag Race" experience.

EDGE: You have an extensive musical background. Can you talk about your training as a classical musician?

Thorgy Thor: I've been playing my whole life. But put together my "Thorgy and the Thorchestra" show in 2018 that I've done with some 30-40 orchestras throughout the world. And the Boston Pops have always been on my list, so this is a really big deal for me and I'm looking forward to it.

EDGE: How did the performative thing happen for you?

Thorgy Thor: I have been a crazy kid since I was born. Always built for the stage theater, music, outrageousness, outrageous costumes, I'm just a very creative person. So it was only inevitable that I would end up on television in drag. And as a soloist with orchestras.

EDGE: But what led you to want to fuse drag and classical music together like this?

Thorgy Thor: I had been playing since I was very young, and after conservatory, I moved right into New York City and started playing with freelance orchestras. But while I was sitting there (in the orchestra), I realized this was not enough for me. So I needed to be a little bit more outrageous. And I worked nightlife all the time. And I would always put classical music into my nightlife career, so I decided to bring them together.

EDGE: How do you keep in shape as a violinist?

Thorgy Thor: Well, it's tough. You know, I have to actually wake up very, very early in the morning. But it comes from learning to be disciplined as a musician. For years and years and years and years, my days were spent playing and practicing. But then I'd be up all night in nightclubs working on and perfecting my other craft, which was nightlife, entertainment, comedy, and, you know, drag all night long. I did that. So, you know, to do all this, you had to be quite disciplined. But now on the road, I'll find myself on airplanes practicing. And sometimes just a little bit each day. But you don't have to practice four hours a day. I think that's ridiculous. Just at least a half hour a day. It keeps your brain and your mind and your body into it.

Watch this video introduction to Thorgy Thor.

EDGE: Do you own a pink violin?

Thorgy Thor: Yes. This lovely violin maker reached out to me from Italy on social media and said: "Listen, I want to make you a violin from scratch." So it was a lovely process. We got to pick what kind of wood we wanted and what kind of famous violins we wanted to kind of model it after. And what colors we wanted to make it. So I do have a pink violin, although I switch back and forth with what violins I like to play on. And with that violin, I just like to have a little bit of fun on.

EDGE: Tell me about the conducting experience. What's it like to stand in front of the orchestra and lead them?

Thorgy Thor: I kind of love it. There's nothing more powerful than waving your arms and having everyone under your control. But it's fun, you know, to actually have the opportunity to conduct with many of my orchestra shows. Although I am not conducting with the Boston Pops. I'm gonna leave that to Keith Lockhart.

EDGE: You won't be grabbing the baton from him and jumping up on the podium?

Thorgy Thor: Not during the show... No, we had to cut some things and conducting was one of them. But we still have an amazing variety show for the audience.

EDGE: What will you be playing?

Thorgy Thor: We are opening with a tango, that is going to be beautiful and kind of sexy. I love a good tango to open up the show because it's kind of naughty. And I give a nod to the audience. And it's about laughing but also saying, "Hello, I am a very serious violinist while looking gorgeous on stage." And I will also be playing the first movement of Bach's famous Concerto for Two Violins with the Pops' concertmaster.

EDGE: And what will you be wearing?

Thorgy Thor: Oh, yes. Well, that's a secret. Okay. I'll wait. I'll wait just to show everyone when I pop out there.

Thorgy Thor attends the RuPaul's Drag Race Season 8 Finale Party at Stage 48 on May 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images for RuPaul's Drag Race)

EDGE: So can we say you're bringing charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to the Pops?

Thorgy Thor: Yes, absolutely. Oh, yeah. Like I say at the top of every show, "Listen, how many people bought a ticket tonight because you saw me on television and drag?" You know, it's usually about half the audience. And it's a bunch of young kids that haven't really been to the symphony. And then I say, "All right, put your hands down. How many people have season tickets to the symphony, and you have no idea who I am?" And you know, we have almost the other half of the audience who is the older crowd that just comes to the symphony and like to have fun. I explain that my goal is I want everyone to have a good time. And I want all of the drag lovers to come back to the symphony and put their butts in the seats and support the symphony. And likewise, I want all of the season ticket holders to go out and support local drag and fall in love with the art of drag. I get a lot of comments after the show during the meet-and-greet that people that loved classical music now love drag and vice versa. So, I'm doing something right.

EDGE: Why do you think drag is so popular right now?

Thorgy Thor: I don't know. I honestly, I don't know. I think "RuPaul's Drag Race" had a lot to do with it. But they're out in droves. And you know, I started Brooklyn Drag. You know, I moved to Brooklyn because it was cheap. And I did drag. I can name on one hand how many drag artists that worked, you know, at our small cabaret shows underground on Monday night at 2:00 in the morning. And now it is countless. It just kept growing and growing and growing. And I think just within the LGBTQAI family, this community just keeps growing and growing once people this safe space where they could explore and express themselves, I think people kind of gravitated towards that. The more free somebody feels to express themselves, the more people are going to come out of the woodworks. I think that's what happened. It's kind of a snowball effect. And now it's just taken over and everyone's just dressing up and drag. And I think it's kind of fun. It's exciting. You know, it's colorful.

EDGE: Let's talk more about classical music. Are you working on something new?

Thorgy Thor: Well, I'm working on doing snippets from Saint-Saëns' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. However, we are revamping it in a very modernized way. And we're kind of adding a DJ to it to kind of spice it up and make it a little bit more modern, almost to a dance track. So I'm really excited to do that. Because it's always been kind of one of my favorite pieces to listen to. When I was very young I remember listening to some of my violinist idols play this beautiful piece. And I said, "One day, I'll do that." So I'm really excited that I actually get to do that one day.

Thorgy Thor, Bebe Zahara Benet and Alexis Michelle attend the "Being Bebe: The Bebe Zahara Benet Documentary" Premiere at SVA Theater on October 17, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images)
Source: Instagram

EDGE: Can we talk a little bit about your "Drag Race" experiences? First, would you go back on one of the franchises if they asked you?

Thorgy Thor: I get asked this question all the time. How about this? I changed my mind month to month. It's either yes or no; and in the past I've said no, because I just wasn't in the right place. I think people don't understand I did it twice. And it's lots of hard work, spending all of your money, getting all these looks together and just really stressing out about being on television. Because it's a make or break. You know, you could get on there and embarrass yourself. Or you can get on there and you could win and change your whole career. So, you have to be very, very, very prepared and in the right space in your heart and your mind; as well your work ethic and your family and your financials in place. But if they asked me today? I will say probably yes, I go back in a heartbeat probably.

EDGE: Did you watch yourself on the show?

Thorgy Thor: I actually only watched the seasons once because I hate watching myself on television. I hate critiquing myself. I'm such a self-critic. I watch everything one time, and I go, "Alright, fine." Like Season 8. I have only seen my episodes one time. And I thought, "I made it pretty far I did really, really well."

EDGE: Were you given a fair edit?

Thorgy Thor: Some, or rather, many queens like to blame how they came across on the edit, but it was fine with mine. That's pretty much who I am. And when people meet me in person, they usually say to me, "You're exactly the same person you are on television." I never fake who I am. I don't feel like I ever need to do that. I'm already honest enough. And before I got on the show, I had been doing drag for 12 years. I knew who I was. I was very, very comfortable in who I am and what I stand for, and my opinions, and my humor.

So when I got on the show, I was ready to go, you know, and I was exactly who I was. I wasn't learning who I was on television like a lot of the other contestants. So when people meet me, they're always like, "You're exactly the same crazy person in person that you are in the show." "All Stars," however, I would have liked to have lasted a little longer, and it felt very scripted. It just was like full on me. So I kind of just was over it.

EDGE: And you host a very successful "Drag Race" viewing party in Brooklyn?

Thorgy Thor: I do when I'm not traveling and traveling and traveling. Some days I feel I spend most of my life on a plane. But I do a weekly show a viewing party in Brooklyn, which is, I think at this point, the number one most attended and successful and fun viewing party that Brooklyn and New York have, because, you know, there's viewing parties all over the place. This is the best one in the city hands down. So I'm very proud to present that. And when I'm not there, I usually find another "RuPaul's Drag Race" girl to fill in for me. And it's been ongoing for four years, we started right after the pandemic with outdoor venues. And it's great. So I've been watching every single episode when I'm here in Brooklyn.

And we're going to continue throughout "All Stars," but I will be leaving to play with the Boston Pops. And then I come back again. And I always feel it's important to keep working in your hometown, where you're from. You know, I've always been a Brooklyn girl.

For tickets and more information about Pride Night with the Boston Pops starring Thorgy Thor on June 1 at Symphony Hall, Boston, MA., follow this link.

by Robert Nesti , EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor

Robert Nesti can be reached at [email protected].

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