Special Sessions

The phrases “a picture is worth a thousand words” and “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it” are taking on new meanings this summer at Arts in the Park.

The annual lunch-time music series in Lepage Park is trying something new this season. Each month it hosts a special panel session of local songwriters, poets, and prose writers who will share original compositions with the crowd.

These three sessions – the Northern, Heritage, and Photography sessions respectively –draw upon the Yukon community and cultural landscape for their inspiration.

“The Northern session took place in June,” producer Steve Slade explains.

“We asked performers to select two pieces originating anywhere within the Circumpolar North that weren’t their own compositions and share them with our audience.”

It was a great success, Slade says.

“Many of the performers have added pieces they performed to their regular repertoire and as a group we were able to showcase a portion of the diverse artistic talents the North has to offer.”

The next event in this season’s line-up, the Heritage session, takes place July 25.

The session, a partnership with the Yukon Heritage and Museums Association, will begin with poets and songwriters taking part in historic walking tours of Whitehorse and producing work based on their experiences.

Slade is eager to hear the results.

“Maybe someone will feel inspired to write about Captain Martin after visiting his house, or about how difficult life was at the turn on the century,” he suggests.

“It will provide the chance for the artists to connect with the roots of our community in a really tangible way.”

The final event in the series, the Photography session, was introduced last year. It will take place on August 8, in the final week of the Arts in the Park season.

Slade invited the Yukon community at large, and several targeted photographers in particular, to submit photographs that told a story.

The community responded with 13 diverse images. These, in turn, were passed on to the writers, who have been asked to create a composition based on the images with no additional information besides what can be gleaned from the photographs themselves.

“It’s a fun exercise to really challenge people to step out of their boxes and write different things,” Slade says. “You never know. Maybe of the dozen songs created a few will transcend the project and be true keepers.”

The plan is for the sessions to become an annual fixture at Arts in the Park.

“It would be wonderful in a few years’ time to put together a compilation of songs from the Heritage Sessions for the Yukon Heritage and Museums Association,” Slade muses.

Slade’s hope is that these sessions will help deepen the cultural mosaic of the community.

“Perhaps 10 years from now there will be a dozen new songs that reflect our Yukon heritage being sung around campfires throughout the territory.”

Amber Church is a writer, artist and climate change researcher who still believes she can change the world.

[email protected].

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