A fresh longest night

In an interview, two weeks before Longest Night 2009, director Daniel Janke said the evening was still a mystery to him.

“I’ve been writing new material – we are all writing new material – so there is not much that anyone has ever heard before,” he says.

“And that’s a nice, fresh energy.”

Celebrating the winter solstice, each year, Yukon entertainers and guests take to the Yukon Arts Centre stage to ensure the longest night is a magical one.

Returning is the Longest Night Ensemble of Dave Haddock, Ryan McNally, Kyle Cashen, Graeme Peters and Janke.

They will be joined by Paul Lucas on guitar. The resident of Phoenix, Arizona, is a part-time resident of Atlin, BC.

Scott Pearce, from Whitehorse and Alaska, will be playing the English concertina.

And local percussionist, Andrea McColeman, will be playing the marimba.

This year, Janke introduces his new seven-member vocal group, The Working Dogs.

“The show is simpler this year,” says Janke. “There is a lot of music.

“And that’s why we have three strong performers bringing their literary readings.”

The theme is “Letters”, as in that personal way of keeping touch with loved ones from a distance.

“It’s just an idea I had,” says Janke of this year’s theme. “There’s always something funny – humorous – about the notion of long-distance relationships, in a bittersweet kind of way.

“Long-distance relationships, nurtured through letters, hold a certain nostalgia in a world of instant communication.

“It is rife with humour and intrigue.”

These “strong performers” begin with Fides Krucker, who has been studying the letters of Napoleon Bonaparte.

“While he was off slaughtering people, he was writing these letters,” says Janke.

Krucker is a contemporary vocalist who will be remembered from her production of CP Salon at Whitehorse’s Pivot Festival this past January.

Anique Granger, a singer from Montréal whose recent album was a finalist at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, has been looking at letters from Édith Piaf, the French singer and cultural icon around the time of the Second World War.

Then there is Justine Davidson, an actress and reporter with the Whitehorse Star.

“She’s interesting because she’s both a journalist and an actress and she’s been enjoying the research,” says Janke.

“She may be taking a more-creative approach. She’s looking at letters from Hunter S. Thompson [the king of Gonzo Journalism and author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas] and she may write some responses of her own.

“People are interested in letters, especially of famous people. It makes them real.

“These are letters wrapped around historical people and historical events.”

Janke says, for instance, that many people have read personal letters from soldiers at the front. They may not know the soldier, but they know the circumstances.

Has Janke ever been involved in a letter-fuelled long-distance relationship?

“I’ve had them,” he says after a pause, “but there’s not a lot of personal experience in this.”

Will there be local letters?

“There may be some local letters,” says Janke, trying to guess what Davidson might come up with. “I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff.”

Longest Night 2009 will be presented Sunday and Monday, Dec. 20 and 21, at 8 p.m., at the Yukon Arts Centre. Tickets are available at the YAC Box Office, Arts Underground and www.yukontickets.com.

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