Local musicians Keitha Clark and Graeme Poile donated the proceeds from their new EP to Whitehorse’s Community Outreach Van
On St. Patrick’s Day, Keitha Clark and Graeme Poile released their new EP, Now is a Far Country, a collection of original Celtic tunes. The fiddle-based songs were composed mostly in 2020, and recorded live off the floor at Old Crow Recording Studio with audio engineer Bob Hamilton. The goal was to capture the subtle lyricism of an Irish session and combine it with the spaciousness of the northern landscape, as per the EP’s press release.
“Graeme and I both really like playing Celtic music,” Clark told What’s Up Yukon. “This project has also really allowed me to support the community as well.”
The duo decided to centre a charity fundraiser around the release of Now is a Far Country, with donations going to the Blood Ties Four Directions’ Community Outreach Van. The van provides the Yukon’s vulnerable population with goods including warm winter clothing, hygiene products and naloxone kits, as well as services such as harm reduction and overdose prevention education, and even needle disposal and pickup.
The musicians and the staff of Blood Ties Four Directions were blown away by the success of the fundraiser. They raised more than $1,500 the first day, and are now sitting around the $2,000 mark.
“I love all the great work that the Outreach Van does in our community,” said Clark. “It seemed like a really hands-on thing to be able to support.”
Clark hadn’t worked with the Outreach Van before, but because she lives downtown, she would often see it in her neighbourhood, and knew it was an organization she wanted to be able to support in some way. Using her artistry to give back to the community and help people in need was a logical use for her talents. Clark also said the Outreach Van has seen an increase in demand for its services since the pandemic hit.
“They go through and distribute 10,000 pairs of socks and over 1,000 jackets annually,” she said. “All the work they do to distribute harm prevention kits and nursing, and just the social network they provide for people, especially during the pandemic, is really important.”
Clark said she is grateful for the support she and her music has received from the Yukon community, and wants to be able to give it back and pass it on in a meaningful way. After releasing a bigger album last spring, Clark wasn’t expecting to put out another recording project so soon, but she and Poile received some funding from Jazz Yukon that really got the ball rolling, she said. Before settling down in the Yukon, Clark lived in Halifax in her early 20s, and was taken by the east coast’s strong Celtic music scene and artistic culture, since she had been playing Celtic music since her teenage years.
“I just really loved the culture, the music and the energy that comes around an Irish session community and wanted to capture a little piece of that in this project,” she said.
Now, playing this kind of music makes Clark feel nostalgic for her time on the east coast, reminding her of the times she had and the friends she made. She said she is lucky to live in the Yukon now, as it is another place with a strong musical and artistic community.
“We have many great music scenes up in the Yukon,” she said. “We’ve had some really great Irish music sessions up here too.”