The first time I heard Nicole Edwards’ voice, it drew me down a Yukon College hallway during the 1998 Frostbite Music Festival and into one of the festival’s classroom venues.
There I found Nicole Edwards, new to the Yukon at that point, singing and playing guitar as part of the band The Gathering. Her rich vocal tones and warm stage presence turned me into an instant fan and created a memory I still carry with me today.
Now, Edwards is one of the territory’s best-known musicians. Her latest project is about to give Yukon audiences another opportunity to create a new and beautiful memory of what Edwards can do with music. On October 21st, she will celebrate her two decades in the territory with a fundraiser for Yukon Cares, a volunteer-driven organization that works to resettle and sponsor refugees in the territory.
“I have been saddened and distressed to see so many examples of racism and discrimination in the world today,” said Edwards. “As an artist, sharing my songs is one way I can contribute by spreading a positive message.”
A positive vibe is something Edwards has no shortage of. Despite the fact that she suffers from a chronic health condition called scleroderma – which causes pain and fatigue, and has robbed her of the ability to play guitar – she has found new ways to share her passion for music and live a happy life.
“One of my most effective strategies for a high quality of life is to produce joyful, stimulating creative experiences while collaborating with other artists,” said Edwards. “That’s what this concert will be for me and I hope it will also empower and uplift everyone who participates in the concert as a performer, volunteer or audience member.”
Although the concert will focus on Edwards’ original repertoire, she will share the spotlight with others. Edwards has brought together singers from a variety of choirs and duos to form a small choir.
The group will present a brand new choral arrangement of one of her original songs, Love, Serve and Uplift, which is on Edwards’ most recent album Genre Bender. The choral arrangement was written by another Whitehorse musician, Olivier de Colombel, as part of a mentorship Edwards did with him, funded by an Advanced Artist Award from the Yukon government. “This is my gift to myself,” Edwards said. “It’s long been a dream of mine to hear a choir sing some of my music.”
The concert will also include special performances from several talented, but rarely-heard Whitehorse singers whom Edwards admires: vocalist Rebecca Law and duo Lexi Joinson and Jasmine Sudlow.
“I’m such a fan of these wonderful singers and this concert is a great opportunity to hear them.”
The concert could also be a pivotal moment for Yukon Cares. The organization has already brought one family of Syrian refugees to Whitehorse and has completed fundraising and submitted applications for another family of five, and an individual. “We are continuing to work to bring refugees to a safer place,” said Raquel de Queiroz, Yukon Cares President. “We are almost there to have the 75 per cent of the money needed to put the application in place for another family of five. I am really hoping this concert will get us there.”
That won’t be the end of the fundraising work, though. The first Syrian family came under a federal program, which provided half the money. However, Yukon Cares is acting as a private sponsor this time and needs to raise 100 per cent of the budget.
“We are thrilled that Nicole has offered the generous gift of her amazing talent to the refugee cause,” said de Queiroz. “Nicole is such a talented and beautiful artist, with a message of love and service, which could not be more relevant today.”
The concert takes place Saturday, October 21, at 7:30 p.m. in the sanctuary of the United Church in Whitehorse.
There will be a social gathering held in the church basement from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with refreshments. Tickets include a complimentary dessert and hot beverage. For more information contact Yukon Cares at [email protected], or on their Facebook page.