The Yukon Association for Community Living (YACL) was abuzz with excited people when I walked in from the frozen weather on Wednesday, December 5. It was my first time at the YACL resource centre located in Whitehorse at the Yukon Inn Plaza, though not my first time experiencing the positive impact of this important organization.
Tonight was a celebration of a brand new CD that was created by a wonderful group of men, most in their 20s, with intellectual disabilities. They call themselves the Minus 40 Majority.
This group of men learns and experiences the world in a way that is different from the way most of us do, but I discovered something that we have in common: the love of music and the mysterious understanding of how it enriches our lives, especially when we share it — which is exactly what Wade Kaye, Chris Lee, Frank Marnoch, Gaetan Michaud, Julien Richard and Sidney Stewart did that night.
It was an unusual CD release party because nobody performed – at least not in the musical sense. Making this CD was the Minus 40 Majority’s first foray into expressing themselves lyrically and musically; performing in public was not part of the deal. Not this record deal. No Siree.
It’s one thing to create unique songs and music, then record them in a secure environment where they have been made to feel safe about sharing their ideas, feelings and creativity, it’s another thing to recreate those songs in front of an audience.
Although there was no “performance,” we still got a show watching Gary Lachance, who acted as executive producer of the CD, press play on the stereo. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. There was plenty of humour that night.
There are seven tracks on the CD, Our Stories, Our Songs, and one-by-one we listened to each song.
Lachance had a very important role here. He fed us with his enthusiasm and regaled us with stories from their Sun Dog retreat, which is where the songs came together and were recorded. In detail, he told us about how each song was created and who was the star of each track.
For six weeks prior to recording the project, the group met every Wednesday with their mentors and worked on songwriting. Artist mentors for the project included Gary Lachance, technical producer Tim Naylor, keyboardist David Sutton, percussionist Dan Dunphy and guitarist Clint Watson. Vicki Wilson was the project coordinator and in fact came up with the whole idea.
There is a wide range of genres on this album. “Faded Love”, a fiddle tune, was performed by Wade Kaye in one take. I heard him a couple days later on CHON FM where he performed the song perfectly over the radio. Kaye is quite the talent; featuring excellent tone in his fiddle playing.
“Sunrise” is a fiddle and drum composition by Wade Kaye and Frank Marnoch. It had a beautiful tension to the music, and I thought to myself that it could be mistaken for a film soundtrack by Yukon composer-and-filmmaker Daniel Janke.
“Horses in the Mist” is a spoken word story by Julien Richard. It was mesmerizing, with a sincere tone that felt like a blanket of snow.
“Drum Song” is the “men in the bush” song. Dave Sutton’s tickle trunk of percussion instruments was dispersed among eleven jamming dudes in the woods, with the record button on. What goes on at Sun Dog stays at Sun Dog, but not everything.
“Wild Horses at Canyon Creek” by Sidney Stewart, is the country song of the bunch, with some yippee-ki-yay’s and ki-yo’s going on. It’s fun and catchy.
Then there is the heartfelt “Friendship Rap” by Chris Lee and Gaetan Michaud. It was moving at the release party to watch the backs of their heads bobbing up and down as the stereo blasted out their tune for us. They were proud.
In fact, all the men were proud. And so they should be. They put their heart and soul into these songs. They took risks. They shared their stories. They are true artists.
Only a handful of CDs were made up — enough to give to each artist, and the media (that’s me). If you want to get a copy CD or learn more about this project, which was sponsored by Lotteries Yukon and Yukon Arts Fund, please contact the Yukon Association for Community Living at the Yukon Inn Plaza on 4th Ave, right next to Wines By Design.