Why settle for karaoke night in a bar when you can parade your singing talent at the Yukon Arts Centre?
“I think people miss singing in their lives, or miss music in their lives,” claims Whitehorse composer and filmmaker Daniel Janke.
“It can just slip away if you don’t make the effort to get involved with it.”
Janke hopes to change that on the eve of winter solstice, by encouraging audience members to sing along with some of Yukon’s finest singer-songwriters at a concert billed as The Longest Night Ensemble Rides Again.
“It’s probably going to be quite healing. People will go away humming; that’s what I hope,” he says.
Originally planned as a night of duets featuring Janke and Toronto singer Mary Margaret O’Hara, the December 20 concert needed a shift in focus after O’Hara had to cancel.
“I’ve worked with her before and I was looking forward to that, but she hasn’t been well, so that didn’t work out.”
With the YAC booking already in hand, Janke turned to several members of the group that had provided the musical backbone for The Longest Night, an eclectic evening of performance, first presented in 1995 .
Janke stresses the upcoming concert is not a reboot of the elaborate variety-style solstice show that ran annually until 2010.
Instead, it will be all music all the time.
“I’m pulling together the ensemble and a bunch of locally-based singers, and we’re just going to have a lot of fun.” he says.
Besides Janke, the six-piece ensemble will include long-time members Andrea McColeman and Ken Searcy, and more recent additions Paul Bergman, Darcy McCord , and Heidi O’Connor-Brook.
They will perform “some of the bigger pieces” from the Longest Night archives and the 1999 compilation CD, not too DARK, now out of print, but which can be found on iTunes.
“And then most of the show is focused on singing.”
To round out the roster, Janke recruited four guest singer-songwriters, including veteran Dave Haddock, a frequent collaborator of Janke’s who has been living in British Columbia for the past year.
Jazz vocalist Fawn Fritzen will doing something different this time out, Janke says.
“She’s doing some of her own songs, and not in a jazz vein. She’s a wonderful singer, first of all, but she’s also very focused on career. I could learn a lot from her,” he laughs.
While Whitehorse native Declan O’Donovan has strong family ties in the community and has been developing a major profile as a piano player-songwriter, the fourth guest singer, Calla Polenczny, is not yet as well-known here.
“She’s great. She’s very new to the territory, and she’s got a beautiful voice,” Janke says.
As organizer, Janke says he chose guests who could bring “kind of their own identity in voice” to the stage.
“I’ve been trying to put together what I think will be just a really nice, warm — but not schmaltzy — show,” he says.
“I think it will be quite memorable, with a lot of really powerful voices. It’s going to be a really great evening of singing.”
And if Janke gets his way, not all of that singing will be coming from the stage.
“We’re going to put some lyric sheets in the program, and there’s going to be some sing-along, too,” he says.
On the question of whether this year’s concert might herald a return of The Longest Night in future, Janke is non-committal.
“It’s sort of a magical night to play. It’s always easy to get people interested, even though it’s a busy time of year. But right now there are no plans.”
The Longest Night Ensemble Rides Again takes place at the Yukon Arts Centre on Saturday, December 20, beginning at 8:00 p.m.
Tickets are $33 for adults, $28 for seniors, and $17 for seniors and students. A teen access pass is $10.