Harold Routledge did not remember that he had built this fiddle with his own hands; but the tunes, and the skill to play it, were memories that had not yet been robbed by Alzheimer’s.
“There is something about music that it is so deeply ingrained to memories from a long time ago,” says Keitha Clark, who was there to witness the moment. “It is one of the last things to go.”
She had come to Copper Ridge Place in the winter of 2012 to play for Routledge. His wife, Maureen, who was residing at Macaulay Lodge at the time, had loaned Clark one of his fiddles to play for her husband.
“Harold’s fiddle just came alive,” says Clark of her own performance. “I’m not big into all of that, but Harold’s fiddle just came alive and it kind of had a special sound. “And when I took the fiddle back to Macaulay Lodge, the wood kind of came alive, too, and it knew it was being played for Maureen.
“Harold’s spirit was in there, somehow, and the timber of the instrument changed.” After Harold died the next fall, Clark put a call out to the Yukon’s strong fiddling community to record a live performance of his music.
“It spurred me into action to preserve his memory and celebrate his fiddle making and to pass it on when he couldn’t do it anymore,” says Clark.
“It’s a living tradition.”
Funding would be key, so she first approached Ken Mason, the Mic Mac Toyota dealer, who had played for the residents of Macaulay Lodge for many years. His company contributed half of the cost of engineering, mixing, and duplication.
Then she talked to Steve Slade, who arranged for the finale of Arts In The Park to be a fundraiser for the project.
Grant Simpson and Rob Bergman, both musicians who have played at Macaulay Lodge for many years, donated their talents.
Clark picked out Routledge’s favourite fiddle tunes, including two he had written himself, and the set was recorded in one night at the usual Thursday gig at Macaulay Lodge.
“The recording took place right beside the cafeteria so sometimes you’d be hearing the utensils being put away,” says Clark today. “And it is the way we wanted it … we wanted a live recording and to catch the spirit of what we were trying to do.”
The recording picks up the applause and possibly some shuffling of feet as residents dance a two-step to the music.
One of Clark’s music students, Abby Cruikshank, accompanies a vintage recording of Routledge by adding the harmony to his melody. The song is “Black and White Pussy Cat”. Only 100 CDs have been made and they will be sold for $10 at the Rendezvous Fiddle Shows.
Why so few?
“When they are gone, they are gone,” says Clark. “That’s what makes it special.”
She explains that a live performance is special for the exact same reason. All of the proceeds from the sales of Memories For Harold will go to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada.
There is a fiddle show on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and another at 7 p.m. Both are at the Yukon Arts Centre.
Tickets are available at Arts Underground, the Yukon Arts Centre Box Office and www.yukontickets.com.