“It’s really subjective.” That’s how Daniel Janke describes this year’s theme for the Problematic Orchestra. On the longest night of the year, Yukon’s very own chamber orchestra will take the stage at the Yukon Arts Centre for a musical exploration of the theme “Canadiana.”

For director Janke, who grew up listening to bands like April Wine, A Foot in Coldwater, Major Hoople’s Boarding House Band and, later, the likes of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, “Canadiana” might just equate to southern Ontario. However; the night will include compositions from British Columbia-based composers John Oliver and David Archer; a composition called “Ice Forms” by Katrina Gimon (which Janke calls a “beautiful, sonic piece”); and a collaboration with Kwanlin Dághàlhaan K’e Dancers described as “epic.”

The evening will also be dominated by local musicians and composers. Seasoned musician Keitha Clark will play for the first time with the Problematic Orchestra and has written her own piece, an adaption of a well-known fiddle tune by the famous Metis musician John Arcand. 

Clark’s take on the theme includes this ode to the region of her birth in Saskatchewan. Clark uses the piece to segue into the story of Big Bear—a Cree chief—who refused to sign treaty, believing the agreements to be unbeneficial to his people. Big Bear subsequently faced much hardship and, as he had predicted, his eventual signature on Treaty 6 proved not viable to his nation.

“My family farmed part of this treaty land, where Big Bear and his people are from,” she said. “I view my piece as adding another voice to the conversation on what it means to be Canadian.”

For Clark, the theme “is a musical dialogue to get us thinking about the music that comes from Canada, it wants us to engage, not just intellectually, but through what music does best, with our emotions,” she said.

“We are very lucky for a community of this size to have an orchestra to both play and write for and, as a community, to have a chamber orchestra in the North,” Clark said.

Joan Stanton, producer of Problematic Orchestra, echoed that sentiment. “We have our very own chamber orchestra, with a very accomplished group of musicians. I would encourage people to come out and experience it! The range of Canadian music we are going to hear at the concert, is something to look forward to,” she said.

When probed about what “surprise arrangements” of Canadian classics to expect, director Janke said “then it would not be a surprise!”

“Again, everyone has a different idea of Canada, even different generations, we tried to touch on ideas that were enduring. I might have mentioned Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, but also within the theme, we will explore the cultural fabric and the land as part of the country,” he said.

The Problematic Orchestra will play at the Yukon Art Centre Mainstage Friday Dec. 20 and Saturday Dec. 21. 

Ring in the Holidays with Song