In the blazing sunlight of mid-afternoon, a young man with a fiddle and an older man with a guitar, set down their cases, picked up their instruments and began to play.
“Welcome … Yukon!” Kevin Barr, clutching his guitar, calls out raucously to the gathering crowd of, yes, Yukoners gathering for the inaugural Yukon Day at the 21st Winter Olympic Games.
While the weather seemed more suited for summer than winter, Barr and Boyd Benjamin strummed, plucked and jigged their instruments, coaxing the crowd into a pleasing little dance.
Just outside the Aboriginal Artisan Pavilion at Vancouver Community College, the two performers had set up a seemingly impromptu performance to a happy and receptive crowd.
The smooth interplay of guitar and fiddle, young and old, told us that Barr and Benjamin were no strangers to the spotlight. They duelled musically, a call-and-answer between guitar and fiddle. They danced up to each other and played up the crowd and, within that crowd, they got some fans.
Benjamin called the experience, “exquisite” and partner Barr said it was, “fantastic.”
What they both agree on is the excellent networking experience the Olympics provided them, and a chance to get gigs pretty much everywhere — even as street performers outside in the sun.
“We’re behaving ourselves mostly, playing everywhere — from Grouse Mountain, to Canada’s Northern House and B.C. Place Stadium,” says Barr of his travelling partnership.
Public reception of the folksy duo had been overwhelmingly positive, and crowds got up and jigged right along with the twosome.
They had high expectations of their Olympic experience and hometown supporters helped get them there: “We had great support from everyone back home. They sent texts, phone calls and messages to say we should keep going and enjoy ourselves,” says Benjamin of the generous hometown spirit they received.
As with other Yukon musicians, the opportunity to get out and play to a crowd larger than the population of the Yukon was a massive boost to their career.
“Being with so many people from all over the world, just being able to access that right in Vancouver, is huge for us,” says Barr.
The buzz is big and the folk duo are eating it right up: “It’s been a ride, just being able to perform here,” says Benjamin.
Not only did this opportunity assist their musical career, but taking back lessons learned from the experience was also part of the benefits, relates Barr.
“There’s nothing wrong with exposure, can’t beat it, but we’re also looking forward to giving back to our community with what we’ve learned, share our experiences.”
Benjamin agrees, and adds that without the overwhelming community support, they may not have had such a successful Olympic run.
Kevin Barr and Boyd Benjamin have networked, performed to international audiences, and return to share some Olympic spirit with fellow Yukoners with anticipated performances in Whitehorse in the upcoming months.