Music Fills the Klondike this Fall

I got back from our September vacation trip just in time to begin to rebuild the calluses on my left hand and get myself ready for the October edition of the monthly Coffee House/Open Mic evening in the Oddfellows Hall ballroom. Much as I would like to travel with a guitar so I can keep my technique from getting rusty and work on new material, it’s not practical, and considering what happened to my suitcase on this return trip, it’s not safe either.

My own offerings of tunes by Gordon Lightfoot, Stan Rogers, and Neil Young were far from the only things on the program that night. We had 14 acts over two-and-a-half hours, and aside from guitarist/singers like myself, we had an elementary school student who is learning guitar, a recorder duo (student and teacher), members of the Robert Service School’s Grade 5 ukulele group, a fiddle duo (with piano accompaniment), two storytellers, a youngster on mandolin who also recited poetry, some electronic percussion and synthesizer improvisation, and some fingerstyle acoustic guitar.

We do this every month, usually on the first weekend of the month, and in the summer, when the weather permits, we take it all down to Front Street and serenade from the Gazebo. The next one’s on November 3.

These sessions are free, but donations and the concession money go to raise for worthy causes, usually musical ones. This last evening was to assist the music program for the Robert Service School’s Grade 5 class. Others have raised money for the Reprise Music Scholarship Fund, which was set up in memory of three recently deceased Dawson musicians (Gord Polichek, Wendy Perry, and Willie Gordon) for the purpose of advancing music and music education in Dawson. It is administered by the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, which is headquartered in the Oddfellows Hall.

That wasn’t the only music during the week, not by a long shot.

The Dawson City Music Festival brought in bluesman Matt Andersen, whose big voice, big guitar skills, and big presence were a big hit with the packed house in the Oddfellows Hall. DCMF Producer Jenna Roebuck hasn’t indicated just what the next act will be, but there will be more before the next festival.

Two nights later, a smaller audience of about 15 gathered at Peter Menzies’ home for a Home Routes House Concert with the duo of Sarah Jane Scouten and Kristen Berkel, who have been touring the territory. They provided a fine evening of vocal harmonies backed up by guitar, banjo, and accordion.

Theirs was the first of six Home Routes gigs that will take place this season. C.R. Avery and Robert Sarazin Blake will be here on November 1, followed by the Crooked Brothers on the November 30. In the New Year, we will see and hear Qristina and Quinn (February 16), the Express Company (March 17), and Scott Cook (April 16).

Outside of this series, Dawson has already had a return visit by Luther Wright and a jazz evening with the Freedman Trio in September, as well as a double performance from the Karl Schwonik Quartet at both the school and the Oddfellows Hall on October 12.

Yukon Women in Music will be in town in November to do a show at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre on a Friday night(date TBA) and hold a song circle the next day. In the same month, honorary Dawsonite Nathan Tinkham will be in town to do a recording project with some local emerging artists over a period of several weeks.

In the meantime KIAC will continue to host piano, guitar, dance, and other musically related courses, and I hear that Ann Moore, the new school principal, is resurrecting the concept of a school choir, which flourished from 1985 to 2010 when my wife led it, but faded away after she retired.

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