I’ve been the opening act at the last two monthly coffee houses. We meet on the first
Saturday of every month in the Odd Fellows Hall ballroom. We’ve been doing these evenings for the better part of a decade. I know because I was still teaching during the first couple of years, and this month marks eight years since I hung up my marking pen.
I’m one of the regulars, along with Peter Menzies, and the shifting membership of the River Bends, a local band. I focus on a lot of singer-songwriter material and favour Canadian performers for my cover tunes.
Other people are more original.
We never know exactly what the lineup will be until the night of the event. Peter focuses on traditional fiddle music these days and often has some of the youngsters he’s working with play a few tunes. Some of the other adults are also giving lessons to kids and may bring them to show off what they’ve learned.
Tiss Clark has been teaching and calling some dance moves at the last couple of events, partly as a way of encouraging folks to come out to the old-time dance events that have occurred a couple of times since September. Nijen Holland and Peter run through the list of folks who have signed the sheet at the back of the room and try to quickly craft a two-hour program with some variety. If it’s a short list, a set might include four tunes, but three is the average. Last time out we had a piece of a Brahms’ piano concerto on the Bechstein grand piano, some original tunes from a local nurse, some solid bluegrass from a banjo and guitar vocal duo, and some ‘80s rock and roll from the River Bends (trio this time, with a couple of members missing).
Dawson City Music Festival songwriter in residence, Khari McLelland of the Sojourners, was a special treat for the evening, contributing several tunes on his ukulele.
Aside from being a lot of fun and giving this old folkie the motivation to keep his fingers in shape and learn new material, these nights are fundraisers for a variety of worthy local causes. The evening’s take may go to the Reprise Music Scholarship Fund, music programs at the Robert Service School, the women’s shelter, among other causes.
Admission is by donation, and attendees are asked to bring goodies to sell at the concession stand, along with coffee, tea, and pop.
The first coffee house of 2015 raised funds to support a family in Dawson that has a child with cancer. The diagnosis and progression of the disease were both sudden and he was whisked off to Vancouver to begin treatments almost immediately. We decided the family might need a bit of help with the travel costs. We knew it was a popular cause, but we were surprised at the total of $910, probably the largest sum a coffee house has ever brought in.