The Joys of a Good House Concert

Here in Dawson we’re into the second year of working with the Home Routes organization to stage a series of House Concerts. These help to tide us over between music festivals by bringing festival quality acts into town.

They’re called house concerts because, with a few rare exceptions, they take place in peoples’ homes and involve audiences of between 25-40 people, depending on the size of the venue.

Dawson’s not the only community doing these. The acts we see here have been on a Yukon circuit, something recent visitor Teresa Doyle called her “personal Yukon Quest”.

They have performed over roughly a two-week gig in such communities as Atlin, various parts of Whitehorse, Haines Junction, Carmacks, Teslin and Mayo.

Unless they have also managed a trip to Old Crow, Dawson is often the last spot on their itinerary.

On the Home Routes website they talk about setting up tours that see artists getting out of large industrial spaces and into “the comfortable intimacy of private homes and other non-traditional spaces”.

It’s probably a bit of an exaggeration to say that the visiting artists are “delivering the same show in your living room that they would present on the Main Stage of a folk festival or a concert hall”.

Really, it’s a lot more intimate than that. Set list arrangements are pared down to what they can perform on their own, without the luxury of session musicians and digital mixing.

The feeling behind the songs comes through in a way that often seems to be to be clearer than what emerges from the recording studio.

Dawson’s not content just to stick with the Home Routes’ package, and so our local organizers (Peter Menzies and Karen Dubois) have seen fit to encourage any visiting performers to have a go at this format.

So far this year we’ve heard from Yukoner Kim Beggs, who was the first performer in the eight events that are lined up between now and April.

Kent Fiddy and David Sinclair were next, with their country tinged version of what marketers are calling roots/folk music this year.

They were followed quite quickly by Charlie A’Court, a Maritimer who has what the press is calling a “modern blues style”.

In early November we had the return of Teresa Doyle, a PEI performer who lived here for a few years in the late 1970s and early ’80s and once graced the stages at the Dawson City Music Festival and Faro’s Farrago.

Her live style is an example of what I mentioned earlier: far folksier than the jazz flavoured work on her latest CD, Late Night Parlour. Not better or worse, just different.

On December 7 we’ll be hearing from Adam Iredale-Gray and Taylor Ashton, the founding members of a larger group called Fish and Bird. Then we’ll have a hiatus, filled by at least one coffee house, before we hear from Del Barber, who accompanies himself on guitar, harmonica, banjo and mandolin.

After his performance on February 16, it’s about a month between shows by Irish-Canadian songstress Mary Murphy and then the brother and sister duo of Zav RT and Daniel Huscroft, a fiddle and guitar/vocal combo.

Aside from the music, these evenings are fine gatherings of like-minded musical spirits who can enjoy a good house party, along with pot-luck munchies and whatever liquid refreshment one may chose to bring.

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