I came all the way from Wolfville, Nova Scotia to Dawson City, Yukon, travelled the 7,392 kilometers to hear the extraordinary music of Beòlach, a multi-talented group performing the magic of Cape Breton music. I didn’t come all that way just for the music, but had that been the reason, it would have been well worth the trip. I think it’s rather comical that I came from Nova Scotia to hear Cape Breton Music in the Yukon Territories. “That’s ironic,” a few people said to me at the concert last night. I was wearing my Nova Scotia sweatshirt, just because.
The line-up of performers had a deep pedigree: Mairi Rankin on fiddle, yes, of that Rankin Family lineage; Wendy MacIsaac, the other fiddling genius, cousin of Ashley MacIsaac; Mac Morin, quite possibly the best piano player I’ve heard since Gord Mackintosh played the piano at my house when we were in high school; and Mattie Foulds playing bagpipes, guitar, and various whistles. Beòlach is the Gaelic word for lively youth, and lively they were.
To say the music was uplifting, energizing, smile-creating, joyful, would be understating it. There was not a soul in attendance that was not tapping a foot or hand or bouncing in their seat, with smiles across the board. Little children were up dancing. In fact, during the encore, Wendy MacIsaac had a large group from the audience up performing a square dance, teaching them as she went. The whole evening was beyond wonderful.
In no small way, this was made possible by the help of Peter Menzies, a musician and teacher who came to Dawson in 1981, digging in and finding any and every way possible to help grow music locally and provide opportunities for residents to enjoy, celebrate and learn music, “to provide an inclusive place for music,” Peter says. He is especially keen to pass on the torch of fiddle music to the youngsters here, creating the North Klondyke Highway Music Society and rebuilding the fiddle tradition here in Dawson. “We all become part of the framework to achieve the restoration of fiddle music appreciation and skill,” explained Peter during intermission. Residents come out and support the events that bring the professionals to Dawson and in buying a ticket we are encouraging the very rebirth of fiddle music that once was a music staple here in the Yukon.
THE NORTH KLONDIKE HIGHWAY MUSIC SOCIETY
Music connect us, no matter the genre and it provides for a healthy community. Fiddle music has “inspired Canadians to dance for over 400 years,” said The Fiddleheads in The Fiddle History of Canada presented to Yukon residents in April of 2017.
The highlight of the evening for me was the final encore. Mac Morin’s brother and family live here in Dawson. Mac’s little nephew climbed up on Mac’s knee at the piano and placing his hands overtop those of his uncle, the little boy played along with a look of sheer bliss on his face. He won’t be forgetting that anytime soon and who knows, it may very well have been that moment that will inspire him to play the piano when he grows up.
If you ever get a chance to hear the music of Beòlach, grab it!