Somewhere in my CD collection there is a photo of the S.S. Klondike holding up two young men in tuxedos and a brunette in a long black dress.
I saw the Peters Drury Trio in Toronto at a showcasing event in 2002. A month later, I placed a call to their agent to enquire about performance rates. These young jazz artists, and their agent mother, quickly became my first link to the far and wild that is the Yukon. I could close my eyes and hear Caroline Drury and Jesse Peters crooning Cole Porter standards by a crackling fire and I was transported. For years, I listened to this album as I drove up and down highways throughout Ontario and imagining how nice it might be to come home to a place equally charmed with sternwheelers as it is with the smell of woodsmoke. I will admit that I began to identify the Yukon as a jazz bar decorated like an old mining saloon…
My first impressions of the land of the midnight sun were largely fuelled by the people I encountered in the Canadian performing arts industry. So much of my notions of the cultural fabric of our country have been shaped by musicians throughout the years. Nova Scotia was always an amalgam of coal mining choirs and alternative rock, the Prairies became a fabric of country and roots music, Quebec to me was a beautiful a cappella group and avant-garde new musicians, and British Columbia was a warm and comfortable folk musician singing about a bar he once performed in. The north was manifested in throat singing and storytelling, but then one day there were these three teenagers on a boat, and the Yukon became all about jazz.
And I have always had such a weak spot for jazz.
I drove past the S.S. Klondike this morning and noticed that the Yukon River is still open. This is of critical importance to me. Newcomers to the Yukon are considered ‘cheechako’ until they have seen the river freeze and thaw twice. Buried in a drawer is a lease agreement with my name on it for my house. It is dated January 1, 2015. I have been here for one year today, and am still awaiting my first freeze up. It seems I will be cheechako a little longer.
Jazz is alive and well in the Yukon, I have not been disappointed. Over the past year, I have discovered that the Yukon truly is ‘So Nice to Come Home To.’ A community of creators has wrapped around me like a scarf and encouraged me to start writing again, so I’ve dusted off my Merriam-Webster and determined to share my experiences from my unique cheechako-mom perspective.
But first, I need to turn up the music and pour myself a glass of wine.
(The Peters Drury Album is called Backbeat, this and their two other albums are available for download on iTunes).