Teresa Doyle reports from Klondike country
by Teresa Doyle
Sitting here, pre-show in my old local, the infamous Snake Pit bar, Westminster Hotel, Dawson City, the patrons are abuzz with the latest discovery—a dozen coffins filled with people executed at the Gallows during the gold rush days. The remains are perfectly preserved in this cold dry climate and closely guarded, their teeth are full of gold. It’s just another day in Dawson City—except for me, it’s 25 years since I’ve lived here. I’ve traveled far and wide since then, and still, Dawson remains the most colourful place I’ve ever been.
This is the final stop on my Home Routes Yukon tour. Tonight’s show is sold out, so we added an impromptu happy hour show here at my old local. Lots of familiar faces, five of us who worked on The White Pass and Yukon Route railroad in 1975. There are lots of tears when I sing my song for dearly departed rogue Ronnie MacPhee, Maritime fisherman and gold prospector.
This tour has been stellar start to finish. Two weeks of full on sun, music, food, friends, wild life, mountain roads. I spent eight summers and a winter here as a young adult. Every curve in the road brought back memories.
Home Routes is not for the faint of heart—twelve shows in two weeks, breaking camp every day, 3,500 kilometers, lots of wild life—moose, caribou, coyotes, foxes. It was my favorite tour ever! Playing with harmonica master George McConkey in Dawson brought me full circle. George played with me at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1980, my first big break after singing at the The Farrago Folk Festival where Home Routes founder/director, Mitch Podolak heard me and hired me for the Winnipeg gig, literally setting me on my life long journey in music.
Overall highlights? Sharing the stage with Mayo Native elder Jimmy Johnny; visiting the tiny cabin of First Nation’s elder, Joe Jack’s grandmother. On this visit, Joe Jack told me stories about his grandmother, her life as a medicine woman. And then there is the food and the music: feasting on smoked salmon, moose stew and other Yukon delicacies; all the wonderful Yukon musicians I shared the stage with; and meeting extra-ordinary people willing to open their homes and hearts to bring live music to their isolated communities. They loved my eclectic mix of Gaelic, swing, Celtic, Latin and country tunes.
I’m so grateful to Mitch for bringing me back to the Yukon and a treasured time in my past, I can’t wait to go back!