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Whitehorse

The right notes

By Trevor J. Adams

Natalie MacMaster joins Symphony Nova Scotia for a Maritime Fusion concert.

Natalie MacMaster joins Symphony Nova Scotia for a Maritime Fusion concert.

After giving audiences a taste of the new season during Symphony Week last month, Symphony Nova Scotia takes things into top gear with several big concerts throughout the month. Acclaimed Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster joins the orchestra at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on October 3 for the year’s first Maritime Fusion concert. The Grammy-winner always puts on a high-energy show of Maritime roots music—jigs and reels abound. There’s an encore performance on October 4.

Up next is someone special for classical purists: legendary Canadian violinist Martin Beaver (whose resumé includes 11 years as first violinist with the Tokyo String Quartet). Maestro Bernhard Gueller conducts as Beaver joins the Symphony at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on October 16. They’ll perform the Haydn Variations by Brahms, Mendelssohn’s Symphony no. 3 (Scottish) and Max Bruch’s Violin Concert in G minor. They repeat the performance on October 19 at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth, where the Halifax Transit ferry docks.

On October 24, the Symphony returns to the Dalhousie Arts Centre for one of its most popular concerts of the year: the Halifax Pop Explosion collaboration. This year, it shares the stage with Canadian indie darlings Whitehorse. With strong arrangements, brilliant songwriting and intense vocal chemistry, it’s no surprise that the husband-and-wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland were nominated for the prestigious Polaris Prize in 2013. Their distinctive alt-country sound is sure to hit a new level when they team up with the Symphony. A repeat performance is scheduled for October 25.

And these concerts are just a taste of what the Halifax Pop Explosion offers. Running from October 21 to 25, the festival celebrates the best in alt and indie music, with accomplished veterans sharing stages with rising stars. Some 200 bands will perform in 20 venues, in front of 30,000+ fans.

Venues include public spaces like Government House and Saint Matthew’s United Church and traditional nightspots like Casino Nova Scotia, The Carleton, The Marquee Ballroom on Gottingen Street, the Seahorse Tavern on Argyle Street, the Company House on Gottingen Street, Olympic Community Centre on Hunter Street and Reflections Cabaret on Sackville Street.

Lights

Lights

Although performance schedules weren’t set at press time, organizers are already tantalizing fans with an all-star list of performers. Highlights include Calgary’s Astral Swans, Wu-Tang legend Ghostface Killah, singer/songwriter Mo Kenney, Toronto rockers Tokyo Police Club, pop multi-instrumentalist Lights, and many more.

For schedules and ticket information, surf to halifaxpopexplosion.com

Interview with Yukoner Murray Lundberg of the ExploreNorth Blog

Murray on the Haines Road between the Yukon and Alaska

Ever vacation somewhere and wish you never had to leave? Well, Murray Lundberg actually made it happen. In 1990, five years after his first vacation to the Yukon and Alaska, he saw a job for a tour bus driver in Whitehorse and left his Vancouver-area home of forty years to resettle in the Canadian north. (more…)

12 Fabulous Winter Festivals Across Canada

Photo courtesy of Travel Manitoba

Canadians don’t hibernate in winter. Far from it!

We use the season to our advantage with fun-loving festivals from Atlantic Canada to the Yukon packed with wintry pursuits like ice sculpting, skating, and the age-old traditions of chainsaw chucking and beard growing. (more…)

Fleeting Glimpses

Wildlife in Yukon Territory proves elusive

By Andrew Findlay

Autumn comes early in the Tombstones, painting the tundra in jewel colours. Photo by Robert Postma, courtesy Government of Yukon

Mist rolls across a landscape turned crimson by the chill of approaching autumn. It’s the middle of August; fall arrives early in the north. For most of the morning a friend and I have followed a small but elusive herd of woodland caribou through the alpine tundra of Tombstone Territorial Park, about a 90-minute drive north of Dawson City.

The mountains around us, black and brooding obelisks, live up to their ominous name—the Tombstones. Underfoot, there is a thick spongy carpet of mosses and lichens, delicate sieve-cup lichen and fluorescent reindeer lichen. For caribou, lichen is often breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We pause behind a ridge, lowering our bodies close to the ground, and watch. The swish of air through thickets of willow tricks my eye into perceiving the movement. Are those legs or the spindly stalks of willow shrubs?

I came north to see wildlife beneath the expansive skies and the virtually people-less landscape of the Yukon. At 186,272 square miles (482,443 square kilometers) the territory is almost twice the size of the United Kingdom, yet has a population of just 40,000, most in the capital Whitehorse. A similar number of people would be crammed into a single London borough. That’s why the Yukon has a special magnetism for people fatigued by the frantic trappings of modern life, a place to be humbled by landscape so vast that technology and the other distractions of civilization seem inconsequential in comparison.

Up here in the wild Tombstones, life for now has indeed been reduced to a few simple essentials—staying warm and scanning the horizon for animals. The mist rises, lowers, then rises again and suddenly they appear, a half-dozen caribou, black snouts aimed in our direction, their grazing interrupted by the scent of humans carried on the breeze. That is life as prey, constantly alert to clues and signals in the environment; survival depends upon it. Then just as quickly as they appear, the caribou vanish like the ultimate illusionists into the swirling mists of the temperamental mountain weather.

A week earlier I had gone in search of Fannin’s sheep, a Yukon wildlife anomaly, in the Anvil Range above the town of Faro that sits smack in the centre of Yukon. For thousands of years before lead and zinc put this region on the map, Fannin’s sheep ranged the adjacent mountains.

The story of their origins is infinitely complex. Initially scientists considered them to be a distinct sub-species of wild sheep, along with others found in North America—Stone’s and Dall’s, or thinhorn sheep, and the Rocky Mountain, California and desert bighorn sheep. Research has shown that Fannin’s are genetically Dall’s sheep, but with unique dark-colored flanks and mottled white neck that came about through the effects of interbreeding and isolation, before and during the last ice age that ended some 10,000 years ago.

Today more than 2,000 Fannin’s sheep spend their summers in the Anvil Range north of Faro and winters in the lightly snow-covered forests near the Pelly River.
Though I managed to spot a few Fannin’s sheep high on a windy ridge in the Anvil Range, the glimpse was fleeting. Wild sheep are loath to grant predators the advantage of height and I was no match for these creatures of the mountains.

I have more luck with the woodland caribou. The sky has lifted and for the first time I see the razor-cut tops of the Tombstones. As we descend toward the valley bottom we cross a patch of old snow, dimpled with caribou tracks, and then we see them again briefly gathering on a hillock, wary as always. And that is the last trace we see of those animals, swallowed like us by the vastness of the Yukon sky and landscape.