Corral a bunch of professional musicians, jam them into a show with amateurs and you get True Stories.
At least that’s the plan.
For the fourth year running, the Longest Night ensemble has emerged from its summer hibernation to spearhead True Stories, the society’s off-season collaboration with youth.
“It’s a way of saying, ‘I like what you’re doing, I think you have really good ideas, so we’re going to bring you into the family,’” said director Dave Haddock.
The Longest Night ensemble was last seen performing 10-minute-plus jam-rock sessions on the Yukon Arts Centre stage.
For True Stories, they’ve been compressed into a four-person “core.”
It’s a “foundation” that allows 1990s-born performers to amplify their performance endeavours, said musical director Jordy Walker.
Students from the Wood St. School’s Music, Art and Drama Program (MAD) form the bulk of the performer base, but are joined by community members ushered onto the roster by Haddock.
Northern Lights School of Dance will drop in to pepper the show with high-energy dance breaks.
“They’ve got their act together in so many ways that it just comes together naturally,” said Walker.
Kids are so motivated, in fact, that being musical director doesn’t really take a lot of work, he said.
The show’s informal style is a hit with its young participants.
“We’re not really teachers, so we just provide the opportunity to teach by example; ‘here’s your band, do your thing, we’ll support you,’” said Haddock.
True Stories began four years ago with the aim of being a non-classroom learning environment where students curious about the arts could rub elbows with professionals, said Brian Fidler, former Longest Night artistic director and True Stories founder.
Fidler was a frequent collaborator with the MAD program, and the promise of a coming performance helped hone the skills of his amateur troupe.
While Fidler crafted pieces one-on-one with students, music students were ushered under the wings of seasoned musical veterans.
True Stories originally ran in November—ending only a few days before Longest Night went into full-scale rehearsals.
As a first-time Longest Night director, Fidler used True Stories as a directorial “testing ground.”
“I wanted to get to know the musicians and how they worked together, and I also wanted to have some overlap,” said Fidler.
The show sharpened Fidler’s command of the Longest Night ensemble, but it also set in motion the creative initiative needed to compile the late-December event.
Some of the music conceived for True Stories eventually germinated into full-fledged features of the Longest Night performance.
“There was always the hope that we would develop a piece in True Stories that could be used in Longest Night with young performers,” said Fidler.
The True Stories moniker stemmed from an initial feature of “raw, honest” stories told by the show’s young performers.
“Plus, I’m also a big fan of the Talking Heads,” quipped Fidler, citing the Talking Head’s 1986 soundtrack album of the same name.
The Haddock-directed True Stories moves away from a theatrical motif, opting for a more music-centric performance.
All music performed at True Stories is original. Either written by youth performers or developed in tandem with Longest Night veterans. The MAD students will debut a piece developed after weeks of workshops with Haddock.
The performance has taken on a bit of a “moody hip-hop” flavour, owing mainly to three of the genre’s local greenhorns being added to the setlist.
A motley set design dusts the stage with an attempted “graphic novel” feel.
The band is lit by a two-dimensional streetlight, fittingly joined by a two dimensional dumpster.
Cartoony buildings line the back of the stage, and performers are flanked by a brick wall fitted with a looming raven.
Working with bright-eyed youth is a fresh, apolitical change for the Longest Night quartet.
“It’s unpretentious, it’s not like they’re trying to prove anything; there’s a sort of exuberance,” said drummer Lonnie Powell.
“It reminds me why I got into it in the first place,” said keyboardist Andrea McColeman.
Collaborating with musical peers—rather than musical proteges—takes a bit more sensitivity, said Haddock.
In a professional setting, musicians must navigate the delicate boundaries of the musical requirements of themselves and their bandmates.
“The younger folks don’t have quite as much conditioning,” said Haddock.
True Stories is also been a keen time for Whitehorse’s performing arts nobility to keep tabs on the next generation.
“It’s a good opportunity for professionals to reach out to the community and see what’s coming up,” said Haddock.
One act combines beatboxing with a vocal melody line—an innovation never before seen by McColeman.
It’s a good chance to see what “the kids are up to,” she said.
You can catch the show on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Wood Street Centre.
Contact Tristin Hopper at