There was a time – before phones, internet and Skype – when long-distance relationships were carried out through handwritten letters.
Many probably don’t miss it.
But you just might pick up that pen again after seeing this year’s production of Longest Night.
This year’s show is a nostalgic look at the letter and a celebration of the stories, humour and intrigue provided by these humble documents.
Daniel Janke is back running the show as director and composer after a brief hiatus.
And Janke knows all about letters.
“I write letters to my mom,” he said.
“She understands letters, unlike some people.”
Janke also fondly remembers receiving letters from a girlfriend who was living in a tropical part of Africa.
“Every time I would open the letter, it would smell of jasmine.”
Justine Davidson will be sharing a selection of letters from various famous personages throughout the show.
None of them, unfortunately, will be written by Janke … or his mother.
Under Janke’s direction there’s going to be a lot more music this year and a little less theatre.
There are also more guests from out of town.
Guitarist Paul Lucas, from Phoenix, and Alaskan Scott Pearce on concertina have joined the Longest Night Ensemble.
Toronto’s internationally acclaimed vocal artist Fides Krucker will be showing off her unique voice.
And Anique Granger, a Montreal-based musician whose recent album was a finalist at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, will be sharing her work as well.
Granger was busy packing for her trip north when the News reached her for an interview on Tuesday.
She was also bringing along a new song to share at the upcoming event.
This song was born out of circumstances that might be familiar to many Yukoners.
It was written in a cabin an hour south of Montreal, which Granger rented for a week to get some time to herself and work on new material.
After just four days alone in the woods, the seclusion got to be a little too much. She broke down and began calling friends and family.
She did, however, succeed in getting a new song written everyday.
“This is the one that seems most ready, so I’m going to test it out,” she said.
“And I have 14 hours on the plane to work on it some more.”
Granger also relates to the event’s theme.
“I definitely have an affinity for letters,” she said.
“I don’t write as many as I used to, but I was a hardcore letter writer for most of my life.”
And between packing and finishing up her yearly batch of handmade Christmas cards, Granger found a book of Quebecois letters from the late 1800s to the 1970s.
She plans to read one or two of these letters during the event.
The Saskatchewan native has lived in Montreal for the past 10 years.
She’s only visited the Yukon once before and only for a single day.
It was during a “super blitz tour” in 2003 that involved playing a show in all 10 provinces and territories, she said.
“It was just enough to make me want to come back.”
Granger was so interested in returning to the Yukon that she asked a friend at l’Association franco-yukonnaise to keep an eye out for any opportunity.
That friend sent Granger word that Longest Night was looking for performers and that got the ball rolling.
In their own secluded cabin in the woods – Daniel Janke’s studio, built out of the wooden remains of an old bowling alley – the Longest Night Ensemble was busy working on their new songs for the show.
Five of the eight musicians have written new material specifically for the show, and the rest of the group have helped fill them in.
It was amazing to hear a simple song recorded by Kyle Cashen turn into a textured ballad, with strummed banjo, concertina, organ and a wide range of inventive percussion.
The addition of the seven male voices singing in unison, a sub group that the ensemble is jokingly referring to as The Working Dogs, is also a nice touch.
Longest Night will take place at the Yukon Arts Centre December 20 and 21 starting at 8 p.m.
Tickets are available at the Arts Underground and Yukon Arts Centre and cost $25 for adults and $20 for child/youth/seniors.
Contact Chris Oke at