A musical conversation starts in Whitehorse

There's only two reasons people go up North, says Ivan Coyote. Love and money. For Coyote's family - which has four generations planted in the Yukon - it was love.

There’s only two reasons people go up North, says Ivan Coyote.

Love and money.

For Coyote’s family – which has four generations planted in the Yukon – it was love.

“Well it was love first,” the writer and storyteller said, correcting herself with a laugh.

Then it became a way of life.

Since then, there have been many love stories passed down through her family, but there’s one in particular that stands out for Coyote.

At the age of 50, two years divorced, her father received a phone call on his birthday from his high school sweetheart.

He hadn’t talked to her in more than 30 years.

They lost touch when he started working out in a bush camp but they had always had a promise to call each other on their 50th birthdays.

Her father was taken aback.

Not long after receiving the phone call, he jumped in his truck and drove down to Dawson Creek to meet her at the auto parts store she worked at.

He had decided he would drive her away from her abusive husband.

And a year later, they were married.

“I still get goose flesh when I hear that story,” said musician Kim Beggs.

Beggs wrote a song to the story Coyote penned about that experience.

“My father bawled through the whole song when I played it for him,” said Coyote.

Thursday will be the first time Beggs and Coyote perform Maiden Heart at the premiere of Up There, a night of storytelling and music.

And several of Coyote’s relatives will be in the audience to hear it.

The evening features Yellowknife’s Pat Braden, in addition to Beggs and Coyote.

He’s the brainchild behind the event.

Having toughed it out playing music for 25 years in Yellowknife’s bars, Braden was looking to do something a bit different.

He liked the idea of mixing music with storytelling.

Braden stumbled upon that discovery in 2006 when he was invited to perform with other artists at the Yukon Arts Centre.

After his set, Coyote – who also happened to be performing – pulled him aside and told him what a natural storyteller he was.

“That’s when things really resonated with me,” said Braden who has since then released A Place to Call Home and will soon put out Shack Stories.

But these days, the story he’s most commonly asked to talk about while on stage has to do with his Chapman Stick – a narrow 10-stringed instrument that looks like a piece of plywood with a pick-up attached to it.

He knows it looks odd, and enjoys the curious questions he always seems to get about his instrument.

He also likes the way the stick sounds alongside his stories.

“Music gives more colour and paints a texture and landscape (for a story),” said Braden.

Just don’t call it background music.

“It’s not just storytelling with music underneath,” said Coyote.

“It’s a whole conversation between both artists.”

Up There premieres at the Yukon Arts Centre Thursday before touring down south. The show opens at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com