Whitehorse-based violinist Keitha Clark has released a new album to both raise awareness about watersheds and support international front-line medical workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kate Weekes/Submitted)

Local musician releases charity album for digital download

The album is a tribute to the Beaver River watershed and front-line health-care workers

A Whitehorse-based violinist has released a new album to both raise awareness about watersheds and support international front-line medical workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keitha Clark has been putting this album together for the last couple of months. It is full of songs that are inspired by Yukon landscapes.

The Watershed: a COVID-19 Fundraising Album, was released on April 23.

Her original goal when she first conceived this project was to raise awareness of the Beaver River watershed near Keno, a place Clark called beautiful.

She said there are mining roads proposed for the area, and worries the beauty could be lost as a result.

“I just wanted to raise awareness about how beautiful it was,” she said.

She said it is important to consider that with a mining road there could be an increase in mining development in the area and she wants that to be on people’s radar at the land-lease stage of development.

Clark said she wants Yukoners to have a voice on this issue.

She wants people to know how important the watershed is as a habitat for grizzly bears, moose, wolves, trumpeter swans, salmon, river otters and other animals.

Planned for a spring release, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and she had not yet completed all the recordings for the album.

Inspired by the hard work and sacrifice of the front line medical workers, she felt the need to somehow incorporate this into the project.

With that in mind, she decided to broaden the focus of the album. It would turn out to be not only an awareness campaign for the Beaver River watershed, but also a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders Canada.

She wants to help bring medical relief to more vulnerable communities in the world who are also suffering during the pandemic.

Clark chose Doctors Without Borders because she wanted to help frontline workers and support an international medical effort to combat the virus.

As for being inspired by Yukon landscapes, she said she spent some time in various places in the territory including the Kluane Lake area.

Regarding the watershed itself, she has not seen it in person. She used videos and information given to her by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society to experience it. She felt inspired to write music based on what she was shown.

“I think that the thing about the Yukon is that you can have a huge beautiful wilderness area like the watershed … and a lot of us are not aware of it,” she said.

The album itself is comprised of nine tracks.

She said this album is different than any other project she has worked on. It has more of a fiddle groove than her previous work.

Clark worked with Toronto-based jazz pianist Andy Slade and saxophonists Olivier de Colombel and Jeremiah McDade, who also played the whistle. She explained that while the music has a fiddle groove, there are innovative jazz harmonies as well. Bob Hamilton produced the album at the Old Crow Recording Studios.

She described it as the heart of a fiddle album but with some jazz arrangements, textures and harmonies.

“I’m hoping people will enjoy exploring the intersection between jazz and fiddling like I did for this album,” Clark said.

She said it was an honour to work the McDade, de Colombel, Slade and Hamilton. She is happy with all the support the album has received thus far.

Clark first started playing the violin when she was a teenager. She would go to dances in small town Saskatchewan where she grew up, and that’s where she was exposed to the instrument and the fiddle playing style.

She said fiddle contests were popular at that time and there were other kids her age playing in these contests. She admired them and wanted to participate.

“That planted the seed,” she said.

She liked the idea of connecting to the community through music. To Clark, community could mean both people and landscape. The ability to connect to something beyond herself is what drew her to music.

“It’s definitely stayed with me for most of my music career,” she said.

The Watershed: a COVID-19 Fundraising Album is only available through digital download, due to logistical problems trying to make available a CD copy for sale during a pandemic would be challenging. The difficulty stems from being able to get the CDs available for distribution in a timely matter.

Anyone wanting to purchase the album can do so through Clark’s Indiegogo campaign. All the money raised through this campaign will go towards Doctors without Borders.

The album is $10 and is available until the May 21.

To download the album visit https://indiegogo.com/projects/the-watershed-a-covid-19-fundraising-album/

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

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