The Bennett Sun gets back to their roots

Whitehorse roots/folk quintet The Bennett Sun got its start thanks to a set of forgotten tent poles. Dana Jennejohn, a guitarist, was already ensconced at the annual bluegrass music camp in Kluane country.

Whitehorse roots/folk quintet The Bennett Sun got its start thanks to a set of forgotten tent poles.

Dana Jennejohn, a guitarist, was already ensconced at the annual bluegrass music camp in Kluane country in the summer of 2010 when she realized she’d forgotten her poles. She wound up crashing in the camper of an acquaintance, a stand-up bass player named Erin McKnight.

From the camp, Jennejohn and McKnight then headed to the nearby Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival, in Haines Junction, together.

Jennejohn had already been playing music and singing with her friend Lisa Christensen, who played the banjo, since soon after her arrival in the Yukon in 2002. After bluegrass camp, McKnight began joining the pair for their practice sessions.

A year later they added Roslyn Wilson on the mandolin. She was followed by Kyla Johnson, a fiddle player.

The group won the amateur stage at the bluegrass festival in 2012, and returned to play the festival in 2013.

When Johnson headed south to attend veterinary school that fall, fiddler Dorothy Williams stepped in.

Now, five years after the band members found each other, they’re heading to the Junction this weekend for an album release concert – a triumphant homecoming, of sorts.

Though their music ranges beyond the bluegrass sound, into folk, roots, and beyond, the group’s method of creating a song is straight out of the collaborative bluegrass tradition. Jennejohn is the main songwriter, but everyone has a hand in each piece they produce.

“Usually what I write is the lyrics and the structure of the song,” she says. “But that’s where we are drawing on bluegrass tradition. I’m not coming with composed music written on a page.” Instead she brings ideas, themes, and snippets of sound to the group, and they riff on it from there.

Sometimes a song falls flat, she says. But “sometimes you can just hear the potential.”

Wilson and Williams are both music teachers. “That adds a really nice element,” Jennejohn says. “I’ll write a song and I’ll have no idea what chord I’m playing.” Wilson will be able to put a name to it.

The band is built on the way its members’ personalities gel together, and also on their mutual admiration for each other’s skills and creativity. “We really enjoy listening to each other.” Sometimes, Jennejohn says with a laugh, the band members lose track of their own parts in a song, because they’re so intent on a bandmate’s singing or playing.

In the early going, the quintet took turns hosting and cooking a weekly meal for the group, a combined dinner party plus practice session. These days everyone has less time to spare – among other things, band members have given birth to a total of three children since they began playing together – but they still manage a weekly practice.

Jennejohn is aware that an all-female band can face some challenges that male musicians wouldn’t necessarily encounter in the same way – like, for instance, trying to keep up with band practice while nursing a newborn.

“If somebody has just had a baby, we’ll go to her place,” Jennejohn says. She remembers taking a headcount one year at the bluegrass festival, noting that of all the performers, 55 were men and just seven were women. “It really struck me.”

The album, which is self-titled, was produced at Jim Holland’s Green Needle Records. The Yukon Film and Sound Commission helped out with some funding, and the rest the band paid out of pocket. It’s been available since December, and has sold enough copies that the band members will get their money back.

“We’re going to break even!” Jennejohn says, laughing. “Which is what we wanted to do.”

The concert in the Junction will be the album’s official launch party. “We wanted to do a proper CD release,” says Jennejohn, “and it seemed fitting to go back to the Junction where it all started.”

The Bennett Sun CD release concert will take place Saturday night at the St. Elias Convention Centre Grand Hall in Haines Junction. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, and children under 12 will be admitted for free. (Minors must be accompanied by an adult.) You can buy tickets at the door or arrange for advance purchase by emailing Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. Hanley announced three more COVID-19 cases in a release on Nov. 21. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three more COVID-19 cases, new exposure notice announced

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, announced three… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: COVID-19 strikes another blow at high-school students

They don’t show up very often in COVID-19 case statistics, but they… Continue reading

The Cornerstone housing project under construction at the end of Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. Community Services Minister John Streicker said he will consult with the Yukon Contractors Association after concerns were raised in the legislature about COVID-19 isolation procedures for Outside workers at the site. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Concerns raised about alternate self-isolation plans for construction

Minister Streicker said going forward, official safety plans should be shared across a worksite

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, pictured at a press conference in October, announced three new cases of COVID-19 on Nov. 20 as well as a new public exposure notice. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New COVID-19 cases, public exposure notice announced

The new cases have all been linked to previous cases

Chief Superintendent Scott Sheppard of the Yukon RCMP speaks to media in Whitehorse on Nov. 19, about Project MUSKRAT which has been ongoing since December 2017. Yukon RCMP have charged five Whitehorse individuals and seized $450,000 in cash along with drugs, prohibited weapons and stolen goods after acting Nov. 4 on search warrants obtained during the three-year-long investigation. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Yukon RCMP seize $450,000 and stolen goods in Whitehorse drug bust

Five individuals have been arrested and released on conditions.

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Megan Waterman, director of the Lastraw Ranch, is using remediated placer mine land in the Dawson area to raise local meat in a new initiative undertaken with the Yukon government’s agriculture branch. (Submitted)
Dawson-area farm using placer miner partnership to raise pigs on leased land

“Who in their right mind is going to do agriculture at a mining claim? But this made sense.”

Riverdale residents can learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s plan to FireSmart a total of 24 hectares in the area of Chadburn Lake Road and south of the Hidden Lakes trail at a meeting on Nov. 26. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Meeting will focus on FireSmart plans

Riverdale residents will learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s FireSmarting… Continue reading

The City of Whitehorse is planning to borrow $10 million to help pay for the construction of the operations building (pictured), a move that has one concillor questioning why they don’t just use reserve funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Councillor questions borrowing plan

City of Whitehorse would borrow $10 million for operations building

Most Read