Here are some letters and photos from David's trip west.


November 16th

Anchorage, Alaska: On the edge of the northern waters

Anchorage, photo David Francey

Danali rises out of the clouds, off across the water, dominating the landscape for a hundred miles. This is a relatively new city, a port town now given over to the oil exploration industry. Mike McCormick and Katie Spangler had us up to play in the Sidestreet Espresso on the Friday night and to open for Bill Staines on the Sunday. Both concerts proved to be a good time and meeting Bill Staines was a thrill in itself. As it turns out he did many of the songs that I know him for and told an endless string of
wildly humorous stories in between. Talking to Bill before and after the show I was struck by his generosity of spirit and his mastery of life on the road. It gives one hope.

Bill Staines, backstage. DF

Dave and I billeted with Eileen Monaghan, an Irish American Alaskan. I doubt we could have been welcomed or treated better if we were in Ireland itself. I can't thank Eileen enough for all her kindness and everyone we met seemed intent on having us enjoy our time in their state. We spent a wonderful evening of music food and talk at Eileen's, with people from all over who had all ended up by one route or another in Alaska. It is easy to see why they stayed. We were regretting having to leave after only a short while are determined to return next year. Our trip was a joy thanks to the efforts of Mike, Katie, Eileen and George at the Espresso. Again, the people you meet make the trip worthwhile.

View of Alaska from the plane. DF

SS Sicamous: Naramata restoration concert

This show proved an excellent excuse to visit with friends Doug and Pati Mathias at Claybank Lavender farm in Naramata, outside of Penticton.Doug is a member of the band "the Bad Parkers" and they had graciously offered to open for us. I was thrilled to sit in the audience and listen to my songs sung back to me by Doug, Lisa and Jeff. It was a very enjoyable evening in the intimate setting of the ship's dining room. Further renovations have been completed on the Sicamous since I last played there and now the Naramata, a beautiful old tug that once plied the lake is now being brought back to life. I look forward to seeing the progress of the work on our next visit. Pati and Doug once again outdid themselves making us welcome, and our party with the Parkers was far to good a time. Thanks again to you all, from the both of us. Photo of the Naramata and The Bad Parkers by DF

Jasper: In the shadow of the Colin range

We did a concert for Tim Pare from the Jasper Folk Society, at the Downstream Bar on the main drag. Jasper was as it always is, somewhere between surreal and sublime. The weather was beautiful, the mountains stunning and the streets relatively empty due to the passing of summer. We went to sleep at night listening to the eerie calls of the elk that roamed in huge herds up and down the valley. They were everywhere we looked the first day and night, but had miraculously disappeared when I showed up with my camera the next day. Apparently they harbour a general disdain for the paparazzi. Who could blame them? The show itself was great fun for us and we would like to thank Tim and Lisa for their hospitality.

photo DF

Mountain men, David and Dave, somewhere in the Rockies. photos by DC and DF

Edmonton: Under the Northern Lights

David, Bill and Betty Jo Werthman and Dave. photo Lucinda Chodan

It has been almost two years since Geoff Somers and I played the Northern Lights Folk Club in Edmonton on a cold night in January, 2001. The crowd soon warmed us up that night, and we have never forgotten our welcome.

This time round I was accompanied by Dave Clarke. Dave and his wife Lucinda Chodan had already been visiting the province the week before I arrived. The Queen Alexandra Hall was sold out with people were waiting in the hallway to get in for standing room tickets. What a night!

Bill and Betty Jo Werthman did a tremendous job of organizing and promoting the gig. We really enjoyed appearances on both CJSR and CKUA, with Sandy Stift and Andy Donnelly that week. The Werthmans were kind enough to put me up for the week at their house and their daughters, Carly and Katie made excellent tour guides. I owe them all a great deal of thanks.

I have to admit to a growing fondness for the city on the North Saskatchewan River, I felt very at home walking those streets. Folk music provides you with the opportunity to be warmly welcomed and well looked after by great people like the Werthmans and to gain some insight into the workings of another part of the country. It was so good to spend time with friends, so far from home.

Athabasca: at the bend in the river

Abandoned schoolhouse, Grassland. AB photo LC

The prairie land stretches north from Edmonton in a seemingly endless expanse. The vistas are breathtaking in their scope especially between Westlock and Athabasca. When you reach Athabasca however, the river has cut a valley through the country that is wide and treed and very beautiful.

The Heartwood Folk Club is located in a beautiful theatre in that picturesque town and our welcome was wonderful. We talked to many people after the show and I look forward to returning to the area. Every conversation lead to us hearing about another site that must be seen in the area. Peter Opryshko was kind enough to take us on a tour of the surrounding countryside, up to the grassland and beyond. The history is surprising and varied, centering around the time when Athabasca was a terminal point on the Underground Railroad. It will be well worth a return trip and I look forward to it.

Dave, Peter Opryshko, Donna Koziak, Brian, Andrea and David, Grasslands, AB. LC

In Westlock Alberta, we had the great good fortune to find a couple of days refuge over Thanksgiving with Steve and Angela Chodan, Albertans through and through and Dave Clarke's in-laws. The term "salt of the earth" gets tossed around all to easily but if ever it were applicable to anyone it, is to these folks. Kind, intelligent and generous people who opened their home to me. I came away with a strong feeling of having been among the people who made this country what it is, who provide strength, backbone and heart to the land. I felt lucky to be able to share the time with them. A reason for giving thanks indeed.

Steve and Angela Chodan. LC

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