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A remembrance of music past

By Daron Letts
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, January 22, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - There is a musical reunion happening at Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) this weekend.

On Jan. 24, the feature for the Northern Performers Series at NACC brings together songwriters Ted Wesley, Pat Buckna and storyteller Jim Green performers who were prominent in Yellowknife's arts scene 30 years ago.

Storyteller Jim Green and musician Pat Buckna perform at the the Northern pavilion during Expo 86 in Vancouver. Buckna co-ordinated the showcase of Northern music during the Expo, which was the last time he performed with Green. They are on stage at NACC Jan. 24 - photo courtesy of Jim Green

"It was a really exciting time way back then in Yellowknife's musical beginnings," Buckna said. "There weren't that many professional musicians at the time and only a handful of bands, but there was a pretty good little club scene."

Buckna, who left Yellowknife in the mid-1980s and now lives in Port Coquitlam, B.C., used to play at the Float Base, the Rec Hall, the Elks Hall and the Gold Range alongside musicians like John Tees, Norm Glowach and Pat Braden. Braden joins Buckna on stage tomorrow night.

"It's exciting to come back up after all these years," Buckna said. "It's quite an honour for me to still be considered a Northern performer. I still have a strong love of the North and I have a lot of friends in Yellowknife that I look forward to seeing."

Buckna and Green, who now lives in Fort Smith, were the first Northerners to perform on the NACC stage shortly after the venue was constructed. They presented stories and music from their joint album, Flint and Steel.

Back then they released an album on cassette tape. They've re-released Flint and Steel on CD and will again present the stories and songs recorded more than 20 years ago.

Green said the poems and stories he plans to recite include Drum Song, which he describes as "a mandala for the North painted in words."

The second half of tomorrow's concert features Wesley, one of the musicians who helped build Folk on the Rocks more than a quarter century ago. He achieved national notoriety in the 1970s, selling more than 70,000 albums. A regular performer at the Hoist Room, which occupied the space where Surly Bob's now sits, Wesley left the North and his music career after playing FOTR for the last time in 1982. He now lives in Fort McMurray, Alta.

In his Yellowknife days, he used to play with musicians like Tommy Hudson, George Tuccaro, Rick Williams, Gary Tees and John Tees.

"I haven't been doing this for 30 years so I'm rusty," he said.

This will be Wesley's first time playing the NACC stage, although he did play in the Sir John gymnasium many times before the theatre was built.

"I'm kind of nervous and really excited," he said. "It's tickling my fancy."

Tonight the Northern Performers Series at NACC presents soprano Theresa Pamplin, who accompanies singers Shelly Gislason and Susan Shantora and pianist Amy Hendricks as part of the Northern Divas.

Next week Dennis Allen and Randy Sibbeston, Razzmajazz and The Johnnys perform.