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A feast for the senses

By Amy Kenny

If you like ear candy with your eye candy, Loon Returns might be exactly what you’re looking for.

The performance, a partnership between Nakai Theatre and Longest Night Society, offers the opportunity for attendees to “step outside yourself and normal notions,” according to composer Daniel Janke.

“It kind of harkens back to the type of work R. Murray Schafer did, an environmental operetta that’s location-specific,” says Janke of Loon Returns, which takes place on McLean Lake on July 31 and August 1 at 9 pm each night. He says it’s the kind of performance you don’t see very often in Canada, though some Yukoners might recall having seen something similar in the territory.

In 1986, Janke staged Loon Part 1 with a small group of musicians and visual artists. Janke says people still mention it to him today, which was part of the reason for putting together Loon Returns. The other reason was that Longest Night Society wanted to be able to do something COVID-friendly this summer.

Jacob Zimmer, artistic director at Nakai, says that’s one of the reasons Nakai came on as a producer.

“Nakai’s been doing more and more outside recently,” he says, though he admits that, first and foremost, he personally wanted to see a singer floating on a giant loon on McLean Lake (yes, that’s actually one piece of the eye candy component of the performance).

“It was an obvious fit, and a way we could contribute and learn more about what’s possible for a theatre that can only be made here,” Zimmer says.

Janke says the production differs from its 80s-era predecessor in a number of ways. The music is new, first of all. Secondly, members of the Yukon’s Problematic Orchestra will be joined by Rachel Fenlon, a former Vancouver Opera singer who now lives in Berlin, where she’s a soprano and pianist.

Finally, a performance by the Kwanlin Dághàlhaan K’e Dancers will add another dimension to the evening, which features a new composition from Sarah Johnston Smith. It’s a feast for the senses.

“Part of the point is that everyone will take something different from it,” says Janke. “There’s no narrative and no story really. The loon returns every year (to the lake) and we are going to get back to normal. Life will come back to normal somehow.”

Tickets are free, but as there is limited availability, people must register at and bring their own lawn chairs.