It happened on the deck of the M/V Malaspina of the Alaska Marine Highway system. This off-season run from Skagway southbound was jam-packed with a colourful gathering of travellers and musicians escaping the long Yukon winter. Everybody was craving a glimpse of coastal green after half a year of snow and sub-zero temperatures.
There was no quiet place on this ferry. People in down jackets and wool hats were jamming with their guitars, bongos, flutes, and voices.
The ship was travelling down the Lynn Canal, passing dark rain forest and sheer cliffs lined by snow-capped costal peaks.
I couldn’t help but to test the acoustics within those narrow channels – so I brought out my alphorn and played a few tunes. The echoes were not of a quality one would expect from the cliched notions of the traditional alpine sounds from Switzerland.
However, soon the idea was born that we needed to do a fusion piece and I was invited to play at the festival with the Main Street Buskers. The only tune that I readily recognized from the vast repertoire of the Whitehorse buskers was “Down by the Riverside”, an old gospel tune. We spent the next couple of hours to find a common key for the washboard, the strings and the alphorn to play in and to practice this unusual combination.
A long time after the festival I realized that this tune was actually carrying a peace message. In the excitement of the day, I couldn’t grasp any of the lyrics beyond the commonly recognized refrain “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More”.
I am glad that the only known sound recording of my musical hobby extends the key message of my presence in this world!
Cast and Crew
The Main Street Buskers, Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Live performance at the 21st Alaska Folk Festival, 1995 in Juneau, Alaska Thanks to radio KTOO-FM, a public radio station in Juneau, Alaska for the sound clip from their live broadcast.