Blue Warblers sing for the love of music
Natalie Edelson and Kim Beggs are longtime campfire gal pals who took their mutual passion for old-time music and founded The Blue Warblers.
The professional duo are now on their Rails to Roots tour. They will perform two house concerts [Home Routes Network] in Prince George on Feb. 5 and Feb. 13.
On Monday, Beggs talked with the Free Press.
“I don’t think either of us were thinking about performing as the music became a stronger component in our lives. For me, being on stage is a big and scary thing. Making music and performing on stage in front of people are different things that come together sometimes. That old-time music we [The Blue Warblers] relate to comes from the pure joy of music and the performance of it can be the result.”
Sharing music is part of the old-time traditions, she says.
Arriving independently in the Yukon over two decades ago, Beggs and Edelson discovered the rigours of rustic cabin life (no running water or electricity). But with their mutual love of music, they were soon singing around the campfire with their new-found friends who got together Friday afternoons for happy hour sessions – just like the original singers of traditional folk songs.
“The intent with Blue Warblers is to share the joy of singing. Harmonies are a big part of what we do. Harmony singing is what I think came out of campfire singing because it’s about friends sitting around until late in the evening. We would bring along songs to share, listen to and learn each others’ songs. All the voices would join in and it was a beautiful, safe feeling.”
When Beggs left the warmth and “safety” of the campfire, she began sharing her music with a wider audience.
“That’s how I came into the world of voice and later ended up on stage performing. For me, that was a big step. Before that, it was all about the safety of the campfire.”
Beggs was born in a mining town in Quebec but her family has a “Yukon heritage.”
“My dad was a mining engineer, so we moved around but eventually we settled in Toronto. I was the second youngest of six children and the stories were rich around the dinner table. Three siblings lived in the Yukon with my family back in the 1960s before I was born and I would hear the stories about their life there.”
When Beggs went to visit a sister in the Yukon decades ago, she experienced the lure of the North and followed her heart there. And although musically, she was doing her “own thing” in traditional music, Beggs said bluegrass pioneer singer-guitarist Hazel Dickens was a guiding light for others.
“We both came from the same organic roots. I had the privilege of meeting her [Dickens] in Memphis a few years ago when we were introduced by her record label people. Although she was playing her music much before me, I feel that she’s a kindred spirit to me. Natalie and I learned a couple of her tunes and put one of them on our album last year.”
Beggs was nominated (for work with The Blue Warblers) as Traditional Singer of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.
Edelson lives the cabin life in the Yukon as a self-described “urban refugee,” drawn to old-time tunes for their beauty and authenticity. The artist was part of the Yukon folk music scene started in the mid 90s and a member of a local group, Ladies Auxiliary, with Kim Barlow and Ann-Louise Genest.
She released a debut solo album Mayfly Days in 2005 and has toured her solo works in Canada, the U.S. and U.K. while double-billing with Beggs. Edelson and Beggs have achieved success as singers in their own right and writers of original compositions.
Edelson has sung backing vocals for Beggs on several tours and recordings and recently she discovered the clawhammer banjo.
She has been nominated for three Western Canadian Music Awards and a Canadian Folk Music Award for her solo work and has won many major song competition prizes.
She has toured Canada, the U.S. and Europe and performed at Canada Day celebrations at London’s Trafalgar Square. Her most recent solo album, Blue Bones, made the top 100 albums of 2011 in the Roots Music Report.
“We’ll be doing a new album in February, when we get home to Whitehorse after the tour and we have time to record it,” said Beggs.
Musicians Kim Beggs and Natalie Edelson of The Blue Warblers will perform house concerts in Prince George on Feb. 5 and 13.
For tickets, call Home Routes Network at 1-866-925-6889 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.