There’s no shortage of eclectic people performing at the Tiny Lights Festival. A Star reporter wandered the streets of Ymir during the event last weekend and found there was just as much going on off-stage as there was in the spotlight.
A jolly crowd at Hotel Ymir didn’t need to be cajoled into singing a drinking song.
Vancouver’s Andrew Phelan finished his set with song that had spectators sing, “That’s how it all ends up. You can drink from a bottle, you can drink from a cup, just make sure you know when enough is enough.”
He didn’t actually expect them to take that advice, but the rousing singalong was still a highlight in the legendary bar.
“It is one of the coolest rooms I’ve ever performed in,” said a sweaty Phelan after the show. “The crowd was really responsive and willing to jump into things. It’s always nice when you can find a crowd that can get taken by the hand and go somewhere. It’s super warm in a literal sense and an emotional sense.”
Phelan was performing at Tiny Lights for the first time and found comfort in the intimate setting, which reminded him of his hometown of Maraylya, Australia, in which only about 1,100 people live. His partner Stephanie Chatman, who accompanied him on violin, had played Tiny Lights the last four years and pestered Phelan to join her.
He was happy to have made the trip.
“You feel like there’s so much stuff going on that you can make mistakes and take chances and have some fun with it.”
Splashing the sky
Prairie stars brought Harlan Thomas and Caran Magaw together.
Thomas had a crush on Magaw when the Ymir natives were kids in school together, although Magaw never knew it at the time.
“I was too shy to notice him,” she says now.
“She had red hair and I was super attracted to that,” said Thomas.
Decades later the pair reconnected after Thomas noticed Magaw was showing her paintings. Thomas had moved to Calgary and become a photographer who spent his nights taking pictures of the sky. Magaw was entranced by the photos and started interpreting them in her paintings.
“It really just sparks us because he’s out often all night taking photos until six in the morning. Then in the morning I wake up at 5:30, I’ll go on Facebook and I’ll see [his photos],” said Magaw.
“I like to be awake in the daytime when I can see and I paint all day. I wish I could keep up with him with the photography. I plan to live to be at least 100 years old to paint everything.”
Thomas joked he’d already willed his photos to Magaw.
The pair, along with fellow Ymir artist Star Fisher, were showing their work in a small garage during Tiny Lights. Part of the proceeds from their art show were raised for Nelson’s Aimee Beaulieu Transition House, which ended up netting $400.
Magaw said at least 10 paintings would also be donated as gifts for the house’s residents.
“If a woman is in transition, sometimes it makes her feel like she’s home when she has a piece of art,” she said. “She needs the basic pots and pans and a bed. But to have a piece of art means you are starting your life again. At least it could mean that for certain people.”
Aromatic art and science
The smell of cinnamon and sage wafted through the hallways of the Ymir Palace Inn.
A packed room of people sat taking in the aroma as Hazel Eason showed them how to make incense. The Mission native started crafting her own a decade ago before stirring up scents became her career.
“I started by making the cheap kind of incense you get at dollar stores,” said Eason. “Then I slowly morphed into the traditional incenses as I learned more. Each of my scents have at least 100 trials behind them. There’s definitely a learning curve. It’s art, science and cooking all mixed together.”
Eason has 12 types of incense she’s created, and three more on the way. When coming up with new scents, she lets her nose guide her.
“The science part comes with trying to make it burn. Sometimes I have to tweak it. It doesn’t always turn out exactly as I planned. In fact it never turns out exactly as I planned. But it’s an organic process. It leads me where it wants to lead me and I go with it. When I find something that’s perfected, I know.”
‘It makes the rain stop’
Music might someday lead Juhli Conlinn into meteorology.
Conlinn, a vocalist with the Company B Jazz Band, was singing on stage when sporadic rain that poured throughout the day momentarily lifted.
She credited the group’s jaunty swing tunes for a welcome break from the persistent precipitation.
“It’s just fun music. It’s complex music, too,” she said. “The harmonies and melodies are complex. It mostly makes the rain stop.”
The Vancouver group performed in green 1940s dresses that fit their era-specific aesthetic. Conlinn said costumes have become an important part of the band’s shows.
“They each have their own story. They started out because we were modelling after The Andrew Sisters. They always have matching outfits. It seemed like that was a good idea. So we find a lot of stuff online. We did have one woman make gowns for us one time, so we have had them made for ourselves. But mostly finding online and just lucking out.”
Rain pelting the Ymir Church made for a fitting atmosphere during Ella Coyes’ and Jasper Smith’s last show together.
A shower outside darkened the room during the duo’s set, which somehow made their delicate songs just a little more poignant. “What is that called when the nature in a book matches what happens later? It felt like that,” said Coyes.
Coyes and Smith started collaborating after meeting at an open mic three years ago in Edmonton. But, with Smith relocating to Toronto, it had only just occurred to them that Tiny Lights would be their last show together.
They avoided looking at each other while they played.
“I saw Jasper do his thing and I started doing mine,” said Coyes, who turned to Smith. “I looked at you and it made me sad.”