History in song

 

Robert Eyford Performer from Alberta Former resident of Hay River Sings songs about the history of Hay River 2025 Edmonton Photo courtesy of Robert Eyford

Robert Eyford
Performer from Alberta
Former resident of Hay River
Sings songs about the history of Hay River
2025
Edmonton
Photo courtesy of Robert Eyford

Singer-songwriter Robert Eyford is set to take the Hay River Heritage Centre stage to sing the story of the hub.

On Sept. 12, the guitarist will perform what he calls the The History of Hay River in Song.

Eyford, who now lives in Alberta, has deep roots in Hay River, and spent the first 13 years of his life in the community where he often returns.

Singer-songwriter Robert Eyford is set to take the Hay River Heritage Centre stage to sing the story of the hub.

On Sept. 12, the guitarist will perform what he calls the The History of Hay River in Song.

Eyford, who now lives in Alberta, has deep roots in Hay River, and spent the first 13 years of his life in the community where he often returns.

“I am very excited about the concert,” said Eyford in a telephone interview with The Hub. “Not only because it’s in Hay River, but it’s the first chance I’ve had to present all my Hay River songs in a format that starts in 1948 and goes right up to the present in a sort of chronological order. Between each song, there will be a verbal explanation of what happened in Hay River’s history at some particular point in time that got that line or two in the song.”

For example, he recently wrote and recorded The Night the Arctic Ramblers Played, a song about the first school dance he attended when he was in Grade 7.

“A band from Akaitcho Hall in Yellowknife came to play at our school dance,” he said. “Of course, most of the story in the song is fictitious, but it is a popular song already.”

Brad Mapes, chair of the Hay River Museum Society, is looking forward to the concert.

“It’s going to be a great event,” he said.

Eyford – now living in Devon, near Edmonton – recalled he has only officially performed in Hay River once before. That was a brief set at a barbecue during the Hay River Homecoming two years ago.

Mapes was at that barbecue, and believes the heritage centre will be a much better setting.

“It was a little too much of a crowd,” he recalled of the Homecoming event. “There was too much talking among everybody. This way, we’ll be able to (put) him front and centre.”

The Sept. 12 concert will also be a release party for Eyford’s fifth CD, called Dance in the Rain. The title song is about a woman who was taken from her family as a child and sent to residential school.

The concert will also be a fundraiser for the heritage centre.

Eyford said his music can best be described as country, folk and roots.

As an independent artist, he has produced five CDs, beginning with his first in 1999.

“I have approximately 15 Hay River songs, that I have written and recorded about various parts of Hay River’s history,” he said, adding that they are spread throughout his various CDs.

His first song about Hay River was The Road to Great Slave Lake – the title song of his first CD – which tells about his family’s arrival in Hay River.

Some of the other songs he has written about Hay River are River of Dreams, The Closing of the Zoo, We Are Your Legacy, Roots and Wings, Ballad of Fisherman’s Wharf and Supper Time, just to name a few. Another is Dancing in the Sand, which he wrote and recorded for the Hay River Homecoming.

Eyford’s connection to Hay River goes way back.

When he was just four months old in 1948, his family moved to Hay River from northern Alberta when the road from Grimshaw to Hay River was under construction. His grandparents followed and his father’s two brothers also moved to Hay River.

His father and grandfather became commercial fishermen on Great Slave Lake.

His grandmother Maril Eyford opened Hay River’s first cafe, which eventually became a store. His grandfather Barney Eyford ran the store for a number of years.

His father, Emil Eyford, was the first fire chief in Hay River and sat on community council.

His aunt and uncle, May and Jerry Eyford, along with their children, were the first residents in Enterprise, where they opened a gas station and coffee shop.

In Alberta, the 67-year-old Eyford, who is a former RCMP officer, owns two companies – Rae-Tech Fire Investigations Ltd. and Rae-Tech Forensic Consulting Corp.