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A violin concerto in the unlikeliest of places

Joe Scheer plays the violin at Plummer’s Arctic Lodge, on the Great Bear lake in the Northwest Territories

A violin concerto in the unlikeliest of places

Chummy Plummer is a legend of the North. 

He’s been guiding fishers north of the Arctic Circle since he was 13, and he’s been the owner of Plummer’s Arctic Lodges for nearly 50 years, connecting devout anglers and fly-fishers with some of the biggest and feistiest freshwater fish on the planet.

Plummer’s Lodges, nested into remote paradises on Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake, are also renowned for their five-star amenities and heroic hospitality. It’s common for a guest to make the trip one summer and then to return with their family every year afterwards, turning it into a family tradition.  And each trip brings new surprises.”You never know who’s going to show up at the lodge each week,” says Plummer.

Plummers Arctic Fishing Lodge on Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories

One evening a few summer ago, as he chatted with guests at his lodge, he met Joe Scheer, a retired Boston Symphony Orchestra violinist. “I told him it would be great if he would play for us at our weekly Thursday Wine and Cheese event, but he said he did not bring his violin: the only instrument he had packed for this trip was his fly rod,” says Plummer. “I don’t think he believed me when I told him I would get a violin for Thursday and that he should be ready to play.”

Plummer called his Yellowknife fixer, Yvonne Quick—a Northern female bush pilot pioneer. She called around and quickly found a violin and had it on the next plane up.

A violin in a case

On Thursday evening, there was an instrument waiting for Scheer, he took the case to his room to tune.

“When he returned, he surprised us with a hand-written letter he’d found inside the case, written by Yellowknife wildlife biologist and territorial politician Bob Bromley, who had lended us the violin,” says Plummer.  Scheer read the note aloud to the crowded room:

In 1965, as a 14 year old, I, my father Peter, and dentist Ian Calder, paddled from Great Slave Lake to Great Bear. We ran out of food for a few days before the trip’s end. No shortage of jackfish, but a growing lad was hungry! When we pulled into Chummy’s lodge, his crew fed me like I will never forget. And gave us a box of food to take with us as we paddled on to Sawmill Bay, from where we had Ernie Boffa take us back to Yellowknife in a Norseman.  As soon as we had paddled out of sight of the lodge, I insisted we make camp and start cooking.  Chummy has been a giant in my mind ever since, and I’m happy to be able to offer this wee favour with the violin.

Joe Scheer plays the violin at Plummer’s Arctic Lodge, on the Great Bear lake in the Northwest Territories

That’s when Scheer, accustomed to playing under world-famous composer John Williams, began to play a Bach Sonata to a small group of fishers, just north of the Arctic Circle, returning a charitable deed performed nearly 50 years earlier.

“It just shows that you can never know what’s going to happen on a fishing trip up North,” says Plummer.


Check out all that Plummer's Arctic Lodges have to offer here.

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