Festivals


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National Folk Festival 2012, a set on Flickr.

Great Easter weekend at the National Folk Festival. Three concerts, one fiddle workshop sessions until the wee hours and so many acts to see! Need a week to recover now!

This year it was about catching up with old friends. Some say if you stand in Trafalgar Square in London the whole world will pass you by, I say if you sit in the Session Bar at the National Folk Festival, the whole (folk music) world will stop by and say hello. It’s that kind of festival.

The international acts were amazing – I caught two concerts by Andy Irvine – late of Planxty – who, with his Australian friends entertained with songs of Irish Australia and the union movement

Andy Irvine and friends

Andy Irvine and friends

The Session Bar is the melting pot of folk music – it provides a space for people form across the country or across the world to exchange tunes, be influenced by different styles and to make new friends and meet old acquaintances. It is also a space where the tradition gets passed form the older musicians to the younger ones.

Exchanging tunes at the National Folk Festival

Exchanging tunes at the National Folk Festival

I was performing with two acts – a roving stilt-walker set with Will o the Wisp with my daughter Eve and two NZ musicians James and Andrew. The crowd were responsive and in a festival mood

Will o' the Wisp

Will o' the Wisp

We had a great time, and the music helped to alert people that a stilt walker was fast approaching.

We played tricks too, like sneaking up (while playing reels) on people avidly looking at their programme and peering over their shoulder until they noticed they had been pounced on!

It was all in good fun and the weather was on our side – that time.

Later in the festival we had to contribute by leading sessions as the rain made stilt walking too dangerous.

There were plenty of roving acts around – other stilt walkers, buskers, circus acts and the ubiquitous Morris dancers.

It was good to see that women as well as men are taking up this tradition and there were mixed morris sets.

Morris dancers

Morris dancers

The Borderers from South Australia (the feature state) were amazing – bouncing around the stage with enormous energy. At one point a couple of them stormed out into the audience to encourage everyone to sing along or clap or get up and dance, and by the end of their bracket people were dancing down the front and in the aisles.

The Borderers

The Borderers

The danced around the stage like an hour long aerobics session!

My turn came again with a show at the Merry Muse Folk Club – we were the closing act for that night and while the audience wasn’t huge, they more than made up for that in enthusiasm for our music. It’s a pity our CD didn’t arive in time for the festival – we could have sold a heap of them!

Full Circle Band

Full Circle Band

Actually we were two thirds Circle – our bass player is overseas – but we managed to bring in Rick Saur (from Kangaroo Valley) to play bodhran.

One of the best moments was meeting Mick Doherty again. Mick is from Western Australia – at least he lives there but he is a very fine Donegal fiddle player, and nephew of the great John Doherty. He was brought over to the festival sponsored by the National Library of Australia who interviewed him for the national archive. What most people don’t know is that 25 years ago I took some fiddle lessons with him to learn how to decorate tunes in the Donegal style. We had a great session together on the last evening of the festival.

Mick Doherty

Mick Doherty

Luke Plumb and Peter Daffy gave a couple of great concerts and I loved Luke’s version of O’Carolan’s Concerto. He was a real dynamo in the session bar too. How does anyone fit THAT many notes into a tune?? What an awesome mandolin player!

Luke Plumb and Peter Daffy

Luke Plumb and Peter Daffy

Anyhow, thanks for the tunes and the music sessions folks – see you here again next year!

Cheers
Jerry

It promised to be a warm ride as I strapped the fiddle to the back of the motorbike for the run down to Majors Creek near Braidwood in New South Wales, about 114 km from Canberra. I dressed lightly beneath the outer armour, but hadn’t reckoned with the cloud into which I ascended on the final approach into my destination. Majors is one of the best folk festivals in Australia – smaller and more intimate than the National, but large enough to attract the major acts.

Majors Creek Folk Festival

I entered to the delightful harmonies of MusicOz 2008 winners Mothers of Intention. Tony Pryzakowski’s fiddle playing was unmistakable from the first notes, as were Rosie McDonald’s harmonies. This is a band that just keeps getting better.

Mothers of Intention

Out on the oval, a Maypole dance was being woven with a morris dance team and a crowd of willing participants.

Majors Creek Folk Festival

Bizerka’s energy and amazing rhtyms delighted the crowd, and the concentration of the fiddler was palpable as she played 7/8 and 5/8 rhythms. They ran a workshop on using phrases to make complex rhythms more comprehensible.

Majors Creek Folk Festival

The Fiddler’s Forum showcased great playing across a range of styles, from celtic to bluegrass and Eastern European.

But for me the sessions as always were the highlight. The pochette attracted attention – as did the hardanger fiddle (hardingfele). I met old friends and played music with new ones.

Majors Creek Folk Festival

Majors Creek Folk Festival

Tony and I had our by now traditional ‘dueling fiddlers’ playoff – someone thought we were from the same band! Let alone different cities. We are well matched.

Majors Creek Folk Festival

See you there next year :-)

This Irish tune is driving me nuts – but it’s the next one on my list to learn after Paddy Ryan’s Dream which I’ve nearly learnt.

Last week it was the Fleur de Mandragore – a great tune that I heard at the National Folk Festival this year. I’m still having trouble with Tommy’s Tarbukas – but I’m getting there on that one too :-)

Cheers
Jerry

My box-style pochette (travel fiddle) attracted quite a lot of attention when I took it to the National Folk Festival in Canberra. I’m still thinking through some further modifications, and no I’m not going into commercial production – others like Rickert and Ringholz already make fine box pochettes – but here is mine being played by Sydney fiddle player Tony Pryzakowski

Cheers
Jerry

Well, another National Folk Festival has come and gone – and I thought I’d share some of my personal highlights. Firstly it was great to meet up with so many old friends from interstate – including most of the former Mucky Duck members who I played with in the early-mid 1980s.

I got to a number of concerts in between music sessions in the Session Bar.

Vin Garbutt – I last saw him in 1980 in Perth Western Australia and he has just got better over the years – more political edge to his songs, and hilarious repartee. I bought his CD “Plugged” just because it had “Man of the Earth” on it.

Danish band Faerd played some great traditional Danish music and Swedish polskas… the combination of Peter Uhrlbrand’s fiddle playing (also lively in the Session bar!) with Eskil Romme’s saxaphone and Jens Ulsvand’s bouzouki was stunning

The Session Bar proved popular and I had some great sessions with Bob McInnes, Scott and Louisa Wise, and Chris Duncan

And Butch Hooper and I played at the Merry Muse to a great audience – really responsive and ready to party!

The Genticorum concerts were wonderful – I love the fiddle player’s foot percussion and the trio’s great harmonies. But one thing puzzles me… are all Quebec folk songs about food and sex or some combination of the two? I loved the story about the fiddle’s time out in the winery, slinking back home to its case after a night on the town with a ukelele :-D and how when the fiddler picked it up again, he was playing tunes even he didn’t know and at twice the pace!

Trouble in the Kitchen started in Canberra a few years ago and have gone from strength to strength. I love the new direction they are taking their music. The tune “The Darkroom Fiddler” is on my must learn list. And I bought the last copy of their CD. My apologies for the poor photo quality.

Other highlights were David LaMotte and Liz Frencham – David’s guitar work was fantastic

I ran into “Gurdy Girl” Jane Ruckert playing a nyckelharpa – a kind of Swedish bowed hurdy gurdy – and we swapped instruments for a play – she on my hardingfele (eight-string Norwegian fiddle) and me on the nyckelharpa. Suffice to say I have increased my respect for nyckelharpa players – but what an awesome sound!

And speaking of amazing instruments, I saw this hurdy gurdy in the session bar

The sessions were terrific

And after trying one of David Guscott’s violins I decided that I needed an octave violin – so I bought some octave strings for my electric fiddle and mmmm love that sound! – You’ll hear more of that on our website soon!

And I have a heap of tunes to learn :-)

Cheers
Jerry

Well folks – the National Folk Festival is on again right now – and you will be able to catch me in the Session Bar tomorrow from early til late :-)

I might even bring along my pochette… it’ll be a good test of its volume!

For those who haven’t been before, this is what the Session Bar looks and sounds like

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