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 :-)

You may have seen my posts on the pochette fiddle or backpacker fiddle that I made some time ago. And in fact I’m about to embark on another one – but that’s another story.

In the meantime, I see that some people are now making backpacker mandolins – I guess for the same reason I made my fiddle. This is one I spotted on YouTube recently – nice sound to it :-) Click on the image and hear it for yourself!

Pocket mandolin

Cheers
Jerry

After I made my pochette fiddle, I realised that I was lacking a couple of key tools – in particular, I lacked curved soled luthier’s planes to scallop down the sides of the belly rise, so I decided to do something about it at last.

I went on ebay and found a set of four lovely looking brass planes. But I wasn’t sure of the finish, how well made they would be, and whether I could get used to using them.

I put in what I felt was a reasonable bargain bid. And sure enough I was beaten to it. The next morning, however, I woke and checked my email, and there was an email from the seller offering me a second chance to buy it at my last bid price as the other buyer had pulled out. So I took the plunge.

Luthier planes

And when the planes arrived I was delighted. Not only are they of excellent quality, but I find them quite easy to use too. They will see a lot of use on my next pochette. The work with the grain or across it. But I may still look out for some serrated blades so they will plane in all directions equally well.

luthier's planes

Cheers
Jerry

On visiting Sydney’s Powerhouse museum I encountered a violin-shaped pochette in the musical instruments section.

Pochette at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

The catalogue description reads:

Description
Pochette with violin form body, maker unknown, Mittenwald, Bavaria, 1750-1790]
Small pocket sized violin,used by a dancing master for dance classes. Single piece belly of spruce and back of solid carved maple, accentuated curves with deep ribs, no purfling either side, heavy reddish brown varnish, with black discolouration across the middle of the belly and around the edges of the back. Black,[ebony] tuning pegs and tail piece, finger board of black stained pear wood, tuning pegs have small inlayed mother of pearl dots on the ends. Light coloured bridge with no maker’s mark, narrow headstock with deep srcoll carving, strung with 4 strings. – Powerhouse Museum

The whole instrument would be barely three inches wide and it is very shallow in the body so I suspect that it would not put out much sound.

Pochette at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

But it’s an interesting instrument nonetheless.

Cheers
Jerry

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