Friday afternoon was a bit …um… interesting – we were due to play at Tumut in the evening, so a nice gentle drive in the van had some appeal – until the grinding noises came from the starter motor bearings.

Sharon and I looked at each other and shrugged in unison. If the 20 year old van won’t make it, let’s take the 28 year old motorbike. A quick phone call to our bass player showed he hadn’t left yet, and could take the fiddle in his car. The bike was running brilliantly after its service, and the handling had improved markedly with new suspension and new tyres – in fact it was in the best condition it’s had for years. So we both decided that the ride would be a good idea.

The ride to Tumut was very pleasant – with perfect weather and good road (via Yass and Gundagai), and we arrived safely in late afternoon. After finding our room (the ‘band room’) at the Oriental Hotel, we had an excellent feed and tuned up for the show.


There was a good responsive crowd and we had a great time – the sound system behaved well and it was fortunate we had also brought lights 🙂


We played the first hour and had a short break, then by the time we were thinking of another break, it was too near the end so we did the second two hours straight through – time flies when you’re having fun.

We were quite exhausted by the end, so after the last encore we packed away the sound gear and headed off to bed.

Early next morning the sun shone golden over the town, and I took a couple of photos on our way out for breakfast at a nearby coffee shop.


After a photo under the Tumut town sign, we headed off to Gundagai for coffee.

Sharon wasn’t quite quick enough to avoid the camera this time!


We stopped at the famous Niagara Cafe – where Prime ministers from years past used to stop on their way to Canberra. There is a great old art deco counter there.


And, no, we didn’t sing about the dog on the tuckerbox!

We had a smooth run home, with the bike running perfectly. But it was nice to be back in our own bed at the end of the day.



Our guitarist, Butch, had been to Tilba-Tilba on a number of occasions, and noted that some good name bands from Sydney had performed at the Dromedary Hotel there. In conversation with the publican, he had mentioned our Irish band and the rest fell into place.

Full Circle at Tilba-Tilba

Saturday promised a hot drive down – the place is about 300kms from Canberra, about an hour’s drive south of Bateman’s Bay, so I was quite pleased with the offer of a lift in Butch’s car – along with a cut-down version of our sound system.

We arrived mid-afternoon in time to get some excellent food from the cafe over the road and then we set up the venue – an open shed out the back – a former stable perhaps, which contained a functioning jukebox and a small stage. The whole side wall opened out onto the beer garden.

Full Circle at Tilba-Tilba

The other band members had a joke about my insistence on bringing some stage lights – but we were glad of them when it got dark – we would have been invisible to the audience without them!

As a pub show, we started with some up-tempo Irish and Australian songs and some lively reels and jigs – amazingly right from the first bracket people got up and danced – and continued throughout the show.

We were told that bands never shift the regulars from the front bar – but we did 🙂

Full Circle at Tilba-Tilba

In fact the audience responded really well to the fact that (a) we weren’t the usual covers/blues band, and (b) we weren’t what most people’s concept of an Irish band was.

During the tunes we went out among the dancers and danced as we played – and on feedback afterwards, they loved the fact that we joined them, rather than staying aloof.

So all up it was a great night and well worth the drive down. We had a great welcome there and I’m sure we’ll be back there before long.

On the way back, we stopped briefly for a rest and stretch, and looked up at the most amazing clear night sky, with the Milky Way in a vivid streak right across it – simply breathtaking!


“From picking it up to playing in a band took about 18 months hard work – trick is to play music, not just scales”

How I did it: I stumbled into a folk club and was amazed by the music. They gave free fiddle lessons which helped me to hold the instrument properly and get on top of the bowing. The best bit was that from my first lesson I was playing a tune – the rest came later. You could spend years playing scales, but unless you’re playing real tunes it would have become boring very quickly. I learnt to perform in front of an audience by busking, and 18 months later I joined a band. That was a vertical learning curve! But I hung in there and learnt heaps. I’ve now been playing 30 years and still love it 🙂

Lessons & tips: Don’t over practice – lots of short sessions every day is better than one long session each week.
Play music you love – that way you know what it should sound like.
Keep at it regularly for more than six months – after then you are really playing music and can start to enjoy it – remember, this is a craft in which you are training muscles and that takes time.
Break each component down to a single movement and understand how your wrist keeps the bow straight.
Keep your eyes on the prize!

Resources: Irish folk music sessions!

It took me 18 months.

It made me feel great!

The latest issue of Trad and Now magazine has arrived and with it, the announcement that they have revamped their website. And it’s great – catalogue, reviews and all sorts is there with an online shop too! So you don’t have to wait for the next folk festival to find those CDs of artists that you don’t find in the ‘world music’ or Folk sections of the stores – Trad and now has a huge list of CDs – including very soon the new Full Circle album…

Trad and Now Trad & Now aims to promote, preserve and support the cultural diversity and heritage of all traditional and contemporary folk music and related performance arts such as poetry, dance, storytelling and folklore and to encourage this as part of our everyday lives. And the subscription is amazing value!

I love the news about festivals in Australia and elsewhere, the developments in folk, blues, roots and world music and the tunes being highlighted in each issue.

Melody Lane Studios in Sydney have done an excellent job recording my fiddle and after a long day recording three tune sets we now have enough for a CD.

jerry recording

Of course, recording is only half the battle – the tunes and songs need to be professionally mastered – balanced with each other, and some post-production work to ensure that the instruments sound their best. And there are other things to do like design a cover, write track notes and so on, and after mastering the CD will need to be pressed professionally

I also discovered – courtesy of the super-sensitive studio mics that I need to replace my violin bridge. You see, after the last crack repair on the fiddle’s body the bridge is now a little low on one side – so I’ve had to bow more lightly on that side to eliminate string buzz on the fingerboard.

We’ve had a our lighter moments during recording too – at one point to relieve the tension, our guitarist started some 12-bar blues – so I joined in on fiddle – and the sound guys fell about – they’d never seen 12 bar played on a fiddle before 🙂

Anyhow the hardest part is over and I can relax for now. We drive back to Canberra tomorrow.


And I thought I was the only guy who dances while playing fiddle! Check out his clog dancing – no wonder his bow is usually just a mass of loose hair – and he’s not bad for a left hander either 🙂

Actually he’s long been my favourite fiddler


A great night on Friday celebrating 19 years of the Merry Muse Folk Club in Canberra. My band, Full Circle was there to liven up the end of the evening, and there were a number of great acts including teh Ferral Brothers with Sandy on fiddle and Michael on accordion playing Bulgarian czardas and celtic folk; Humbug focal group, and some of the Merry Muse originals.

The place was packed and the audience ripe for a good time and Guy as usual did a fabulous job mixing the sound. The whole evening was credit to Eileen Newmarch – who organised the show.