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 🙂

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There was still quite a bit of daylight when we arrived at Majors Creek near Braidwood in New South Wales and we were fortunate in being offered a camping spot in a great location on the edge of the great sports oval on which the bulk of the Music at the Creek festival was to run.

The day was still warm and once we had set up camp, it was time to check out the layout. We were near one venue which had a number of excellent acts from bluesy duos to big sound bands.

As always the highlight for me were the informal music sessions where musicians come together to play and exchange tunes. I came away with a good list of tunes to learn, and pointed others to some great tunes I had picked up during the year.

There were excellent sessions on Friday night and on Saturday night which went until well into the morning. I had another great playoff with Tony Pyrzakowski from Mothers of Intention – a great fiddler and a great mate.

Majors Creek Festival

Rosie McDonald and Anne Ridgeway did a lovely set at one of the concert venues, as did Nick and Liesl – an up and coming young Sydney duo.

Will O’ the Wisp was there with stilt walkers and hoop shows and workshops adding to the festival atmosphere. The Morris dancers braved the heat on Saturday and the late afternoon thunderstorm provided a welcome cool change with the sun returning in the morning to dry everything off before packing up.

Majors Creek Festival

Majors is a great festival – big enough to attract great talent and small enough to remain a friendly festival – I’ll be back next year 🙂

Cheers
Jerry

The Majors Creek Folk Festival was – as usual – quite an experience! After the fun and games of finding a campsite before a rear tyre went completely flat, then finding the spare tyre was also flat, I could sense this would be a memorable festival… But then the State Emergency Services came to the rescue with a small air compressor and things started to look up. Good blokes the lot of them – even if they do wear orange jump-suits 🙂

The sessions were good this year, starting fairly low key and then building rapidly. At one point I was playing a reel full pelt, and then someone tapped me on the shoulder – I glanced round and there was Tony Pyrzakowski – the fiddle player from Wheeze and Suck Band and Mothers of Intention. I keep running into this amazing guy and folk festivals, and when we do: it’s on!

Tony Pyrzakowski and Jerry Everard

We are well matched as musicians and we lark around a lot, playing at being competetive rivals – actually he knows more about playing fiddle than I’ll ever know – but then I know more tunes than he does :-p And it all makes for a great show for anyone who happens to catch us in the mood – especially after a few pints of the good stuff.

Will o the Wisp fire circus

Anyhow, after the fire show – Eve hired me to MC the Will o’ the Wisp Fire Circus – it was off to the session bar for a few tunes.

Saturday was a real highlight as Tony and I got going – both of us trying to look casual while the rosin dust fairly flew off the strings. We played some great tunes and the crowd just kept getting bigger as the tunes got faster and faster. That’s the stuff festivals are made of and this year’s Majors Creek was one of the best this year!

Sharon did a special tribute by stitching one of the pictures of us playing! What an amazing piece of embroidery!

There was another great session late on Saturday night when the singers had sunk to Goodnight Irene and the pace was quiet, along came Davydd McDonald – a great young Brisbane musician and it was on again – Da Eye Wifey, Maggies Pancakes and then into some great jigs and reels. Davy stayed with us between festivals and he did me the great tribute of writing me a reel – Jerry’s Reel – so I said to him in my best imitation of Michael Caton from the movie The Castle: “That’s going straight to the website!”
The weather held until Sunday when the wind came up – we managed to get the campsite stowed before the rain set in – and after sitting in on a few concert sets we headed off back to Canberra.

Cheers
Jerry

First impressions…

It’s raining. After a hot dry week the rain is sooooo welcome! And the motorbike brought me home without getting wet 🙂

Riding the bike is very like playing the fiddle. Just as you don’t ride a bike by steering the handlebars, you don’t play the fiddle by [merely] drawing the bow across the strings. In both cases you use your whole body. It is a question of balance and rhythm – and that is as much a function of your toes as your arms.

The celtic music folk festival at Majors Creek near Braidwood – a name that combines textile with timber – really delineated those fiddle players who were folkies from those who were classicaly trained violinists playing folk music. It is a question of feel. One violinist – a very fine musician – had a lovely tone, but seemed to be making hard work of the tunes. I suggested that this person walk while playing. Walk? Where? Anywhere! – even on the spot if you need to read the music dots! The music needs to flow from the way the whole body moves and feels the music.

Jigs – dancey pieces with six beats to the bar (or sometimes nine or twelve) – the best way to play those is to play the first two notes of the bar with a down-bow, and the next one up-bow – two down, one up and continue like this throughout the tune – this will guarantee (depending on decorations etc) that you will have a slightly stronger sound on the first beat in every bar – and the whole tune will have a dancey feel to it.

Reels – God they can sound boring if you keep it all even stresses – I treat them like polkas – yeah really! play the notes in pairs – two for each direction of the bow, and play them with a jaunty bounce – a kind of dah de dah de dah, rather than a dededede – and straight away they will have more life in them.

It was a great weekend – perfect weather, great sessions, and great Guinness!

Highlights were bands like “Mothers of Intention”, “Toe sucking Cowgirls” – nice harmonies in both – good arrangements in the first one. The fiddle workshop with Jane Brownlee was a real highlight, and the session later on Saturday night was awesome!

cheers
Jerry (with the 8-string hardingfele/hardangar fiddle)