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January 2007 - Journeying Closer to Home
This long-overdue update sees us in Australia, recovering after
a busy four months. We've settled into our new home, and we're planning
the year ahead. Here's the news since our last entry.
1. September in the South
We'd only just had time to settle into our new home on top of the
range at Maleny, when we were off again - this time to Victoria.
We were booked to play at an artspace near Lakes Entrance, a beautiful
part of the world in Victoria's east. After a couple of days in
Melbourne catching up with family and friends, we hopped on the
train and made our way to our hosts' lovely home in the hills. There
was a choir practice on that night, but John begged off and watched
High Noon with Brian instead (It's not every day you get
to see Gary Cooper in all his glory).
Elizabeth and Josephine run a series of concerts every year at
Josephine's Bungalook Studio and we were very happy to be included.
The studio is mud-brick and as well as being a venue for concerts,
houses Josephine's art practice. Nic was right at home. The concert
was a great success, with tea, coffee and cake included in the entrance
fee (Important note to concert organisers: scones with jam and cream
are an essential element).
All in all, we spent a week in Victoria, along the way assisting
Nicole's brother Christopher to consecutive victories in his local
pub quiz nights. Showered in such glory, we returned to Queensland.
2. Bits and Peace and Quiet
After so long on the road, stopping in one place for a while was
quite a strange experience. We slowly managed to set up an office,
unpack all of our books and get to work in the vegie garden. We
started to learn the habits of the neighbour's dog, we had our bikes
fixed up and immediately found ourselves in magpie season. For those
not familiar with this season, when magpies are nesting each year,
they scout out their territory, identify all of the regular locals
and then, for about 3-4 weeks, they viciously attack anyone else
who comes near their nesting area. They are particularly fond of
swooping on passing cyclists, innocently on their way to the shops
for tasty loaves of much-needed bread. Cycling was placed on hold
for a time.
While John got stuck into the house and Nic began reviving her
art practice, we also found time to play and sing. Along with our
good friends and singing buddies Andrea and Helena, we ran some
more Voice Gym classes as The Voices. Monday night classes
for those on their way home from work. The series was heaps of fun
and we were once again reminded of how many people are keen to incorporate
singing into their lives.
And as well as some teaching work, we performed at Noosa at the
weekly "Get Up and Go" concert (where the amazingly energetic
Alan Kelly from the Barleyshakes
organises a backline of drums, bass and lead for anyone who wants
to "get up and go"with their songs) and made an appearance
at the Samford
Performers Cafe (which also features great cakes - can you see
a theme developing yet?)
A very special part of being back in South-East Queensland was
the chance to reintegrate ourselves into the local musical community.
We started making the trip to Brisbane for the Wednesday trad session
at the Irish Club, getting to the Broadway for the Saturday session
and catchup with old mates, and heading up to Noosa for Alan's Tuesday
night session. We popped along too to the Upfront Club and joined
in a couple of the ABOFOTS (A Little Bit of Folk on the Side) nights.
We particularly enjoyed their birthday party. Here's a shot of the
distinctively-dressed organiser, Paul Lawlor.
For those who haven't checked it out yet, Bob from
the Goodwills recorded
some of our performance that night. You'll find a (dimly-lit but
beautifully-sounding) film clip of The Briar and the Rose
on YouTube here.
October also saw us play with the Champion Moreton Bay Band at
the Morningside Colonial Dance and run a full-day Masterclass Workshop
with the Voices. Once all that was out of the way, it was time to
fly to North Queensland for theYungaburra
3. Back in the Tropics
The Yungaburra Folk Festival really felt like coming home to us.
Up on the Atherton Tablelands to the West of Cairns, the festival
centres around the magnificent Lake Eacham Hotel. 2006 was the festival's
25th birthday and so lots of familiar faces were on hand to join
the party. Martin Pearson came up from Victoria, The Rogues reformed
for a special appearance, Danny
Wright, Mike Jackson
- it was a great party with lots of friends, and we even managed
a family dinner to celebrate Nicole's birthday.
The only fly in the festival ointment was an over-zealous security
guard on Saturday night. The pub was being closed by the police
because of a fight in the street outside ("But if you close
the pub, we'll have to go out into the street where the fight is").
John advised the security guard that he was staying at the pub,
"So where should I go?". It's been a long time since John
was told to go to his room, but he took it well. ("But I'm
not tired."). Despite this slightly weird interlude, we had
a lot of fun and sang our heads off.
We had a particularly good time at our kids' gig, which included
the soon-to-be-chart-topping Kings and Queens and Horses and
Dragons, in which John makes up the verses according to the
kids' enthusiastically screamed suggestions, while Nicole does the
After a lovely week in the North, the time came to head home again.
4. The Summer is A-Coming In
Back in Maleny, we busied ourselves with art, office-work, playing
and some long-sought-after lazing about.
The odd session here and there kept our hands in as we started planning
for the Woodford Folk Festival at the end of the year. John played
a few gigs with a local Irish band who found themselves a member
short, we cast a stack of concrete Green Men for an local arts and
crafts market, Nicole got stuck into clay sculpture with the local
pottery group, a Maleny gallery took one of her paintings, and she
started work on a commission for some Brisbane friends and art-lovers.
There were parties to attend, and rehearsals to get underway. We'd
been booked at the Woodford festival to play as a four-piece. Now,
while we'd done some four-piece work in the UK with Vicki and Jonny,
this time we were planning to play with a new line-up and try some
new arrangement ideas. We joined with Rebecca
Wright on cello (whom you may remember from her playing on Violet
Sarah and Muckle John and Dance Up The Sun) and our
friend, flautist and fiddler Belinda
Ford (another member of the Barleyshakes). December
saw us starting to put it all together and we had a ball! Two flutes
jostling and flying on the Blacktown Jig and the deep earthy
hum of the cello, and some sweet four-part vocals.
And then... John got a job. The earth shifted on its access and
the stars were jolted from their orbits as the demands of getting
up at the same time every morning for the first time since 2003
were felt. Bill Hauritz, the organiser of the Woodford Folk Festival
was in need of an assistant and John was in need of some money and
so these two facts had their happy co-incidence in December. Fortunately,
John and Bill are old friends and so it all went well. The routine
was welcome, the work was interesting and Nic was at last left alone
to get on with her painting.
In amongst all of this, there was the reformation of John's old
trio, One Step Forward. Maree Robertson and Ann Bermingham
sang with John up until 1997 in Brisbane and at some of the major
festivals around Australia and we thought it was time to get back
together, also for the Woodford Festival. Around these rehearsals,
John was writing a debate, put a short article on English floor-spots
into one of the Aussie folk mags (a copy of which you can read here),
and started preparing for the annual resumption of the breakfast
show with Martin Pearson.
5. And On To Woodford
You're probably wondering by now if all the work was worth it.
Absolutely! The Woodford
Folk Festival was once again an amazing musical and personal
experience of discovery, growth and song. It's hard to overstate
what a significant event this is. (At one of his gigs this year,
James Keelaghan said that
he considered it "the best festival in the world").
Apart from 2003-4 when we were in the UK, we've made it to every
Woodford but this year was one of our busiest. Cloudstreet played
5 gigs including a spot in the Childrens' Festival, Nic joined with
the Voices for two of their five Voice Gym sessions, we sang in
both the opening ceremony (Time
is a Tempest)
and the Fire Event on the night of January 1st. John also played
with One Step Forward, 7 breakfast shows with Martin (including
an opportunity to sing with Peter Garrett from Midnight Oil
- now a member of the Australian parliament), and even found time
to lead his team to a magnificent victory in the Great Debate (if
you're a sucker for detail, you can read his speech here).
A highlight during the festival was the chance for the four-piece
cloudstreet to play at the tribute concert for June Nichols,
a dear friend and a true stalwart of the Brisbane folk scene for
many years. We were joined in the performance of Dance
Up The Sun by four members of the Ragged Band Morris.
We finished the festival tired but happy.
6. And Now...
We're resting up after the craziness that was the festival, we've
eaten our way through a tray of mangoes, and in 10 days time, we're
off to New Zealand. Time to recharge the batteries, wash all the
clothes and catch up on a bit of work around the house.
We'll stay in touch as the journey continues.
With love from the road,
Nicole and John
PS. Here's the view from the desk at home - the office
job was never like this!
(With thanks to Mary Brettel for the Duck and
Shovel photos of One Step Forward and the June
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