I have been away in Victoria at The High Country Music Muster in Omeo inthe Victorian Alps which was beautiful (and where the weather was perfect) This Festival went all out to achieve a definitively Australian ÎvibeÌ even going so far as to engineer the reformation of The original Wallis and Matilda to headline the event. John Wallis, whose musical adaptations of Banjo PattersonÌs classic Bush Poems stormed the Australian Charts in the late 1970Ìs and his version of ÎClancy Of The OverflowÓ is a standard in every Bush Band repertoire, The night concerts were held outdoor under a southern night sky, with the dark line of The Australian Alps as a backdrop. Master whipsman Noel Cutler providing the orchestration to "The Man from Snowy River's" legendary Ride. Sheer Magic!!!
During the day, events such as The Mulga Bill Bicycle Race which was run on Penny Farthing Bicycles by turning the contraptions straight down the alpine hillsides. Penny farthings donÌt have brakes, so it was matter of the last seated rider wins! The Man From Snowy River Brumby Muster and The Lance Skewthorpe (he of the horse whispering fame) Rough Rider Race were also highlight with Lance's Daughter, now in her eighties making a special appearance, to address the crowds.
After leaving Omeo I traced the path of the Snowy River from the Alps to the Victorian Coast and, in one of those wonderful solitary moments that are sometimes granted me, I stood one evening and watched the sun set over the mouth of the estuary where that mythic river meets the wild teal-blue waters of the Southern Ocean. There was an older couple, standing motionless about a mile up the beach to the westward. As they stood there on a shallow sandy point, silhuoetted against the dying light, they appeared to be embracing. It seemed like such a private moment I was about look away when one bright patch of crimson forced itÌs way suddenly from the overcast sky above their heads and spilled out across the waves that burst from the turbulent sea and ran dancing beneath their feet. I had forgotten my camera. I closed my eyes and held the image. It is still clearer to me than any photograph. There was something wonderful about the visual metaphor of that old couple facing the approach of the night, with such calm acceptance.
I spent the week after that wandering through Northern Victoria and Southern New South Wales visiting all the Coastal National Parks. Two new stories from this trip, including one about eight Canberran housewives who dumped their husbands for a wild weekend in Ulladulla, have found their way into the current repertoire. The new truck now has 15,000 kms on it already!!
The Tamworth Country Music Festival was very successful personally with 6 sell-out shows at The Golf Club with The Naked Poets and three very well attended concerts at The Longyard. . . . . but the heat was unbelievable even by "Tamworth Summer" standards. . . . 38 degrees plus most days for over a week. Returning South I appeared at major concert in Lang Park, Wollongong for that city's Australia Day celebrations and two nights later I was thrilled when large crowds rolled up for the Pat Drummond - Dead Ringer double headers at The Woolaway Woolshed in Picton and The Rooty Hill RSL in Sydney. . . . . so all in all it has been a great start to the New Year. Congratulations by the way to the "Ringers" on their resounding wins in the Best Band and Country Song Of The Year categories at The 1998 Toyota Australasian Country Music Awards. They are currently taking a well deserved six-month break after nearly 10 years non stop on the road and the double bills, coming so soon after the awards, were a great joy to be involved in.
My own home town threw quite a party with Katoomba's third Folk Festival in February. The Home TeamÌ were ably represented by Al Ward, David Beniuk and myself while International Highlights for lovers of the singer-songwriter included Rory McCloud, Cathy Moffatt and a blinding performance by Californian, Kristina Olsen. Kristina's Albums are available in Australia on The Rounder label. Highly Recommended.
Whilst on things International, our "crazy" Chicago mate Pepsi Joe resurfaced in Australia after several years back in the States. As always he was packing some new Pepsi Memorabilia, and threatened his hosts with an overnight drive 300 kms to Canberra when he discovered that the Bushwackers were appearing there next day.
April 1998 Page 1
The Illawarra Folk Festival at Jamberoo was a very memorable event this year also. Cathy Fink and Marcie Marxer, consummate childrenÌs performers from the U. S. combined with Windura performer, Johnny Huckle and myself to present four children's shows in the main marquee, to several thousand primary school students. Two Senior Citizens shows each afternoon as part of Seniors week and a full festival concert program when the weekend arrived, made this my busiest and in many ways most satisfying festival yet. Eric Bogle made an appearance with his new band and put in a couple of superb performances. Except for one particularly memorable set in Tamworth in 1991, I have never seen him more effective. The final set brought a terrific version of "Singing The Spirit Home" and "Shelter" which were real showstoppers.
On a sad note, The WongawilliÌs Bush Band who are in my humble opinion are the "Absolute Centre of The New South Wales Traditional Bush Music Scene" are winding back a bit, with the departure of John Harpley and Neil McCann. After 10 years of terrific contributions, John has moved to Yass to further his career; while Neil, who penned "A Night a Marshall Mount" possibly the Wonga's best song, has also taken a break with new responsibilities at his School requiring his attention. Wongawilli, who are as much a community as a band, feature a full travelling colonial dance troupe and their appearances often involve thirty-odd people. Their spirit and energy has been an inspiration even to those of us who are in this business full time and do not have the demands of a nine-to-five job to contend with.
The Final festival session was a treat as I joined them on stage with members of Jindi, and Us Not Them from Bathurst and many other members of the Illawarra Folk Club. The Wongawilli Bush Band will be continuing to work over the next few months with stand-in players including myself from time to time while they decide on the best way to restructure.
Speaking of which, next week brings an amazing event at The Abercrombie Caves, some three hours west of Sydney, a not to be missed afternoon of song and dance on the heritage dance area constructed in these beautiful limestone caves in the late 1800Ìs. Those of you who caught his surprise appearance at Jamberoo last week will be interested to know that Andrew Clermont (he of the flying fiddle and lofty bearing), will be appearing with me at The Abercrombie Caves on Sun, 29 Mar 1998 and he and I will be performing together at The Oberon Music Club on Sat, 28 Mar 1998 where I will also be conducting a songwriting- performance seminar on the Saturday afternoon prior to the Concert.
Andrew is an amazing multi instrumentalist and has just released a new CD called "The Longing" which brings together some of AustraliaÌs finest instrumentalists in an acoustic extravaganza. Jim Conway (Pat Drummond,The Backsliders), Beccy Cole, Peter Howell (Broderick Smith) Gary Steel (Graeme Connors) and more help to celebrate over a decade of musical mateship.
Talking of "mates" I was chuffed to learn recently that Len Knight, Galston Rotary's Poet Extraordinaire, performed my poem "The Colours of The Cross" for The Governor General and the assembled Australian Rotary Groups at Old Parliament House last month. I have also been told that Graeme Johnson, talented Sydney writer and reciter is also entering his recitation of that particular poem in the Henry Lawson awards in Gulgong this May. We wish him all the best.
Coming Attractions Department: The BIG GIG this coming quarter is a Weekend Wine Tour of the Hunter Valley. In the tradition of our epic journeys to the Snow (180 of us by train); and through Tasmania for two weeks by Coach, we are responding to those who found the last jaunt a little prohibitive by staging a very reasonably priced repeat of our 1990 Hunter Valley Wine Tour through the Vineyards. The dates are June 19th, 20th and 21st. See Separate page for details.
There are also some shows with Anne Kirkpatrick which should be marked as "must sees". Anne has positively legendary status in Australian Country Music not only as Slim Dusty and Joy McKeon's daughter but also as the figure who, in the 1970's when country wasn't considered all that "hip", almost single handedly brought country music to city kids. And bring she did! Her gigs at inner city venues such The Civic were packed. These shows will see us in a similar "Mix and Match" format as the popular Dead Ringers Shows last quarter, with Anne and I performing the last set together.
On The Home Front, Honourable No1 daughter, Meg"s trip to Canada was an amazing experience. She was evacuated from Dunrobin when the now infamous ice storm hit the Ottawa-Montreal area. While we were sweltering in downtown Tamworth, 750,000 Canadians were facing weeks without power, their electricity towers having crumpled under the accumulated weight of tonnes of ice. Ensconced in Ottawa, the situation was not much better with that major city also losing power for some days. Since her return to Oz, we have been entertained and amazed by her photos and the newspaper clippings from the time. My newfound net-mate Pat Drummond (thatÌs for Patricia) who lives on The Rideau River in Canada sent me a wild account of her own "survival" during the storms and it reads like a disaster movie script. Canada really copped a caning! The bizarre news on the cable today is that the temperature is so warm in Antarctica; where it is apparently rising at an annual rate some 5 times the global average; that the Larson B ice shelf is threatening to break off from the Antarctic mass and go adrift. The British are worrying that it might disrupt the Gulf Steam which gives the 'Poms' their 'mild' climate.
So it seems that global warming can also have freezing consequences. Between the fires in Asia with the inordinately hot temperatures down here and the ice storms in the North, the weather seems to be doing some very dramatic things. We are very pleased that Meg made so many friends and yes, we are all very proud of her. It is no small thing for a 16 year old to organise herself half way round the world, (despite the fact that she still can't organise her room) and to have made so many new friends.ð Now not only all the nightly phone calls but half the nightly e-mails as well, are for her. She loved staying with with Rick and Penny Workman and it was very generous of them to take her so soon after their own resettlement. Meg arrived safe and sound and from Canada's icy temperatures into the 34 degree heat of a blistering Australian Summer just in time to start Year 11.
No 2 son Peter, (the drumming Drummond) is playing with The Bushwackers in The Great Hall in Parliament House in The National Capitol, Canberrað tonight. "The Bushies", after their return from Tamworth, are also going through a restructure. Melanie Williamson, the band's accordion player, who has been such a driving force the band's renaissance in the last five years, is leaving to take up a more permanent appointment as a farmer's wife in Trundle. Mel seems intent on living the Bush tradition "to the max". I'm not sure if the wedding attire will include Mel's signature ballet Tutu and fishnet stocking, but well keep you posted. If "the Wongas" have been the centre of authenticity in the Bush Music Tradition It has definitely been the Bushwackers "Fire in the belly" approach to melding traditional folk and rock that has done much to keep the tradition before the public in the lst 25 years. Peter's 5 year commitment to the band is continuing although two Yamaha Clinics he is conducting in Sydney this weekend will mean that Hannaman Das will be filling the Drum seat at The Canowindra Balloon Festival this weekend. Rumour has it that the next "lamb to the slaughter" in Îthe Bushies' musical alumni which over the years has included some 40 of Australia's more prominent players; including folks such Tommy Emmanuel, The Pretender's Pete Farndon; ex-Skyhooks drummer, Freddie Strauks not to mention yours truly ) is ex Chain of Hearts accordionist Pam Dryesdale . . . . . The legend continues.
Now Last But Not Least,,,,,,The REALLY REALLY REALLY BIG NEWS!!!!!! As Hon No 2 daughter Josie inches toward her fourth birthday, the WONDERFUL WONDERFUL NEWS is that her big brother, honourable Number 1 Son, Matthew and his wife, Naomi. . . . . . . . . have announced that Carol and I will be Grandparents in September!!!!!
Here's hoping that "Aunty Josie" learns to share her toys . . . . and even a little of her family's attention. God Bless. See You All at The Gigs
Pat, Carol and The Drummond family