Old Time Musicians
 

Walcha Road

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Australian Folk Music

Old Time Musicians

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Today, few traditional musicians survive. You are much more likely to hear traditional music played by people like us, who are a part of the folk revival. However, you can get to hear some of the "real thing" via recordings of traditional players.

During the 1950's and 60's musicians were recorded on fairly primitive equipment by people such as John Meredith, but the focus on collecting folk music back then was much more on recording songs and spoken word (See John Meredith's "Folk Songs of Australia Volume 1").

 During the early 1980's John Meredith and a new generation of folk collectors went looking for tunes. In N.S.W.  John and people like Chris Sullivan, Barry MacDonald, Alan Musgrove and Dave de Hugard discovered a plethora of previously unknown musicians. Walcha Road play many tunes garnered from the recordings they made of these people. The musicians themselves often had wonderful tales to tell, and included many fascinating individuals.  

If you want to read about these people, the best single thing you can do is to get hold of our "bible"... the wonderful "Folk Songs of Australia Volume Two". This book contains photos, tunes, and short biographical sketches of the musicians recorded by John Meredith and others in the 1980's. It is available through the Bush Music Club at a ridiculously cheap price! (See our Links page) Alternatively, try an inter-library loan. The ISBN is 0 86840 018 1 (Publishers New South Wales University Press 1987). Authors are J. Meredith, R. Covell and P. Brown.

As far as recordings go, there are now a number of recordings available to the public (See our Recordings page). Read on to find out about some of the musicians we have met and learned from.

 Bruce Smith of Tenterfield

 Bruce with his team of bullocks 1922. Photos by Jeff Lawrie (See Photo page for more).


 Stan Treacy of Crookwell

Meeting and playing with traditional musicians had its humourous side. Julie had the good fortune to meet Stan Treacy of  Crookwell. Stan had been recorded and visited by a number of other musicians. He had played  for dances in his local area for over sixty  years, and spoke with the voice of experience. "Julie", he said ... "I'll tell you something about playing the fiddle". Julie waited on the edge of her seat for the pearls of wisdom to drop, and Stan concluded ..."Ya gotta play loud!". In Stan's era that was certainly true, but thankfully this no longer applies. Musicians like Stan playing solo had to play loudly to cover the sound of shuffling feet etc... no wonder they described their task as hard work!

Stan sometimes played tunes differently from one occasion to the next, and gave varying names for some tunes. Aged in his eighties, this was not surprising. However, he was clearly an outstanding "bush" musician. He played with a definite idiosyncratic style, using a strong sweep of the bow to emphasise the rythm in each bar, whilst stopping the action of the bow briefly at critical points to strike the next note with emphasis. Stan played with clarity and great care, apologising when the bow slipped a little on the strings of his fiddle. His rythm never faltered.

Stan's superb sense of timing was typical of the best traditional dance musicians. Unfortunately, Stan's music has yet to appear on C.D. but may be accessed through the National Library's Sound Archives. 


Andy Grant of Warwick, Qld.

Andy (pictured here with fiddler, Lionel O'Keefe) was of a younger generation than most of the musicians we encountered. A retired railway worker,  Andy played accordion, but he also had an unusual hobby: he collected old grammaphones and grammaphone recordings. Lionel O'Keefe (pictured here playing fiddle) and Cathy Duffy (just out of the photo) became firm friends of Andy's, along with local musician, Sharon Doro. Through them, a number of us came to meet this extraordinary man.

Andy was a most generous and gracious person. Visiting Andy, we were treated to "a bite to eat" ...homemade produce from his garden (amazing tomato chutney!), live music from Andy  and the chance to hear and record whatever we chose from his vast store of 78's. Andy had thousands of them ... sorted into categories (e.g. concertina music, mouth organ bands etc). Whilst the music played on a grammaphone  Andy would sharpen the steel needles needed to play the 78's on his own ingenious device: worked with a treddle action, this  featured a curved sharpening stone which rotated as the used needle was held against the stone. 

We are indebted to Andy for a tune which we play - "The Evalina Mazurka". Without him we would never have heard this beautiful Italian melody.  Go to the Horton River Band site (on our links page) for a detailed article about Andy, and to hear a sample of his playing.