Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sixish days of music, in-laws and the road - Roses Gap Folk Music Camp 2014

Facebook is a funny non-place to be. 5am at home is a good place to be. Writing and reflecting on our old front verandah, waiting for the guy swinging his budgie smugglers as he walks up the street to the beach, hearing my first koel of the season in the distance, avoiding the avalanche of emails that will drag me screaming back into the 'real world' that is my own doing.

For now I'm just going to reduce the screen brightness, type, and watch the street and its dawn.

I will go back to bed, in an hour or two, when I get a cup of tea for my love. We do not have to rush off anywhere, even though Tuesdays are a traditionally 'big' day. The life of the community musician, afternoons / evenings / and a desktop computer with so many tasks awaiting. That's why I avoid the big computer and use this small one in my lap. Not such easy access to the net, more time to sit with my brain.

The productive, creative and relaxed drive to Forbes

We had a huge weekend, a rather long one. It felt like one of our four week sojourns to the US, travelling and meeting strangers who become fellow travellers, being encased in a dream world for a couple of days, then re-emerging from our temporary cocoon to engage with the daily stresses.

We stop at Beela Rd to honour Jane's dearly departed cat.
Wednesday we left, after a good swim and a visit with Mum. We decided to do the big dogleg to Victoria, via Jane's parents in Forbes. A holy visit of obligation, and a six hour drive that we used well, bright-eyed with full attention on serious personal matters that we addressed with great productivity and creativity. The drive ended with Jane and myself taking turns at strumming a uke, practising harmonies as the trees and the dusk flit by, and the kangaroos stay safely on the verge (mostly).

Aforementioned curtains
We stayed in the same room and with the same bedroom curtains that Jane bought with her own pocket money when she was 16. Had dinner with rellos, walked around Lake Forbes, wandered the streets searching for wisteria to smell, admiring the slow architecture of the place, wondering how to address small and large family matters and difficulties. Life in a small rural Australian town – you remember Karen Smith? You went to school with her. Well she …. etc. etc. …. Life remembered as only parents can.

We played a little music outside the family estate.
The Chinese restaurant that I wouldn't recommend, except it is the only one, and it's the place in which Jane did two months as a dishpig waiting to depart home and school life for the big city university life. The discussions about distant friends, distant relatives and their fates over the last 25 years or so of adulthood, including the history of the ownership of the Chinese restaurant and the fate of their family life. We try to identify small fleeting birds of the Central Western Slopes and Plains, combing the desolate wasteland of lawns of neglect, pick bags of lemons at Harry Brown's farm. We even discuss getting the parents onto the internet and familiar with modern day computers. The last people on Earth who are not connected shall be connected. And it was good. All completed in one frenzied Thursday of indolence. And then on Friday we hop back in the car and drive off down the mighty Newell. And it was good.

The Newell

Beckom Public School kids did a geography 'B' project.
Facebook on the smartphone and iPad was well present in Forbes. So were other writings and the occasional email. Facebook and driving from Forbes to Benalla was also good. Sharing little insights of the distant rangelands along the Newell, or the more remote places on the road to Urana. Even there the lesser telephone network had its tentacles working. The relative thrivingness and welcomingness of West Wyalong. The tumbleweedness of Urana. The cuteness of a nondescript highway toilet stop decorated with geographical panache by the local school children. The preponderance of Caution! Emu! signs, and the absence of emus. The continual thrum of the tyres on the macadam at a 110km an hour that remind you that you are not actually flying, even though it feels like you are and you may as well be.
Thom, Dick and Harry's - West Wyalong. Coffee mug purchase

A wee stop and a brief enjoyment of the new Corowa Civic Centre overhanging the Murray floodlands, and then we drive into Victoria, into a deep wooded valley of the Strathbogies and enter the zone. No Facebook. No internet. Just music and damn fine people.

Roses Gap

Roses Gap Music Camp is a scion of Turramurra Folk Music Camp – the child that left home and became even bigger than the original. For a while there it seemed like Roses Gap was going to be made homeless by the bushfires that damaged the Grampians nestled Roses Gap centre that gave it its name. 

But this musical community and committee is strong and vibrant and the geographical dislocation proves a mere hiccough, and the whole camp is able to vault across the state to the Strathbogies. This new home at Charnwood seems more than appropriate to our needs, with the main challenge being what to call it? Rosewood seems to be the interim name of choice. 

And there obviously was a need for a bigger venue than the Charnwood dining hall can provide. A Port Fairy worthy marquee dominates the valley floor, betraying this little festival's potential aspirations to be like its large Folk Festival cousins. But it never will be, and never wants to be. 3-400 people is just right.

I've written at length about Turramurra Folk Music Camp – the original one that gave rise to this spillover. This feels much the same, though with many different people. Perhaps there are more families here? More kids? Though maybe not.

The lawn next to the Marquee
The format remains the same. Dinner then a Friday night concert to showcase the tutors (which includes us) and then a relatively early to bed. The catered food is good with plenty of vego and small serves that leaves one hankering for more salt and fat. I suppose that's a good thing. As tutors we are given two booklets of 'food money', but we top those payments up with a song each day in the kitchen for Deb and her other wonderful cooks.

Workshops all day Saturday and Sunday. The program is a relatively small one … it's easier to refer you to the website and copy and paste the dot points.
  • Art with Julian Chappel
  • Contra Dance with Maggie Duncan
  • Ensemble with Lyndal Chambers & Brian Strating
  • Federation Bells with Ariel Valent
  • Beginners and Intermediate Fiddle with  Hugh Gordon
  • Beginners and Intermediate Guitar with Jem Dunlop
  • Singing with Jane Thompson
  • Keyboard with Janet Gordon
  • Hula Hoop Dance for everyone with Donna Sparx
  • Beginners and Intermediate Tin Whistle with Pat Lyons
  • Beginners and Intermediate Ukulele with Mark Jackson and Jane Jelbart
  • Wildflower Walks with Elvyne Hogan
  • Morning Yoga with Wendy Ashton
  • Youth Band with Matt Sheers
Lanterns at night with iPhone = poor photo
It's rich and small - we partake in other morsels including yoga, singing, guitar, lantern-making, youth band and ensemble.  Talking, yabbering, networking, learning through conversations, drinking cups of tea. These too are important to being here. Alcohol is not dominant, but a mere accompaniment to a meal (perhaps).

Saturday night is always the dance, and Sunday night is the concert featuring the products of all the workshops. Sunday night begins with a rather ritualistic parade replete with a 50 ish piece marching band, lanterns, Federation Bells and solemn moments.

For me, the Sunday night concert is renowned for three distinct things. One is its length, where parents of small children must keep them awake or submit to their tiredness. Some kids inevitably miss out. Sometimes I miss out and head to bed at an unreasonably early hour like 11:30pm.

The whistle workshop invades the stage.
The second ever-present Sunday night motif is the self perpetuating funky brass band limbo competition. Daniel with his impossible limbs didn't win this year.

The third is the wonderful youthful performance surprises that turn up constantly Most of it is captivating and sheer delight. In another world this might be called a family camp, or a youth music camp. But in this world there is no distinction made between what has gone before and what is forthcoming. The old and the new, the generational pull and progression, all of it naturally slides into the other. Music is for all generations; feeds, creates and reflects each generation; everyone finds their space and does their thing, together and apart, and always, it seems, with a respect for the other - one for its mentoring and musical wisdom, the other for its apparent dedication for musical excellence and for their sense of responsibility that they are the ones travelling the tradition forward.

We wrangle and wrangle and manage to wangle and mangle four performance songs for our 120+ ukulele students. What amazes me is everyone's immense musical literacy. Even the beginners are swiftly taught. Where we would teach a beginners workshop to 10-15 people over two hours, here we only have an hour to teach 60-70 people. We achieved what we normally achieve in about 40 minutes. But I write about that more in the next blog.
Virtuosic classical guitar munchkins. Sunday night.
In the video of How to Make Gravy, particularly watch the elfin Georgina (she's the one in the guitar trio piccie, on the right) who is all over it, and focussed on the most complex riffs – and she is 9. Her classical guitar training stands her in good stead.
There are myriad stories to tell, and so many people showcase wonderful stuff. But you can't just write about it. You have to immerse yourself and be there.

And then you leave. As always, its a wrench.

The freeways of our lives

We wend our way on the dirt out of this rich musical, social and bushland ecosystem. After a few kilometres we join the freeway. We call this civilisation, the freeways that circumscribe our 'normal' lives.

And we do the most stupid thing in Albury - we go to a shopping centre. It is indescribably awful. Culturally demoralising. Reality.

The 10 hour drive back home is like a zombie journey, fraught with bickering and whinging. No creativity, no productivity, no conversations. Not a skerrick of Facebook is indulged, even though for two and a half days I have been deprived. It is the legacy of a general lack of sleep. Or is it the shock of reality?
Maybe it is grief?
We fall asleep.
And awake back home. 

5am is a good place to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment