St Albans Folk Festival

Posted by jerry on April 23rd, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Music

Another wonderful St Albans Folk Festival 2007 has come and gone. Highlights included the delightful crowd that attended my fiddle workshop and the really responsive crowd at our Full Circle concert at the Fickle Wombat restaurant. This is a really friendly folk festival – small enough to meet old and new friends, and big enough to hear some great musicians.

The setting is delightful – nestled in a gorge not far from Wisemans Ferry in NSW (about an hour from Newcastle) and the morning mist makes the place quite magical as the first morning flutes and fiddles announce the new day.

We found a campsite conveniently opposite the Fickle Wombat venue


The first stop after setting up camp was to head off to the main festival ground and get a good hot cup of coffee – and a bacon and egg sandwich. Both were warm wet and filling.

But the folk/blues coming out of the main marquee quickly set the scene for a night of great music. I ran into the excellent fiddler Tony Pyrzakowski and he was keen to play a session after his gig with the inimitable Wheeze and Suck Band. They’re terrific if you haven’t heard them – and great to see live as they really get the audience going. You’ve got to hear Tony’s new five string electric fiddle – it’s light; it’s got a great sound; and it has the viola C string as well as the normal violin ones. And in Tony’s hands he makes it really sing. That’s a Guscott fiddle – light weight (the pre-amp goes on your belt, not in the fiddle – and the fiddle is made from lightweight kevlar).

We had a blistering ‘dueling fiddlers’ session at the Settlers Arms pub – a grand old country pub – perfect spot for a music session. There was trad session in the back room then when the pub closed it was everyone on the verandah until the wee hours. Tony and I played and members of the Mothers and Wheeze and Suck and Full Circle – it was terrific and there were several other fiddle and whislte players joining in – and that’s what it’s all about – the sharing of the music. I had a few songs with Nigel ‘Muddy’ Waters – great guy.

Settlers Arms
Settler Arms Hotel, St Albans

When the cool damp air started playing havoc with my bow – the wood expanded until the bow would no longer keep the hair stretched tight – it was time to call it a night.

Next morning with the light mist keeping the dust down Sharon and I headed up to the Fickle Wombat for the Poets breakfast and then over to the Gallery – where my fiddle workshop would be held – and had a lovely fresh brewed plunger coffee and chocolate slice for morning tea, then after checking out the paintings and handcrafts we headed back to the main venue to hear some music and take a few photos.

The fiddle workshop was well attended and I took them through some technique training and some stretching exercises

fiddle workshop St Albans 2007
Jerry’s fiddle workshop, St Albans Folk Festival

fiddle workshop - St Albans

Then it was down to the pub verandah for a bit of a warm-up session with the rest of Full Circle Band before grabbing a bite to eat, some music at the main marquee and then off to get our instruments to the Fickle Wombat ready for our concert.

Fickle Wombat Restaurant, St Albans NSW
The Fickle Wombat, St Albans NSW

These guys deserve a lot of praise as they supported the festival throughout and worked 18 hour days tirelessly to keep everyone fed and coffee’d – Well done!

Other highlights – the Mothers of Intention with their Karifolkie (see it to believe it!) They played at the Fickle Wombat before us and set the scene for the concert to follow

Mothers of Intention - Karifolkie
Mothers of Intention – Karifolkie

Then it was our turn, and we soon had the crowd stomping and dancing and singing along. Tony told me after that as he was walking away to do a Wheeze and Suck gig he heard us start up and he kept wanting to go back and listen to us! We played for a good two hours – which flew by – it seemed like half an hour to us, and the packed audience were really responsive – a truly lovely festival crowd. We were called back for three encores and it was a real high note to end the concert.

The old van went well – with the minor irritant of a short circuit in the headlights to make our arrival in the evening a bit interesting. And we passed a milestone on the speedometer – 400,000kms – in the the van we’ve had since new


With the final morning dawning it was time to pack up the camp, listen to the poets breakfast and say a few farewells before heading back up the road via Wiseman’s Ferry and homeward to Canberra. Interestingly, Wisemans Ferry is the oldest continuously operating ferry service in Australia having run since 1827.

Wisemans Ferry NSW

Wisemans Ferry

… and that sign is in miles! It’s actually 21 km to Wisemans Ferry.

Anyhow, congratulations to Alison Boyd and all the organisers for a great festival – hope to see you all there next year!


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