Leave your pretentions at the door
Last night (Jan 5th) it was 27° at 9:30pm in Girgarre, Vic. The few banjos fell silent and the only sound was the “plonk, plonk” of Banjo frogs.
Tonight it is ‘walk up’ night in the town hall. It’s hot and we dare not move for fear of overheating any more than we already are. The fold up chairs are hard but the talent is entertaining and as usual the standard of dress is shorts, T shirts and thongs. We meet a retired dairy farming couple from ‘3 miles down the road’ and he tells us that his Mother always insisted that he love his neighbour, so he married her. At the end of each bracket there is a dash outside to the Eskies for more cold beer.
We’ve got a singer songwriter Mum from out the back of Sydney, a jazz band called the Mississippi Movers. Another young Mum softly plays a ukulele accompaniment to her tiny daughter’s spellbinding classical violin. And a group who formed in the camp ground just a few hours earlier play Greek and Israeli folk music on a piano accordion, a mandolin and a couple of fiddles. The fiddler in the baggy shorts, singlet and fishing hat appears to be just a little out of character though! What a delight it is. The smell of the wooden floor boards, the slowly turning fans, the honour boards to the men of the district who served in the wars, the pretty banners around the stage naming the battles of The Great War, of France and Egypt; The Somme, Fromelles, Pozieres, Gaza, El Rish, Beersheba … and of course the painted backdrop of happy grazing dairy cows.
Saturday is always the busiest day of the festival. I gulp my breakfast down and take my coffee over to the Church Hall for a workshop on “How to Engage Your Audience”. Not that I want to perform on stage but it is nice to have an understanding. We are told to make eye contact with our audience unless of course we are jazz musicians, as they are always too busy giving each other the “aren’t we so good” looks.
A quick break and it’s off to learn about chords. Having no musical training I am lost after five minutes and even more so when the teacher tells us that he has just given us enough to continue learning for the next fifty years. I’m old already, I haven’t got 50 years!
Another session and I’m on a downward spiral. This time we learn alternate fingering methods for the ukulele that my old bent up and arthritic fingers won’t even reach.
On Saturday evening we drive our chairs and Eskies across the road to the park, come on it’s too hot to walk, and we camp on the lawns for the entertainment. As in past years, the stage is the back of a semi trailer. The organisers are thrilled to announce that in this, their 11th year their efforts have paid off and the Regional Arts Council of Victoria have donated the money to build a sound stage.
The raffle for a Fender guitar is drawn and who should be the lucky winner but my old boss’s Dad, the bloke we were looking for at the Devil’s Marbles in the Northern Territory. Well I’ll be damned.
Hundreds of people, visitors and locals lounge on the lawns enjoying the music, some dance. Kids run free ducking and weaving through the chairs, playing chasey. The air is balmy and filled with music. Life could not be better than this.