Saturday 30 August 2014

Launch of Keith McKenry's Biography of John Meredith, founder of the Bush Music Club

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Friday 12th September, 6.30 for 7pm, Baptist Church Hall, 4 Macarthur Pde, Dulwich Hill.

In our 60th year and as part of our Diamond Jubilee Anniversary celebrations, the Bush Music Club is proud to announce the launch of Keith McKenry's exhaustive biography of John Meredith.

John Meredith (1920–2001) was for decades the leading warrior in the fight to preserve and celebrate Australia’s unique folk heritage.
Between 1953 and 1994 he recorded from ordinary Australians thousands of songs, tunes, recitations, folk medicines, superstitions, sayings and yarns, documenting a rich canon of traditional lore which at the time few believed—and many denied—existed. He was also a key pioneer in folk song performance, establishing in 1952 the original Bushwhackers Band and performing in the landmark Australian musical Reedy River.

A political radical throughout the Cold War years, he fought all his life against poverty, cultural toadyism and official indifference. Writing or co-authoring many books on Australian tradition and history including the classic Folk Songs of Australia and the Men and Women Who Sang Them, still easily the most important single volume in the field, he achieved official recognition late in life, his original field recordings becoming an acknowledged national treasure. Unlike however the great song collectors in other English-speaking countries he did not have the benefit of a good education let alone formal musical training for he was forced by poverty to leave school at age fourteen at the height of the Great Depression.

In 1944, having neither qualifications nor prospects, he mounted his pushbike and left the New South Wales township of Holbrook where he was born and rode into the sunrise, determined to make his fortune. This is his story.
344 pages, 225 x 150 mm, 20 colour plates, 80 b&w, and DVD $39.95, Hardcover

The accompanying CD, which will not be available separately, contains 30 tracks, and the performers include Burl Ives (singing the first recording of Click Go the Shears), the original 1953 Sydney cast of Reedy River, the Bushwhackers, Duke Tritton, Sally Sloane, Alan Scott, Gary Shearston, Marian Henderson, Martyn Wyndham-Read (who recorded a new version of ‘Reedy River’ especially for the album) and Wongawilli, as well as the cream of Meredith’s field recordings from both the 1950s and the 80s and 90s. In compiling the CD Keith was assisted by both the National Library and the National Film and Sound Archive.

In researching and writing it Keith was assisted throughout by the National Library of Australia, which awarded him a Harold White Fellowship and commissioned oral history interviews with all the surviving key characters in Meredith’s story. The book is fully referenced with over 1000 endnotes and a detailed index.
The book will be launched by John Derum & Wongawilli will provide entertainment & music for some dancing

John Meredith collecting from Steve Power using the (in)famously heavy 30 pound tape recorder

John with the original lagerphone made by his brother Claude (Rob Willis photo)

Our tent on one of the early field trips,1987  (Rob Willis photo) 

Merro & Jamie Carlin, Bush Traditions 1995 (Bob Bolton photo)

Friends gathered at his wake (Bob Bolton photo)

Merro & Peter Ellis on a collecting trip, c.1991 (Peter Ellis collection)

Merro & Peter Ellis at Harry McQueen's place, Castlemain, c.1989. (Peter Ellis collection)
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Friday 29 August 2014

Report on Saplings Master Class – held Sunday 10th August 2014

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Claire busking at the Markets to advertise Saplings
  Wow!!! – we had a fabulous day! So far all the feedback we have had from the parents and the children themselves has been very positive.
We had 12 children playing an assortment of instruments. We could not have had better tutors - Dave Johnson and Jason Roweth are perfect educators of the young and so passionate about bush music that it had to rub off. 
Jason & Dave
 Naomi Doherty kept the young ones (Blue Gums) under control with the help of Chris Poleson and kept the fun activities coming so that they did not have time to get bored. 
Thomas, Emily, Megan with Naomi
We were very lucky to have Samantha O’Brien assisting Jason, as they had two flute players and a sax player and thanks to Dave Johnson for transposing the music into Eb for sax and also Bb for our clarinet player at the last minute. Unfortunately, the rhythm (guitar and uke) players who wanted to come could not at the last minute but that did not affect the creative Jason.
Here is Dave’s highlight of the day -
There were many wonderful moments through the day but for me the informal sitting on the step with Declan and playing Bill Gilbert's Geese in the Bog was just magic. I played the tune about six times and each time through he had a bit more of it. A short break while I showed how I cross-rowed it and he had it. He just wowed me. And later I heard him just going over it quietly to himself, so I knew we had to share it with the class. It showed me that there is a real need for the master class aspect as well as the beginner and intermediate stream.

Declan & Dave
Tony Romeo spent some time with the Blue Gums playing lagerphone and percussion and then spent time with the whole group who were very interested in these instruments.
Lagerphones & spoons
 He also led them all in a couple of informal dances which were enjoyed by everyone.
   Claire Doherty spent 15mins with the Blue Gums helping them to get their fingers around a fiddle – this was an aim for the future - to have Saplings teach new Saplings and it happened at our first Master Class!

Ralph Pride surprised the group when he turned up as a “swaggie” from the bush looking for John Meredith as he had some more tunes to give him….. the kids just sat there gob-smacked while Dave and Jason collected the tunes from Ralph (who was very funny). 

The highlight of the day was the last hour when each group, the Ironbarks, the Banksias and the Blue Gums, did a little presentation of what they had learnt and then everyone played together. A perfect day…!!!

I am glad we had plenty of food – they could eat!!
Cake made & decorated by Claire 
 Each child took home a goody bag with information on festivals, 2 Mulga Wires, one of Ralph’s song books, the blue Bush Music CD, a pair of spoons, stickers and a chocolate. We also included a feedback form and hope to get these returned in the near future.
We would like to do this again next year and are also thinking of a regular Sunday afternoon (perhaps every three months) session for the Saplings and other young people to attend with just a couple of adults to lead the session. The plan would be a Sunday in Tritton Hall - perhaps 1 – 4pm - to play through the music they received at the Master Class and then at the next Master Class they get a new music book for the year. 
tutors - Kerry, Chris (banjo), Jason (guitar), Sam (flute), Tony, Naomi, Dave, Helen
2 & 3 Generations of bush musicians

 John, Emily, Chris
 Claire, Kerry, Naomi
  Jason & Megan
Naomi, Michelle, Thomas
   George & Thomas
Christina & Tomas
Report - Helen Romeo & Kerry Doherty, coordinators, Saplings subcommittee

photos - Sandra Nixon