Festival Musings from Bernadette #2

I was just watching a documentary on the weekend that was made about the Whare Flat [Folk] Festival and it made me think about what inspired me to become the coordinator of this event and what kept me doing it for so long. Whenever you talk to people about why they go to the festival and what takes them back there it sounds a bit like a broken record - it is the community. You can arrive there on the first day knowing no-one and you leave four days later having made a lot of friends. Even if you only see them once a year you always feel a connection with these people and often that inspires you to attend other folk festivals where you will often meet up with those same new friends. It is this aspect of the festival that I find is missing at festivals in other countries. - if you don't already know people, it is easy to feel left out and disconnected.

So what is it that does this for us? Most religions learnt long ago that singing together creates a connection - so does dancing and eating together. I met the same people at all the events at the overseas festival but there was never any connection, so sitting in concerts doesn't do it. At times I think I lost sight of this as I focused on trying to bring new styles of music and different artists to inspire our members. This is important to keep us learning and developing as artists but without the connection we lose people - there are many concerts you can go to but now that villages are rarer and fewer people attend church, it is not easy to feel that ongoing connection that humans seem to need for well-being. (Ha - there speaks the psychologist).

A late night session in the hall at Whare Flat Folk Festival (2006/7)

A late night session in the hall at Whare Flat Folk Festival (2006/7)

Bernadette Moroney

Bernadette has been part of the folk world for almost 40 years. During this time she has been a committee member for the Dunedin Folk Club (nee New Edinburgh Folk Club) under different guises as well as running the Whare Flat Folk Festival for 20 years. She also plays harp, concertina and sings. You may have seen her on stage with all female group 'Teud', 'Rhonda and the Ravers' and more recently 'Moroney'.

Festival Musings from Bernadette #1

I first attended the Whare Flat Festival in 1979/1980  having been asked by a friend to help him run a singing workshop. I had no idea what to expect and was astounded with the range of music I discovered, the instruments I didn't know existed and the quality of the performers. I didn't know I was a folkie but quickly discovered that I loved everything about this festival. I hadn't realised that I could spend four days immersing myself in music and dance and feel friends with people I'd never met before.

That was the beginning of my folk adventure and since that time I have been every year - 37 wonderful New Year celebrations - 20 of them as the director of the festival - and I'll keep going as long as I can.

In 1996 the Pioneer Pog 'n' Scroggin Bush Band were guests at the Australian National Folk Festival in Canberra and I went along as a supporter. Although I didn't get any feel of festival spirit that is a common ingredient of folk festivals in NZ, I was once again blown away by the quality and range of artists to be found there. I realised that as organisers of folk events we had been looking to the UK for most of our artists (Ireland, Scotland and Britain), yet right next door we had a wealth of talent that we could afford to bring across the sea. I came back to Dunedin inspired and put up my hand to take over coordinating our annual event and ended up with if for a lot longer than I'd expected. (See next installment).

 

The Pioneer Pog 'n' Scroggin Bush Band (1996) (From left to right) Tony Wilson, Greg Waite, John Steel, John Dodd, Mark Laws, Laura Gartner, Tarek Bazley, Lindsey Shields, Mike Moroney.

The Pioneer Pog 'n' Scroggin Bush Band (1996)
(From left to right) Tony Wilson, Greg Waite, John Steel, John Dodd, Mark Laws, Laura Gartner, Tarek Bazley, Lindsey Shields, Mike Moroney.

Bernadette Moroney

Bernadette has been part of the folk world for almost 40 years. During this time she has been a committee member for the Dunedin Folk Club (nee New Edinburgh Folk Club) under different guises as well as running the Whare Flat Folk Festival for 20 years. She also plays harp, concertina and sings. You may have seen her on stage with all female group 'Teud', 'Rhonda and the Ravers' and more recently 'Moroney'.

Song birds and night owls

I really do like the poster for the festival this year, the stars above the manuka, the moon and the morepork, the outline of the tent with its guy ropes.

It recalls happy wanderings in the dark with my violin, back from a session or an evening concert, still mulling the music, when a morepork call alerts me to the quiet of the site, the light of the low moon behind the trees, the Milky Way above, and, looking up with a smile and a little sigh, I stumble over the guy ropes again.

The line-up of violins this year is also quietly exciting; Serbian, Scottish, old time American, I know I will be completely blown away, like last year, at the way each player makes the thing sing out exactly the way it should while all the serious skill this must take is somehow wrapped up in smiles, banter and foot stomping; beguiling nods and winks that make the fiddle playing seem completely effortless. There is little reason why they shouldn’t act and look more like tennis players, grunting at particularly strenuous ornamentations, wearing sweatbands and sport shoes, determined to keep time. But they don’t, they look like they are having a ball.

It’s the shared joy of these musicians, makes me forget the guy ropes every time.

The First Post

Every year in late December when I turn up the Silverstream Valley Road and head into the glen where the Waiora Scout Camp is nestled, I experience the same feeling that it was just last week I was here - but I'm only ever driving this way to go to and from the annual Whare Flat Folk Festival. I guess thirty-five years of doing it gradually compresses the experience in your mind.

As a veteran of this thing I might be expected to wax lyrical about the good old days and deride the youthful, electric eccentrics that infiltrate the midnight sessions and daytime stages but, the truth is, it's the very thing that keeps me coming back. Mostly, when I'm not strumming something, I'm a desk jockey - the interface between "it's too loud" and "we can't hear the fiddle," and the sublime moments of synergy when fine performance and great technical wizardry come together like a classical sculpture before its arms were broken.

There's a soft side to the festival and there's an edge, and it's the ability of those two things to coexist that makes the gathering special. Age ceases to exist, we're all singers in the midnight choir, pickers and drinkers, dancing like nobody's watching.

At the apex of the year, one is remembered, the next is faced "with friends on every side"; and we're reminded of why we come back time and time again.