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'.

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.