And they can even spell at Wintermoon!

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Just to reinforce the view that the organisers and volunteers are people of extraordinary quality and refinement, I feature a photo of the festival t-shirt – one of which I actually purchased and intend to wear, possibly not as a nightie even. You will notice firstly the dual appearance of our names (excoiding or what!?!? I expect we’ll be mobbed at our local supermarkets any time soon), but more amazingly, both Moira and my names are spelt correctly! Oh yes indeedy. Am amazing happenstance. If it’s not Moira being Tires, Tiers or Tyres, I’m being Ealy, Eely, Eales, Eal… I could go on. So we were absolutely delighted and let vanity lead us into adding these fine garments to our respective wardrobes – well actually to be honest, I think Moy’s t-shirt may end up being her husband’s latest negligee chap style!

So we settled in to wonderland and did that mill about not knowing anyone much and shyly sussing the place out thing. We wandered around taking in the beautiful, tropical setting and looked assessingly at each mob of musicians as they were deposited outside the Chai House and directed to their ‘des res’ in Tent City.  

It became pretty clear that to a major extent Wintermoon is a family reunion for those who have been touched by its magic and are drawn back to this ‘other world’ year after year. This applies to performers, volunteers and those who come back to participate as audience and campers again and again. And gosh, golly and gee whiz, I think I would die very much the sadder if I was told I might never experience Wintermoon again in this lifetime.

So many things made this festival as wonderful as it was and I’m in danger of getting quite circular rabbiting on about the kind and respectful behaviour of everybody, the way the musicians were nurtured and their music appreciated. Apart from being made to feel like the most precious but loved delicate plants, we were also free to engage with audience members and we had some really interesting conversations with so many people.

If I had to choose one playing highlight it would be singing ‘The Water is Wide’  at Rose’s behest, balanced on a huge (worryingly shapely and smooth rock) surrounded by river pebbles joined by the throng of people taking part in an impromptu boat launching ceremony and ably assisted by Moy on fiddle, Bruce on mandolin, Bec on cello, Donald on his beautiful (and slightly other) nylon guitar tuned 5 semi tones up and oh my…then again it could have been singing it later in the Chai House on the last night in front of the huge fire…

Or when Moy and Bruce and I sang Sailor’s Lament at that session accompanied by Donald on Bodrum and the fantastic didge player… or Stand By Your Man to crowds who ‘got’ the tongue in cheek rendition. Could have been when Moy and I joined Bruce in his final set on the Lunar Stage in singing his rather lovely new arrangement of a biblical text based on Corinthians 13 ‘Love Is’ in that wonderful flying by the seat of your pants way you do when you hardly know the piece but the bits seem to fit…or the glorious fun of letting rip with Cry Me a River – ummm – next to the river on the Lunar Stage (I am nothing if not literal).

We  performed  Unsung Heroes to a barely visible audience out there in the dark with the glowing background of roaming flame jugglers and fairy lights. We had been scheduled to do the 90 minute version at 6.30 while families still had their kids with them and before the ragier stuff came on. We were so uncertain about how it had gone across until next day when we were approached by all sorts of people wanting to chat about the characters and thanking us for the show. So many fulsome responses of thanks and appreciation. We had felt a little vulnerable without our arsenal of Anzac bikkies and turkish delight, but even at the airport on our way home we met a lovely woman who’d thought it the highlight of her Wintermoon. The three of us had the teensiest struggle fitting our respective crania in our alloted Tiger Airways seats. 

So stand out bestest performance experience? Dunno, don’t care. Just had the best time every set, every note, every encounter. 

Moy, Jen and I all had massages – me by a very gentle and nice man called Ash who not only practices Bowen and Fascia massage technique but is also a rather lovely songwriter, who was combining performing at the festival with running his family massage practice with his wife. All three of us came out of our respective massage sessions with goofy flacid faces, in states of bliss which lasted till the next day when we enjoyed the follow up sensations of being hit by big Kenworth trucks. Still, I did come away convinced that I should probably organise to have Bowen treatments from time to time and that a bit of self care might be a good plan.
I think it’s time to post round two. It is already the end of ‘next weekend’ and Wintermoon is very fresh in my mind and has rendered me thoughtful about a lot of things. I had planned to pop in lots of pictures, but I can’t find the bit in this blog thingy that allows me to do more of that so I will have another shot at a later stage.
Golly we are so blessed. Moy, Bruce and I are now preparing for our next outing as UHAH weekend after next. Moy and I are working on a piece for our album and are brim full of new ideas. I feel like I did when I was a kid about making music. I just want to play and play and play and play – which is what I’m going to do as soon as I press Publish!

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Look! Look! They got our names right! Oh bliss! Oh Joy!

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Four days of magic at Wintermoon!

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A few lucky years ago I became friends with a very clever and musical person called Moira  (that’s the face to face, chat have a coffee or a chardy, sing together, chew the fat type of friend not the white ‘f‘ in the blue rectangle with the rounded edges variety). Then, through a pretty bright idea of hers, we set up a forum for songwriters to share their songs and mingle with possibly like minded souls (that’s again a face to face situation where songwriters chat, have a coffee or a chardy, sing together, chew the fat type of forum, not a cyber chat room thingy – and I’ll spare you my definition of a room where people chat face to face…).  And so began a truly wonderful collaboration which has lead us to places all over the country, although there are plenty left we need to see and hopefully play music in. 

Anyway, meeting Moira has proved life changing. Not only have we been lucky enough to find in each other the ideal musical fit, but also we have the joy of performing and developing the Unsung Heroes project with our fellow UHAH collaborators Bruce Watson and Neil Robertson. Fast forward to this weekend just gone, and you find two very happy and excoided musicians, with their UHAH buddy Bruce and his wife Jill and my sister Jen and a heap of gear winging our way North to Mackay to be part of the Wintermoon Music Festival. (Neil is taking a year’s sabbatical to study).

I can’t begin to adequately describe the wonder of it all. An absolutely beautiful location, such care for the comfort and welfare of the performers, so much kindness and a spirit of goodwill and peace that I have genuinely not experienced before in all of my really very numerous years (I’m reaching an age where I suddenly find myself a bit coy about accurate stats).

We left Tulla for Mackay at 6.00 am Friday morning… I love early mornings and getting up at 3.30am suits me just fine (uuuurrrgggh). Jeff and his son David met us with a festival shuttle bus in Mackay, and we shared the hourish long drive with several other musicians and collective instruments. A very full bus indeedy, and a very cheery and chatty trip. Jeff was good enough to stop by his home enroute so his son could hop out and grab a razor for a lovely Scottish mandolin player who bewailed his feral hirsuteness, although he looked pretty smooth to me. 

Arriving at the Wintermoon site we were directed to our accommodation – which was pretty much a luxury camp site – and there is no irony or sarcasm in that description. An absolutely amazing woman Lisa, had been beavering a way for days pitching tents on a massive ground sheet, under a spreading tarpaulin supported by trees. She sorted out our mattresses as we arrived and slaved away solidly well into the night on a very hot day (for this slow to adapt Southerner) showing the musicians to their ‘rooms’.  Lisa is but one of the army of volunteers who start setting up for the festival weeks ahead and go to no end of trouble to make you feel at home. Once settled we wandered around and were reunited with one of the main organisers and the genius who helped get us over to Flinders Island last year, Jenny Drake. So nice to see her again! Our adventure had really kicked off now.

Lush tropical vegetation and beautiful sympathetic landscaped gardens were everywhere you look. The ablutions were great. Piping hot showers with a constant supply of hot water fed from a massive ‘kettle’ fueled by huge wooden sleepers. Complete privacy – (admittedly in some cubicles aided by the judicious hanging of one’s towel to bridge the teensy gap betwixt door and support – and as a short person the generous gap to the floor had me showering with considerable caution but at 6 in the morning at a music festival spectators are pretty unlikely), and just a short walk from tent city.

A spacious and relaxing ‘green room’ called the Chai House where we stowed instruments in one area, were treated to nourishing and delicious meals, had constant access to boiling water for cuppas, and a cosy fire which was very welcome in the evenings and early morning. And a huge communal eski for personal alcoholic fruit tinctures and hop based libations – generally purchased from the Calen Hotel about 20 minutes down the road. Moy, Jen and I were kindly deposited there by festival driver Graham to bond with the publican and stock up on Friday afternoon.

And so the scene is set for one of the most magical times I have ever spent in any context… and I fancy I’ll blither and blog more about it very soon, maybe tomorrow even. But for now, I have  a suitcase to unpack, guitar and mandolin to restore to proper pitch post flight, and normality to embrace. Ay, there’s the rub!

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Lounging around after lunch

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Chai House interior

Chai house from the outside approaching from tent city