Miriam is investigating the history of bluegrass and old-time music as it has been played in Australia since the beginning of the 20th century. As an outcome of Miriam’s Fellowship, she will be presenting a paper this year’s National Folklore Conference, producing an audio CD and performing at the 2015 National Folk Festival.
Jan is well known as a founder, front man and resident yarn-spinner of the legendary Bushwackers Band (1971-1981). A strong theme of Jan's work over the past three decades has been black and white Australia. What plunged Jan into this world was the life story of WE (Bill) Harney (1895-1962), Jan's favourite historical character, whom he began researching in 1987.
The National Folk Fellowship has given him the opportunity to complete the research and create a stage play. Scripted from Harney's books, radio broadcasts and papers and songs held in the National Library, Bilarni tells the tale of an 'uneducated' Northern Territory bushman - the greatest yarn-spinner of them all, a soldier who returned from World War I to live amongst Aborigines as a lover, husband and father who lost it all, a cattle-duffer who became a Protector of Aborigines, a beach-comber who was a writer, poet, advisor to film makers, scientists, anthropologists, mentor to Jack Thompson and Ted Egan, and whose epic life culminated as the inaugural ranger at Ulutu in 1957, living there alone in a tent.
One of the leadingexponents of Australian traditional fiddle music, Cath has been leaning from the original performers and tradition bearers since the early 1980s when she "cut her bow" under the guidance of Bingara fiddler Charlie Batchelor. The subject of Cath's Fellowship was the fiddle music of Joe Yates (1895-1987), bush worker, poet and prolific fiddler from the Sofala/Hill End area. Joe handed over an enormous collection of material from 1983 to 1985. He was 89 years old when first recorded. Cath played music with Joe in 1985 along with a few other individuals who were lucky enough to learn directly from him.
Though Cath was already familiar with the playing of Joe Yates, the Fellowship offered her the opportunity to re-examine the breadth of Joe's extraordinary playing. Joe Yates was a creative musician and in addition to playing the tunes of his father and greandfather, he contributed to the tradition by writing his own tunes as well. Cath and colleagues released their CD "The Fiddle Music of Joe Yates" at the 2013 National Folk Festival.
Emma Nixon and Chris Stone
Emma, Chris and friends are recording some of the music they’ve uncovered in the Library’s studios and will produce a CD of tunes, much of which is previously unreleased tunes, demonstrating Australian Scottish fiddle performance repertoire in the early 20th century, and fiddle practice in the present. The CD includes a booklet with background information to the recording project and photographs from the Library's collection.
For their National Folk Fellowship performance they will perform a mix of relatively well-known tunes from the Scottish repertoire of the early 20th century and earlier tunes from previously unknown collections. The combination of these rare and exciting pieces with the experience and skill of these two fine players promises a compelling and important performance.
Toby Martin combines a scholarly interest in Australian country and folk music with writing, playing and performing. He recently completed a PhD in the history of Australian Country Music at the University of Sydney. Toby has also been lead singer and songwriter for the successful indie-rock band Youth Group. Over 10 years, the band toured the world and released four albums, attaining a number one single ‘Forever Young’ and an ARIA award for Breakthrough Artist in 2006. Toby has also established himself as a solo performer, recently completing a new solo album.
In his Folk Fellowship he is focusing on the Indigenous tradition of country music in western NSW. The starting point for his project was a 1960s drinking song by Dougie Young, the country singer from Wilcannia, called ‘Cut a Rug’ that sings of the Indigenous experience. Field recordings of this song – along with many others of Indigenous people singing country and folk songs from places connected by the Darling and Lachlan rivers such as Bourke, Condobolin and Brewarinna – are in the National Library of Australia's Oral History and Folklore collection.
For his National Folk Fellowship performances, Toby Martin has created a new band The Rug Cutters, which includes Dougie Young’s grandson Jimmy James and country music legend Roger Knox. They re-imagine these songs as electrified country: the way in which the songs may have been recorded had the artists gone on to establish careers in white Australia.
Christina Mimmocchi, singer, arts manager, arranger and community choir leader, is the 2010 National Folk Fellow. She has arranged for and toured with the trios Touchwood and Blindman’s Holiday, including for Musica Viva both in Australia and overseas. She is the director of the Sydney Women’s Vocal Orchestra, a choir which celebrates the music of the women of Palembang POW camp (as seen and heard in the movie “Paradise Road”) and is the director of the Leonard Cohen devotees’ group ‘Choir on a Wire’. She regularly organises musical events and concerts and managed the acoustic music venue in Sydney, Eastside Arts, until its demise. Mentors of major influence have been the composer-producer Greg White, who is currently Head of Composition at the Australian Institute of Music, and noted folk collector Rob Willis. Christina’s musical interests include traditional and contemporary folk music, community music, contemporary jazz and the great songwriters.
Christina’s Fellowship will enable her to explore, select and arrange Australian folk songs from diverse sources for community choirs to use and enjoy. She will lead a community choir performance at the Festival. Participants will rehearse in the three days over the Festival, and the performance will be recorded. A book containing the musical arrangements and background information on each song and practice sound files, recorded in the Oral History Studios at the Library, is available via the National Folk Festival website.
Dr Jennifer Gall
The 2009 National Folk Fellow, Dr Jennifer Gall, has been turning the masculine version of Australian folklore on its head. Women’s work and women’s art is often so well integrated into the processes of daily life, that it is invisible to observers or those who document history. Using the vast quantity of archival sound recordings held at the National Library of Australia, “Picking up the Threads: Australian women’s folk music” examines the social networks and relations at work in the evolution and transmission of Australian folk music.
Dr Ronald McCoy
Doctor, academic and Scottish music expert, Dr Ronald McCoy, is the 2008 National Folk Fellow. Through his work on the Emily Lyle Collection in the National Library, he has explored the contribution of the Scots and Gaels to Australian folk culture. He will reinterpret those songs, stories and tunes by recreating a Scottish ceilidh with the help of a harpist, a piper and the Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club in the Fellowship concert at the 2008 National Folk Festival.
The 2007 National Folk Fellow, Ian Blake, is a performer, composer, sound engineer and sound artist. Ian will create a suite of musical and sound works combining live and electro-acoustic music drawing on children¡¯s songs and games found in the Library's folklore recordings. This new work will premiere at the 2007 National Folk Festival.
Ben Stephenson and Adrian Barker
The focus of Ben and Adrian's research was Australian dance music of Irish origin held in the National Library Folklore Collection. During their time in the Library Ben and Adrian also researched across the collections, locating recordings that have assisted them to "identify patterns of change and development of styles of playing and the means by which the tunes are learnt and passed on". One of the results of their research is a 13 track CD and booklet Undertones: Irish music from Australia.
Graham discovered many songs that had "slipped through the net of attention" given to other well known traditional Australian songs. From the 30-40 he identified as being "rough diamonds", Graham recorded 12 songs and performed these at the 2005 Festival Concert under the title Trawling for Rough Diamonds. His songs will eventually be made available through MusicAustralia (www.musicaustralia.org), along with his annotations of their origin and significance.
Read more about Graham's Fellowship in his article Trawling the Library for Rough Diamonds
2004 Inaugural Folk Fellows
Dave De Santi and Jane Brownlee
Jane and Dave researched across the vast number of unpublished recordings in the Folklore collection, in particular the collections of Chris Sullivan, Norm O'Connor, John Meredith, Rob Willis, Alan Scott and the Wattle Records collection. Dave and Jane found many tunes and songs that were completely new to them. They transcribed enough tunes for 18 CDs, from which they selected 51 for the double CD Australian Traditional Dance Tunes and are currently publishing an associated tune book.
Read more about Dave and Jane's Fellowship in Jane Brownlee's article Song Treasures in the National Library of Australia