2017 events are listed below
(either page down or click on specific event for more detail)
Second Sunday each month – Old Time Music or Bluegrass Jam Sessions
15h December – The Melling Station Boys
9th December – The Danberrys (with Vanessa McGowan)
2nd December – Albi and The Wolves
18th November – Kevin Welch
17th November – The Squirrelly Bills
4th November – Richie and Rosie
28th October – Acoustic Confusion meets Unsung Heroes
15th October – Mile Twelve
13th October – The Helen Dorothy Project
30th September – Wires & Wood
15th September – Blackboard Concert
9th September – Adams, Gavin and Billington
2nd September – Whiskey Falls
25th August – An Déise
18th August – John Egenes
29th July – Across the Great Divide
22nd July – T-Bone Trio
21st July – The Prowse Brothers
24th June – Toru
16th June – Frank Sillay
10th June – Rag Poets
20th May – Loren Barrigar and Mark Mazengarb
19th May – Blackboard Concert
13th May – Robbie Lavën and Bryan Christianson
21st April – Clean Getaway
8th April – Caitlín Nic Gabhann, Ciarán Ó Maonaigh and Cathal Ó Curráin
2nd April – The All Day Breakfast Stringband Workshops
1st April – The All Day Breakfast Stringband Concert
25th March – Richard Adams and Nigel Gavin and George Rose
17th March – The Downunderdogs
17th February – Loose Caboose
8th February – The Company
14th January – Maire and Chris
13th January – In Memory of Clive Chambers
Second Sunday each month – Old Time Music or Bluegrass Jam Session
It will be held on the second Sunday afternoon of each month between 2pm and 4pm at the Petone Community Centre. See Event Detail page for more information.
Over many years the WBS has organised Old-time banjo camps, then Old-time music camps and many Old-time instrument and Bluegrass workshops. There has been a calling for jam sessions to also be held.
Embrace this opportunity and the jam session will flourish accordingly. For this year, Bluegrass jam sessions are on “even” months, and Old-time Music jam sessions are on “odd” months.
Friday 15th December – society night – The Melling Station Boys
In the late 60s Todd Foster was a teenager with unruly hair and driving his mother mad by playing banjo in the lounge. After putting up with this for a while, and after failing to persuade him to play drums instead, in despair she bought a television. Despite having only one channel, as luck would have it, at practice time there was also a programme on called The Country Touch, featuring the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band. Todd was hooked! Putting down his banjo to watch the TV, at last his mother had peace in the household.
At about that time Alastair McCarthy stowed away on a Scottish fishing boat and during a dark and stormy night was shipwrecked on the Gisborne coast. With the boat gone he had no passage home, so had to make ends meet by busking in the town with his only surviving possession – a guitar. There he met banjo picker Don McLennan and they played together in the group the Feudin’ Dudes. Taking a bet in the pub one Friday afternoon, he won a trip to Hamilton on a Road Services bus. Upon arrival he saw a poster announcing the 1968 National Banjo Pickers Convention, happening that weekend in Hamilton! Alastair couldn’t believe his luck and headed off to the festival. There he saw the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band and learnt his first bass run from Dave Calder. Some time later, like a moth to the light, he moved to Wellington.
As a teenager in England, Ian Smith was fed up with digging coal, so emigrated to NZ in the early 70s. Coming from a coastal town, he was attracted to both Dunedin and Wellington, but decided to settle in Wellington, which had a thriving folk music scene including the National Folk Festival. In the early 80s he moved into a musical flat including Liz Merton, where he first played bluegrass with flatmate Bruce Thompson.
Meanwhile, in the 80s Andrew Bicknell was so inspired by bluegrass music that he struggled to finish his studies at Victoria University in favour of playing banjo. However five strings had to give way to lectures and upon completion, and with Fidel Castro in mind, he set up the Wellington Bluegrass Society to keep the bluegrass flame burning in the region.
Despite Todd, Alastair and Ian living in the same town, they didn’t get to know one another until many years later. After all having been married for some time, they respectively were getting tired of writing Dominion Post reviews, fixing oil leaks in vintage cars and assessing how to build under the house. Following a meeting of kinds at a blind date performance at the folk club, they decided to start jamming together and rekindle their interest in bluegrass. This became a regular happening and after a while they became focused on a weekly jam which included a customary break part way through for Dilmah tea and date loaf.
Now it just so happened early one evening, only a few months ago, Andrew was heading to Lower Hutt to attend a meeting at Hutt City Council. He caught a train from Petone and hopped on the first one, thinking that all trains head to the Hutt, however the train he boarded was for Melling. After arriving, hopping off and then realising he was in the wrong place, the train was gone. It was the last train for the day(6:30pm) and in despair, he painted on the back of his bass “desperately needing a ride”, and with State Highway 2 beside the railway line, was hoping a passer by would be able to help.
Coincidentally, it was also practice night for the three gents in Normandale. After rehearsing some songs and then breaking for tea, the three realised they were out of Dilmah, so made a speedy dash to the supermarket. On the way back they saw Andrew standing by the side of the road, holding his bass, and couldn’t believe their eyes. He looked parched so they offered him a cup of tea, to which he heartily agreed. They squeezed him into their car and went back to their practice. Thus the Melling Station Boys were formed.
Saturday 9th December – concert – The Danberrys (with Vanessa McGowan) (USA)
At the heart of The Danberrys is the Tennessee-born couple of Ben DeBerry and Dorothy Daniel – a truly unique pair of artists hailing from East Nashville, Tennessee. Drawing deep from the traditions of bluegrass, old-time country, blues, and funk/soul, The Danberrys offer inspired songwriting delivered with raw emotion, distinct vocal harmonies and dynamic top-notch musicianship. Rather than responding to a dictated sound, their music further displays the near limitless nature of the Americana genre. They have appeared at many festivals throughout the Southeast – including the CMA Festival, the International Bluegrass Music Association Festival, the Americana Music Festival, and IBMA ROMP.
The couple’s musical magic springs from a relationship that started when they were just teenagers. They dated in high school and eventually went their separate ways, until one fateful day in Cookeville, Tennessee. In their years apart, Dorothy had created a sound for herself that inspired Ben and soon they reconnected and began gaining attention with the new sound they had created. Dorothy, a devotee of soul and blues music, offered an interesting pairing for Ben’s love of bluegrass, rock and country – they found middle ground on their love of folk music. Now after nearly ten years of marriage, Dorothy and Ben bring to their artistry a humble sense of wonder and emotional sincerity rooted in a relationship that has always been strong even when they’ve been apart.
Their first recording Company Store was released in April 2011 and won the People’s Choice Independent Music Award for Best EP and secured them an opportunity to open for Robert Earl Keen at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville Tennessee. Stoked by the success of Company Store, in 2013 the group released their follow up album The Danberrys which garnered two additional Independent Music Award nominations for Best Americana Album and Best Alt. Country Song.
The Danberrys released their latest album Give & Receive in June 2016. The album was produced by Ethan Ballinger (Lee Ann Womack, Tim O’Brien) at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground studio in Nashville, Tennessee. The ten original songs on the band’s sophomore album provide a passageway and safe haven for the engaged listener to explore emotions that are universally felt. The musical landscape of this album reveals a broader palette of moods and sounds than existed on previous recordings, reflecting the organic maturation of two souls on a truly courageous and honest journey.
In this concert The Danberrys are performing as a trio with Vanessa McGowan (Tattletale Saints) on upright bass and vocals. The Danberrys show takes the listener through the near limitless nature of the Americana genre.
All three of the band’s albums have been nominated for a number of Independent Music Awards, including Best EP, two nominations for Best Americana Album, and a recent 2016 win in the Best Bluegrass Song category.
Saturday 2nd December – concert – Albi and The Wolves
Albi and The Wolves bring energy, life, and dynamic with their unique brand of soul filled folk music. The combination of front man Chris Dent, electric fiddle player Pascal Roggen, and Micheal Young on double bass can invigorate a room or enthrall them with their truly diverse sound.
Infusing country elements, traces of RnB, indie-rock and folk, Albi and The Wolves are known for their energy fuelled live performances. Beyond the music, their engagement with the audience is second to none as humour is a large part of what sets them apart. Their off the cuff humour plays into the journey of each performance no matter the circumstances.
Albi and The Wolves have built up considerable momentum in the last two years, playing over 400 live shows, including Auckland and Wellington Folk Festivals, New Plymouth Festival Of Lights, Wellington Gardens Magic, Music In the Park, Taste Of Auckland Festival, Whare Flat Folk Festival, and Coro Summer Fest. They have released an EP, a full length album, two singles with videos, and racked up over 28,000 listens on SoundCloud.
Their first international release “Fall With You”, in collaboration with Mount Eden Dubstep, has received almost a million plays on YouTube and the success od this single continues to grow. Their own singles “Remember Your Name” and “One Eye Open” have been selected as part of NZ On Airs New Tracks playlists and their debut album “One Eye Open” reached a Top 10 slot in the New Zealand HEATSEAKER Chart.
Chris, Pascal and Micheal share a drive and passion for music, the road, and people, so the future is bright for Albi and The Wolves, with more festival appearances on the horizon.
Note: Due to illness Pascal Roggen was replaced by Michael Muggeridge for this concert.
Saturday 18th November – concert – Kevin Welch (USA)
Welch moved to Nashville in 1978 to work as a songwriter. Singers including Ricky Skaggs, Moe Bandy, Waylon Jennings, Patty Loveless, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and Don Williams were using his material. At the same time he was very active in local clubs, performing with John Scott Sherrill and the Wolves In Cheap Clothing, The Roosters, and finally his own band – The Overtones. His popularity grew and in 1988 he signed a record contract with Reprise Records.
In 1990 the album “Kevin Welch” was recorded and 2 years later “Western Beat”. The former produced four charting singles on Hot Country Songs, including “Til I See You Again,” which reached No. 39.
In 1994 he co-founded Dead Reckoning Records along with Kieran Kane, Tammy Rogers, Mike Henderson and Harry Stinson. The following year Life Down Here on Earth was published and in 1999 Beneath My Wheels. The majority of songs are Welch’s originals. In 2002 the album Millionaire was recorded partially in Nashville and mostly in Denmark with a stellar line-up of Scandinavian players.
In 2004 Welch teamed up with fellow Dead Reckoning artists Kieran Kane and Fats Kaplin to produce You Can’t Save Everybody. The trio followed this up with Lost John Dean in 2006, to general acclaim. Lost John Dean reached number one on the Americana charts, and resulted in nominations for several awards including Duo/Group of the year at the 2006 Americana Honors and Awards. The following eponymous “Kane Welch Kaplin”, with the addition of Lucas Kane, was also nominated for Duo/Group. The group traveled to Australia ten times, as well as Europe and the UK, Canada, and all over the United States.
Throughout the 2000s, Welch has teamed up with Australian band The Flood. They have recorded albums and DVDs together, and toured the country twice.
Welch moved to Wimberley, Texas, on 1 April 2008. In 2009, he recorded A Patch Of Blue Sky, his first solo project in eight years. The recording features Texas musicians as well as his son Dustin, who played banjo and slide guitar, and his daughter Savannah, who appeared with her band the Trishas.
Friday 17th November – society night – The Squirrelly Bills
The Squirrelly Bills are an acoustic duo consisting of Christchurch based musicians Liam McKenny and Abie Horrocks. Abie and Liam love to immerse themselves in the old time fiddle tunes and songs of Appalachia and the rural United States and have developed their repertoire from a steady diet of informal sessions and front-porch pickin’ at various old-timey gatherings both in New Zealand and overseas.
With a love of the raw, stripped back, driving sound of traditional old time fiddle and banjo, The Squirrelly Bills are pleased to bring you a selection of tunes and songs that are sure to get your toes a-tappin’. Abie and Liam will be joined by regular jamming buddies and Wellington locals Naomi Middleton (guitar and vocals) and Ed Abraham (fiddle).
Their name comes from a character called William ‘Squirrelly Bill’ Carpenter, who was the grandfather of renowned old time fiddler Ernie Carpenter. The tune ‘Grandpa’s Favourite’ was played by Ernie and was the favourite tune of Squirelly Bill, hence the name. Squirrelly Bill sounds like a great old timey character and we really like his nickname.
Saturday 4th November – concert – Richie and Rosie
Richie Stearns and Rosie Newton grew up a 150 miles and few decades apart. While both were raised by professional cellist, Richie started playing banjo at 14 and Rosie began classical piano lessons at eight, eventually moving to classical viola as a teen. Both shared incredibly unique, musically-immersed childhoods: Richie’s family founded the iconic GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance (which he is now President of) and by her junior year of high school, Rosie was playing fiddle and touring with folk rock band The Mammals. During that time, the two were introduced at Saratoga Springs’ Flurry festival – a meeting that would spark a fated friendship and unique musical bond.
“He left an impression on me because he was wearing Converse. I had never seen an adult wear Converse before” said Rosie, reflecting back on the first time she shared the stage with Richie. As a Woodstock native, she graduated high school and decided to move to Ithaca after being drawn to the thriving old-time scene – which happened to also be Richie’s stomping grounds. Whilst studying viola at Ithaca College and playing fiddle on the side, Rosie started incorporating folk with her traditional Celtic and classical upbringing. Meanwhile, Richie was a well established singer and banjo player in the community, having performed around the world with bands including Bela Fleck, Pete Seeger, David Byrne, Billy Bragg, Wilco, Old Crow Medicine Show and Joan Baez. In addition to releasing two solo albums, Richie was adding to his endless discography, which includes three Natalie Merchant records, multiple collaborations with Jim Lauderdale and Donna The Buffalo, and Carrie Rodriguez.
During Rosie’s freshman year, the two finally began touring together regionally as part of the Evil City String Band, where they were joined by bass player Ben Gould, Steve Selin on Fiddle (in addition to Rosie), and guitarist Paddy Burke. Eventually they decided to pursue a more intimate project as a duo and in 2013 released Tractor Beam – a 12 track mix of originals and classics, including Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” and “Say Darlin’ Say” – a traditional lullaby. Being their first exclusive release as Richie and Rosie, the pair wanted to give fans a polished recording of the songs that they played live.
After three years of touring and writing, in December 2016 the duo returned to the studio to record their second full length album Nowhere in Time. The record finds itself at a junction of Americana, old-time and folk, bringing a new sound to traditional music. Recorded with producer Alex Perialas at Pyramid Sound Studios, the album highlights the incredibly refined skill of both musicians – and while the majority of the album is a simple combination of fiddle, banjo, and captivating melodies, the duo manages to pack an incredibly full sound. “At the beginning, we were thinking it might be a project with lots of other people involved, more of a big production. As we went through it, we realised that the magic lies within the duo. We have an intimacy of music and we feel the power of two people playing. That is who we are” says Rosie.
Saturday 28th October – concert – Acoustic Confusion meets Unsung Heroes
Acoustic Confusion are Julian McKean, Denny Stanway and Chris Priestley, with special guests Neil Billington and Jude Douglas, who will bring you a reunion concert after a break of more than 30 years. Expect songs from the vinyl LP “Hazy Days” plus more recent songs, including some of Chris’s Unsung Heroes repertoire.
Acoustic Confusion was formed in 1982 and harmonica virtuoso Brendan Power joined soon after. Unfortunately he couldn’t make it back from England for this concert, but Neil Billington will fill the gap and more. Acoustic Confusion performed at festivals around NZ to wide acclaim. After splitting up in 1985, Denny Stanway and husband Jimmy Young were part of the group Rua and more recently after his passing, Denny has been touring with Toru. Julian continued to perform and write beautiful songs. Chris has produced five more CDs, including his recent heritage series ‘Unsung Heroes’. Jude Douglas will bring her lovely melodic fiddle playing to make a memorable and nostalgic evening.
Saturday 15th October – concert – Mile Twelve
Mile Twelve are a fresh, hard driving young band, beautifully walking the line between original and traditional bluegrass. Fast gaining recognition for their outstanding performances in bluegrass and folk circles, Evan Murphy, Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, Nate Sabat, BB Bowness and David Benedict write captivating songs and daring instrumental pieces from diverse influences. Banjo luminary Tony Trischka says, “Mile Twelve is carrying the bluegrass tradition forward with creativity and integrity.”
Since their formation in the fall of 2014, Mile Twelve have quickly been on the rise. They released their debut 6-track self titled EP and performed extensively throughout the U.S., Ireland and Canada, including several major festivals – Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, FreshGrass Festival, Wind Gap Bluegrass Festival and Joe Val Bluegrass Festival. A track from their debut EP was featured on Sirius XM Bluegrass Junction’s “Hand Picked with Del McCoury”, whilst another track was featured on Spotify’s “Fresh Bluegrass” 2015 playlist. That same year they were selected as formal showcase artists at the North East Folk Alliance. The summer of 2016 has held more milestones for this young group: opening for Tim O’Brien at the Station Inn in Nashville, winning the Podunk Bluegrass Festival Band Contest and being nominated for a Momentum Award by the International Bluegrass Music Association and adding a fifth band member: mandolin player David Benedict. This winter they will be heading into the studio in Nashville to record their debut full-length album with producer Stephen Mougin at the helm.
“In recent years, Boston’s Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory have added extra fire to that city’s already churning cauldron of traditional string players. Out of this spicy soup jumps Mile Twelve, a group of four accomplished bluegrass musicians who write, sing, and play like the wind. Serious players who have serious fun, Mile Twelve is a group to watch in the coming decade.”
– Tim O’Brien
“Mile Twelve has Bluegrass’ best interests at heart. Really good songs that mean something, picking that makes you grin and twitch, plenty of scalp-zinging moments… what more could you ask for America’s best drivin’ music? I’d be fine sending this to aliens.”
– Darol Anger
“Mile Twelve’s instrumental skills reflect natural abilities enhanced by serious study of bluegrass tradition and a fearless desire to create fresh pathways. From the opening number of their new EP, it’s plain that their vocal skills are equal to their picking prowess. Their trio blend is as tight as it gets. Their duo and solo singing is equally praiseworthy. The arrangements often surprise with subtle twists and turns… delicious false endings, dropped beats, arco bass and fiddle duets, and on and on. Mile Twelve is carrying the tradition forward with creativity and integrity.”
– Tony Trischka
Friday 13th October – concert – The Helen Dorothy Project
Helen Dorothy delivers her “beautifully-crafted, intelligent songs” in sparkling and intimate performances, with a unique voice and expressive guitar work. At the Wellington Bluegrass Society she will be accompanied by Paul Symonds and Lott. Together with guest harmonica player Neil Billington, they will be embarking on a musical mission to engage, enthral, amuse, delight and move the audience, in celebration of her latest album of songs.
Helen’s second studio album, ‘Watching Ghosts…and Other Songs’ was selected as one of UK fRoots Magazine favourites in 2014. For her recent release ‘Light Time & Sound’ she has ventured into new musical territory.
Guitarist/singer Paul Symons is in demand as a solo performer, accompanist and recording musician (acoustic, Dobro, pedal-steel, electric guitar). After spiralling the country in a vintage Bedford school bus playing pubs, ski-fields, and festivals, he settled down in Kumeu to play with legendary Westie party-band The Dusters, and alt-country combo Too Far Gone. He has two well-received self-released albums under his belt, and performs his original music with Lott.
Lott is a multi-instrumentalist who has played venues and jazz/blues festivals worldwide, and all the major NZ Folk Festivals. He plays guitar in his own Slippery Noodle avant-garde jazz trio and performs as bassist or percussionist with New Millennium Beatniks and Goth & Pixie. Lott contributed double bass to bluegrass band Wires & Wood’s 2010 Tui Award winning album. He is also busy raising his son, maintaining his Waikato lifestyle block and keeping track of 10 million bees.
Neil Billington is one of this country’s leading exponents of the harmonica, combining a rare capacity for both the traditional blues harmonica and the less typical chromatic harmonica. Neil performed at the 2016 ‘Live Magic’ blues festival in Tokyo, where he was invited to play with the lead act, slide-guitar legend Sonny Landreth.
Saturday 30th September – concert – Wires & Wood
In 2003, to help relieve some of the winter blues, a few Auckland based musicians began having a bluegrass oriented jam session on Friday nights. The word got out and someone asked the group to perform at a charity event, from which the band was born. Since then we have performed at events and venues all over the country, including Auckland Folk Festival, Wellington Folk Festival, Whare Flat Music Festival in Dunedin, Canterbury Folk Festival, Wellington Bluegrass Society, Fight for Life, TV commercials, Music Mountain Matakana and local music clubs and events around the country. We are still refining the Wires & Wood sound and expanding our repertoire of what we call bluegrass music. Wires & Wood released their debut album Over The Moon in 2010. Over The Moon is the recipient of the RIANZ Tui Award for Best Folk Album 2010/11.
Dave Warren was introduced to bluegrass music around the age of six, when his father Tom Warren heard Duelling Banjos on the radio and decided that was the music for him! Dave had a guitar put in his hands by the time he was seven or so and well remembers the National Banjo pickers Conventions, Mike Seeger, Bill Clifton, HCBB, etc etc. Dave’s interest in bluegrass at a playing level was rekindled around 1998, then after he moved to Auckland in 2000, he met and played with many wonderful musicians and eventually became a part of the coalescence called Wires & Wood. Dave plays guitar and occasionally mandolin.
Bryan Christianson attended the 1970 National Banjo Pickers Convention at Claudelands, Hamilton and fell in love with the 5-string banjo. Bryan has been involved in the music ever since, playing in various bands with just about all the well-known names of the NZ bluegrass scene, including Peter Brocklehurst, Read Hudson, Graham Lovejoy, to name just a few. After a break of about ten years on and off, Bryan met up with Dave Warren and they began to pick a few tunes. At the Waharau Folk Festival in June 2003 they decided that having a band again might be fun.
Micheal Young became obsessed with the guitar at the age of 18, inspired by James Taylor, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Joe Walsh, Chet Atkins and the Beatles. His father used to drag him along to bluegrass festivals in the hills of the Missouri Ozarks and he gained an appreciation for the instrumental skills of the local pickers. Whilst Micheal was never that moved by the old time bluegrass style, he was blown away by the contemporary rock/jazz/blues/bluegrass fusion music coming from groups including New Grass Revival, The Tony Rice Unit and The David Grisman Quartet. This simmered for years until moving to Auckland where he finally met a few other musicians who were both capable and willing to play in those styles. He has even started to gain an appreciation for the old time traditional bluegrass that the other band members love. They started jamming just for the joy of it, ended up doing a few gigs, and Wires & Wood was born. Micheal provides mandolin and lead vocals for Wires & Wood.
Garry Trotman plays bass in Wires & Wood and is the newest member of the band. He has always been partial to trad country music, blues, folk and sub-genres, such as bluegrass, Cajun and western swing. Garry was previously in bluegrass groups The Terraplanes and Southern Cross with Bryan, and also played in a South Australian bluegrass band called Highly Strung.
Friday 15th September – society night – Blackboard Concert
Also we will not be having another, until next year!
A blackboard concert is an evening of floorpsots, i.e. where anyone can come along and perform two numbers – bluegrass, old-time, country or Americana.
Each act must come up with a special name for the night – one that you haven’t used before, nor your own personal name. If anyone is unable to come up with a name, the audience will be asked for suggestions.
* two numbers per act
* bluegrass, old-time, country, Americana
* every act must come up with a name for the night – one they haven’t used before at the WBS
Saturday 9th September – concert – Adams, Gavin and Billington
Richard Adams, Nigel Gavin and Neil Billington all respect one another’s musicality. They think alike and are on the same track. Individually they can move people, so the three together make for a powerful trio. Over the last year the trio have performed at Nelson, Queenstown and Tauranga Jazz Festivals. They feature finely crafted playing, honed over decades of performance.
In addition, over the past year they have individually performed at major international jazz and blues festivals. Neil Billington most recently performed at the Tokyo Jazz and Blues Festival. Nigel most recently was workshopping at the King Crimson Project in Seattle, which is based around Robert Fripp’s League of Crafty Guitarists, and arrived back in NZ earlier this week. Richard and Nigel played together at the Thredbo International Jazz Festival in the Snowy Mountains, near Sydney.
Richard and Nigel have played nationally and internationally for over 20 years. They are founding members of Nairobi Trio, which Richard still fronts. Richard has just finished a European Tour with Nairobi Trio, finishing in Norway at the Silda Jazz Festival.
All three come together well rehearsed, fizzing with outrageous blues and jazz ideas for the stage, having all recently contributed to major international jazz and blues festivals. This is a rare opportunity to see these three performing together in the one location. They will be performing original tunes, blues and jazz standards and blues classics.
Saturday 2nd September – concert – Whiskey Falls
Whiskey Falls are Kim Bonnington and Cameron ‘Dusty’ Burnell, Jenine Abarbanel and Nat Torkington. It all started two and a half years ago at the Auckland Folk Festival, where Kim and Dusty pulled up late on the Friday night and the sound of bluegrass kicked its way toward them. As they drove past the Pipi Pickers’ tent they turned, smiled and commented that they knew where they would be spending most of the weekend.
It was a year or so later when plans to formalise a project came together, as the four spent time hanging out, when the Southern half of the band visited the Northern half, to play as part of the concert series that Nat and Jenine host at the Whangateau Hall, north of Auckland. A few jams showed potential; Dusty was excited to play with accomplished instrumentalist Nat, whilst Kim and Jenine were loving being able to share around the harmony. All enjoyed the energy of the music while also spreading good old fashioned banter about life and a few factoids thrown in for good measure.
Jenine Abarbanel and Nat Torkington are members of popular NZ bluegrass band The Pipi Pickers. Their hard driving and high tempo style of bluegrass has proved a crowd pleasing favourite at festivals up and down New Zealand, as well as around Australia. Playing with Kim and Dusty has been a tasty opportunity to try new material and different performance styles outside of the established Pipi sound. The concept of “duo + duo = awesomeness” captivated Jenine and Nat to the point where they also play with Colorado country bluegrass duo The Jamesons, in another blended band being The Pickersons, when abroad every July.
Kim and Dusty are well known to Bluegrass Society audiences, both as individuals, and as a duo. Kim Bonnington grew up in the country music club circuit in the Top of the South singing every song there is in the country canon. Cameron ‘Dusty’ Burnell hails from the Far North and started making music as a teen, but has only pursued it and started playing to audiences in the last seven years. Together, Kim and Dusty have created a loyal legion of fans for their close harmonies, impressive instrumentals and relaxed on stage banter.
They always intended to be a project that emphasised good times and limited, special ‘one off’ gigs, the band played to a packed and happy lawn as part of the Festival of Lights in New Plymouth in January of 2017 and followed it up with a rip roaring (albeit rainy) set at Wellington’s Cuba Dupa Festival as ‘The Bluegrass Referendum’. Now they come to The Bluegrass Society as the rebranded Whiskey Falls; in recognition of that all important fifth element of the band.
Friday 25th August – concert – An Déise
An Déise are a trio of some of Ireland’s top traditional musicians; Paddy Tutty, Derek Morrissey and Caoimhin O Fearghaíl. Best known for their work with groups such as Danú and Caladh Nua, the trio have performed at many of the world’s leading folk festivals including Tønder, Lorient, Mood Indigo (Mumbai) and the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
Derek Morrissey (button accordion) hails from the small West Waterford village of Ballymacarbry and began learning button accordion at the age of seven, under the tutelage of maestro accordion player Bobby Gardiner. Derek co-founded the band Caladh Nua has toured the world with the shows ‘Dance Through The Ages’ and ‘Celtic Legends’, gracing the stages of citys through Kuwait, Romania, Portugal, Switzerland, France and beyond.
Caoimhín Ó Fearghail (guitar, vocals, uilleann pipes, flute, whistles) comes from An Rinn in the West Waterford Gaeltacht. He started to learn the tin-whistle at the age of eight, taking lessons from Bobby Gardiner. He quickly progressed to the uilleann pipes, under the tutelage of David Power and later Jimmy O’Brien-Moran. He is also self-taught on flute and guitar, inspired by such diverse flute players as Matt Molloy, Mike Rafferty and Tom Doorley. Caoimhín has featured on a number of albums in the last few years including Caitlín Nic Gabhann’s album ‘Caitlín’, which was voted 2012 Traditional Album of the Year, and Edel Fox and Neill Byrne’s album ‘The Sunny Banks’, which was voted traditional album of the year in 2013. He recently recorded an album ‘Lá ag Ól Uisce’, with his brother Seán and Tomás Ó Gealbháin. Caoimhín tours with the well-known group Danú. He has also featured regularly over the past five years in the Booley House show, based in Ballyduff, County Waterford. He was the 2012 recipient of the TG4 Young Musician of the Year award (Gradam Ceoil TG4).
Paddy Tutty (fiddle, bodhrán) co-founded the group Caladh Nua, and comes from a long line of great fiddle playing families based in the Dungarvan area of County Waterford. Tutty is also a master bodhrán player and expert luthier who builds all of his own instruments.
Friday 18th August – society night – John Egenes
John Egenes is very much a part of the legacy handed down by the songwriters of the American southwest. Hailing from New Mexico, Egenes continues to deliver catchy tunes and insightful lyrics along with his considerable multi-instrumental expertise.
Not just a fine guitar player, he is a first class multi-instrumentalist, playing dobro, mandolin, bass, mandola, pedal steel, fiddle, lap steel, piano, accordion, mandocello, banjo, and lesser known instruments such as Theremin, autoharp, and musical saw. He has performed and recorded with a range of artists including Eliza Gilkyson, Bill & Bonnie Hearne, Tish Hinojosa, Gary P. Nunn, Jono Manson, Jaime Michaels, The Buckarettes, and has shared stages with Pete Seeger, Guy Clarke, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Townes van Zandt, Kevin Welch, Lynn Anderson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Greg Brown, Leo Kotke, Iris Dement and Bonnie Raitt and a long list of others.
John has planted his country roots in New Zealand, with credits that include work with Donna Dean, Marlon Williams, The Verlaines, David Kilgour, Delaney Davidson, Jenny Mitchell, The Sami Sisters, Robert Scott, The Bats, Anthony Ritchie, Tami Neilson, Mel Parsons, Tiny Lies, Eb & Sparrow, Bill Morris, “King” Leo LaDell, The Chaps, The Eastern, and Bob McNeill.
Besides being a formidable songwriter and performer, he is a master saddlemaker, composes music for upper level dressage freestyles, and spends evening hours studying the stars through his telescope. He holds a Doctorate in Studio Production and lectures in contemporary music and technology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, where he is currently immersed in the study of digital culture and its relationships to the folk process. He is doing his best to drag folk music into the twenty-first century.
If you’re looking to find out what Americana music is all about, check out what this guy does.
Saturday 29th July – concert – Across the Great Divide
Across the Great Divide are Tony Burt and Karen Jones, who bring together a unique blend of instruments and music that cross the boundaries of Americana and Celtic traditions. Since they joined forces a few years back, Tony and Karen have enjoyed adapting the music they were familiar with on their respective instruments. Karen took up the challenge to adapt the Celtic guitar style and apply it to fast rousing bluegrass, Americana tunes and Tony’s original compositions. Tony in turn adapted dobro to Celtic airs and fiddle tunes to accompany Karen’s exquisite harp and blistering guitar fuelled jigs. The combined result created something new – a unique sound intricately woven and all the while retaining respect for the traditions.
Together as “Across the Great Divide” they bring to you a dive into the Americana world of music with enough lilt and forlorn to satisfy the discerning Celt Curious Blue-Grasser.
Tony Burt’s performances cover a wide range of styles. When he heard the sound of the dobro, Tony was instantly hooked and worked to uncover the mysterious versatility that produces speed, bite and exquisite melody. He attended Resosummit in Nashville where he studied under some of the top players including Rob Ickes, Jerry Douglas, Sally Van Meter and Phil Leadbetter.
Always embracing the challenge of how music can blend together to create new ideas, Tony produced Snapper Sandwich – a documentary incorporating live performance and narration. He has composed music for film and TV documentaries. He has also contributed to many albums and writes tunes inspired by the melodies and rhythms from both sides of the Atlantic.
Karen got slightly diverted on her OE and spent 14 years in Edinburgh, cutting her teeth on Scottish traditional arts and assimilating any Scottish culture which came her way. There she began playing the clarsach (Celtic Harp) under the guidance of the wonderful Isobel Mieras, ran a very popular weekly folk and traditional session, set up a music school and became a very active member of the folk community. With this exposure to the Scottish culture and her own heritage, she received invaluable experience playing among diverse and great Scottish musicians. Consequently, traditional and contemporary Scottish music soon became her inspiration and passion. Karen was a guest in the first ever ‘Flowers of Edinburgh’ and ‘Scottish Stramash’ concert in Edinburgh and more recently on various stages including at Auckland and Wellington Folk Festivals, concerts and folk clubs.
Saturday 22nd July – concert – The T-Bone Trio
Comprising of Gerry Paul, Cameron Dusty Burnell and Richard Klein, T-Bone Trio play an eclectic mixture of styles within the Americana genre, drawing on their backgrounds in old time, bluegrass, country, Cajun, Zydeco and blues.
Brought together not only by their love of music, but also their obsession with food, wine and beer, the ex-chef, ex-restauranteur and current spearfisherman get together regularly in the capital to cook kai moana, sample Italian wine and play music. The last two years have seen the group playing shows at major Wellington events including CubaDupa, the Newtown Festival, Wellington On A Plate and Beervana. Chosen for their entertaining shows and fun loving energy, the group had audiences crying out for more.
Gerry Paul is an award winning songwriter, musician, producer, festival creator, author, shark wrestler and even a famous TV presenter in Ireland. Gerry has performed at over 500 music festivals in 40 countries around the world and is an in-demand session musician, having recorded with some of the world’s best known folk musicians including Tim O’Brien, Sharon Shannon and Grada. Gerry was the producer of Mel Parsons’ Silver Scroll nominated album “Drylands” and in recent years has played in collaborations with Trinity Roots and Greg Johnson.
Cameron Dusty Burnell is multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter. His playing is steeped in traditional American Roots music. He has toured New Zealand extensively over the last two years as a member of The Frank Burkitt Band, The Federal String Band, Hardcore Troubadours and as one half of the duo Kim and Dusty.
Richard Klein is the real deal, all the way from New Jersey, the singing fiddler has played at all the major festivals in the Southern Hemisphere with the Le Blanc Brothers Cajun Band (Melbourne) and recently headlined the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak, Borneo.
Join three of the capital’s finest acoustic musicians for an evening that will have you laughing, singing and maybe even dancing. To round off this special show at the Wellington Bluegrass Society, they will be accompanied by their Wellington friend and musician, Aaron Stewart on double bass.
Friday 21st July – society night – The Prowse Brothers
The Prowse Brothers – Rumours have been circulating for some time of a possible Prowse Brothers Band reunion concert. All five brothers have now categorically confirmed that they are putting their individual music careers (and any past differences) on hold to come together for a concert at the Wellington Bluegrass Society.
The Prowse Brothers’ first introduction to music was at St Mary’s Convent in Hill Street, Wellington, but the brothers soon grew tired of sitting Royal College music exams and headed off on their own individual musical journeys. The journeys were varied. Chris discarded classical piano for a guitar and a Beatle wig, Richard up-sized from violin to double bass, Robert tried out the drums but rightly returned to the violin, Rodney swapped Mozart minuets for any song by The Band and Daryl learnt to play another thirteen instruments besides piano.
The Prowse Brothers perform a blend of their own individual music, with each brother usually getting a turn up front (this keeps everyone happy). So expect lots of different instruments, perhaps some country, perhaps some swing, and even some bluegrass.
Saturday 24th June – concert – Toru
Toru re-ignites the glowing embers of a 25 year musical association between Denny Stanway, James Wilkinson and Davy Stuart from Rua, the legendary Christchurch Celtic band formed by Denny’s husband, the late Jimmy Young.
The name? In Maori it means ‘three’, in Japanese ‘the sea’. It seemed a logical progression from Rua (two), and the days when Rua built up a significant fan base, performing at major music festivals both here and overseas, recording multiple albums to critical acclaim (winner of two New Zealand Music Awards) and touring several times with Arts On Tour NZ.
Rua called it a day several years ago, but the music won out and now they’re back again with Crossing Borders, singing songs of love, landscape, loss, heritage, friendship and connection.
Denny: “Crossing Borders as a concept came about through physical relocation after the Christchurch earthquakes, dealing with the stress and anxiety of long-term earthquake issues, and the death of a partner.”
Crossing Borders also reflects their varied ancestry. Davy is a transplanted Scot, James has German heritage and Denny is European Maori – despite what her blue eyes and blonde colouring might suggest, her maternal grandmother was born near Kopu. “We are Ngati Maru au Hauraki.”
Most importantly, Crossing Borders reflects the music that moves these musicians. “From original NZ songwriters to old Celtic ballads, we cross genres within a sound that is strongly acoustic strings-based with rhythms from the Irish drum, the Bodhran and vocal arrangements featuring all of the band.”
Australian virtuoso violinist Lindsay Martin is a member of Toru when available and from his studio in Australia, is currently working with Davy Stuart to add fiddle to Toru’s latest CD. He too will ‘cross borders’ to add violin and mandolin to the mix.
Denny Stanway – “…the consummate singer”; “…a voice you won’t forget”; “…a true diva of song” – vocalist for the groundbreaking early 80s Auckland group Acoustic Confusion, supporting act to Don McLean, performer at numerous NZ Arts Festivals, Folk Festivals and WOMAD ….has recorded with Shona Laing and Mahinarangi Tocker
James Wilkinson – virtuoso guitarist, fretless bassist, singer/songwriter, composer – his music straddles multiple genres such as Celtic, folk, blues and rock, often with a nod to the quirky and avant garde – a modern day troubadour.
Davy Stuart – skilled guitar and bouzouki player, noted for his Chamber Music and AOTNZ tours with harpist Helen Webby. He an internationally renowned luthier and during their tour all members of Toru will play instruments made by Davy.
Friday 16th June – society night – Frank Sillay
It was a dark and stormy night in June of 1966 when the Douglas DC8 of flight TE1 landed in Auckland, bearing it’s precious cargo of Frank I. Sillay. Many innocent maidens slept through this event, unmindful of the ominous change that had just taken place. But this is a few steps ahead in the story…
Frank Sillay was born in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up hearing the old bluesmen playing on street corners of his home town. He was educated at MIT and the US Marine Corps. Whilst posted at San Diego in the early 60s he played in various bands (old time and bluegrass). However realising that the West Coast was fast building to become a departure point for the US war machine heading to other side of the Pacific, Frank decided to transfer to the furthermost outpost being Iceland which was slightly more laid back and less frenetic. However with the Vietnam War looming, he then decided the tropical paradise of NZ would be a far more comfortable place to be. Having studied in computers, he was quickly snapped up by the Ministry of Works and a transfer was soon underway.
Upon settling in Wellington it didn’t take long for him to become known to Police, and friendships developed, some of which he still has today. Frank also wasted no time in becoming acquainted with many notable dignitaries, including the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Earl of Gloucester and other pubs throughout the city. After only a few months, walking down Lambton Quay, Frank nearly fell over backwards when he saw a poster advertising the first National Banjo Pickers Convention. Who would have thought that travelling halfway around the world he would find his kind of music. The first National Banjo Pickers Convention at Te Rapa in 1967 put him in touch with kindred spirits in New Zealand.
He formed the Buckhead Strugglers with Colleen Bain and Don Milne in 1967, and played with various combinations off and on until forming The Antipodean Serenaders with Colleen Trenwith and Graham Lovejoy in 2004. A band that proved to be very satisfactory in every way except geographically. At their highpoint, they were so popular that it was hinted they were even being sought to perform at barmitzvas.
Frank has performed many times at festivals, concerts, Folk clubs and has been one of the most frequent performers at the WBS.
“It was he who compered the concert at the Wellington Town Hall in 1970 featuring Mike and Alice Seeger, The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band and Country Deal (Max Winnie, Graeme and myself). Those were good old daze !
– Colin Heath”
“Frank’s arrival in New Zealand in the mid 1960s was an inspiration to the nascent Old Time Music community, both in Wellington where he settled and further afield as events such as the Banjo Pickers Convention drew people together. I clearly remember meeting him at a concert in Newtown where he got up and sang ‘The Old Man at the Mill’ and playing in his wonderful flatpick guitar style that we have all enjoyed hearing ever since.
His influence on Old Time Music in this country has been profound. At a time long before the marvels of the internet, when repertoire was gleaned mainly from LPs on the Electra and Folkways labels, Frank brought a huge knowledge of the old music and those who played it, backed up by a massive collection of albums and tapes which he was willing to share with other Old Time players.
His guitar playing has been central to such stringbands as ‘The North Georgia Hod Carriers and Textile Workers String Band’ and the ‘Buckhead Strugglers’ in the early days and more recently with the ‘Antipodean Serenaders’.
– Don Milne”
“I first saw Frank performing in 1969, performed with him in about 1970 downstairs in the old Wellington Library (we played “Goodbye Eliza Jane” and “If the River was Whisky” in the fashion of Charley Poole) and he has been a friend for 48 years.
– Chris Ghent”
Photo courtesy of Julian Ward
Saturday 10th June – concert – Rag Poets
Rag Poets: (pictured left to right)
Clinton Brown, Carl Evensen, Dave Murphy, Alan Norman and Vic Singe.
They have all been around for a while now, starting in the 1960s and 1970s. They have played in bands including Fourmyula, Kal-Q-Lated Risk, Rockinghorse, The Warratahs and the Windy City Strugglers, or they played with musicians including Sharon O’Neill, Renee Geyer, Clarence Gatemouth Brown and Champion Jack Dupree. They have the best part of 300 years of NZ music history between them. With the voices and musicianship that comes from decades of being at the coalface, they have now come together to find a musical home in Rag Poets.
They play songs by Neil Young, Sam Cook, The Springfields, The Beach Boys, Hank Williams, Vince Gill and the Windy City Strugglers, amongst others; they take old songs and create something new from them and play their own originals. Their style ranges from country and blues classics to 1960s and 1970s pop to folk music, roots, gospel and country rock, with the soaring notes and vocal harmonies, guitar picking, squeeze-boxing, drums and bass that go with all of these. They attract warm and lively audiences wherever they perform in their regular gigs in cafes and bars around Wellington.
They have all lived a few lives and have more than a few stories to tell, but mostly it’s about the music, keeping faith with it and having fun along the way.
Saturday 20th May – concert – Loren Barrigar and Mark Mazengarb
Loren Barrigar and Mark Mazengarb share a unique musical chemistry seldom found amongst musicians. Their live performances feature not only their spectacular technical grasp of the guitar, but also their outstanding musicality and ability to be spontaneously creative. The interaction between the two musicians is as much a feature of their shows as is the world class guitar playing that they both display.
Loren and Mark first met in 2005 when they spent a few days working with the great Tommy Emmanuel at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch guitar camp. Mark was a college kid, just completing his degree in classical guitar at the University of North Carolina; Loren was already a seasoned performer, but it was his first serious look at acoustic guitar. After the workshop, Mark visited Loren and they spent some time picking guitar – and picking each other’s brains.
In 2009 they met again in Nashville at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (CAAS) convention, an international gathering of hundreds of guitarists. That set the stage for the 2010 CAAS convention where they were on the schedule of performers. Though they were not originally listed to play on the big Saturday night finale, they were added to the show due to popular demand from those who heard them throughout the week.
Loren and Mark’s varied repertoire of original and arranged music consists of stunning guitar duets as well as songs, giving them a wide appeal. Their music is influenced by bluegrass, jazz and Western; their style of guitar playing is largely built upon the thumb-picking techniques pioneered by guitar greats Merle Travis, Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed, and their songs feature Loren’s superb vocals and some beautiful harmonies from Mark.
The pair have toured extensively within both the USA and in Europe, and their fan base is rapidly expanding. They have been invited to headline festivals in France, New Zealand and across the USA where they have played in many theatres across the country and performed on notable radio programmes such as NPR’s Says You, Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour and the Nashville based TV show Inside Music Row.
They recorded their first album together the summer of 2011, which won a SAMMY (Syracuse Area Music Awards) for Best Album at the Northeast Music Industry Conference, and their most recent album Onward, released August 2012, also won a SAMMY for Best Americana Album. The title track Onward won first place at the International Acoustic Music Awards (IAMA 2013) for best instrumental.
Due to popular demand, this was expanded to two concerts on the same day!
Friday 19th May – society night – Blackboard Concert
A blackboard concert is an evening of floorpsots, i.e. where anyone can come along and perform two numbers – bluegrass, Old-time, country or Americana.
Each act must come up with a special name for the night – one that you haven’t used before, nor your own personal name. If anyone is unable to come up with a name, the audience will be asked for suggestions.
* two numbers per act
* bluegrass, old-time, country, Americana
* every act must come up with a name for the night – one they haven’t used before at the WBS
Saturday 13th May – concert – Robbie Lavën and Bryan Christianson
Robbie hails from Amsterdam and came to New Zealand when he was a teenager. He survived school, the days of prefects, caning and rugby, by playing lead guitar. Robbie became caught up in the folk revival movement whilst attending Auckland University, where he frequented and then performed at Auckland’s first folk venue at the Uptown Art Gallery. That opened exciting new musical horizons – blues, jug band music, early jazz and vaudeville, ethnic music and folk rock fusion, in which Robbie participated with passion, playing whatever instrument was required. He was the founder of the Auckland University Folk Music club, ran the first Folk concerts at the University Arts Festival and developed a reputation as an energetic and sympathetic side man and accompanist for a plethora of performers and artists, many of whom have since become legends of Kiwi Folk music. After finishing his studies, Robbie got a job in Hamilton where he became a primary member of the Kontiki Folk Club, and ran the first Hamilton Folk Festival after the Banjo Picker’s conventions, in a circus tent.
Whilst living in Hamilton, he and a few other members of the folk scene formed The 1953 Memorial Society Rock and Roll Band, playing to wrapt audiences throughout New Zealand and starring at the Ngaruawahia Festival, New Zealand’s first rock festival.
Robbie went on to form the eclectic folk/rock/swing band Red Hot Peppers with his partner Marion Arts, touring New Zealand and Australia and recording four albums. After a couple of years in Australia, Robbie and Marion moved to Europe where they became active members of the folk and world music scene, including Greek, Cajun, Brazilian, Gypsy Jazz, Portuguese and French music.
They returned to their family in New Zealand, also to raise their own family and all the while playing music.
Bryan got involved with music as a teenager, attending the National Banjo Pickers Conventions and the subsequent Hamilton Folk Music Festivals. It was at these festivals where he first became aware of Robbie and was totally in awe of this man who could play more than 80 different instruments, all with apparent ease. At the time Bryan was developing his skills as a five string banjo player, performing around the folk clubs and festivals in New Zealand.
In the early 1980s Bryan embarked on his OE with the intention of taking in as many of the US Bluegrass Festivals as he could fit into a three month visit. Those three months expanded to six years of living in the Washington DC area, becoming friends with, and picking with, some of the finest bluegrass musicians in the world.
On return to New Zealand, Bryan played with The Terraplanes for about six years, then had a ten year hiatus. On returning to playing in 2003, he soon met some like minded pickers and went on to play with Wires and Wood and later The Remarkables.
It was at a small folk music gathering in Tauranga, four years ago, that Robbie and Bryan met for the first time. They quickly established a musical rapport and Robbie was soon a member of The Remarkables.
All good things come to and end and Robbie departed The Remarkables, but the musical rapport between Bryan and Robbie was still there. Robbie and Bryan continued playing together as a duo, presenting a programme of bluegrass flavoured swing music along with material from that other style, swing flavoured bluegrass.
For their concert at the Wellington Bluegrass Society, they will be joined by Robbie’s son Baron Oscar Lavën, who has also built a considerable reputation including performing with The Wellington City Shake Em On Downers.
Friday 21st April – society night – Clean Getaway
Clean Getaway are a Wellington band who play a mix of US West Coast blues and combine the fabulous talents of Carol Bean and Brian Gummer. These two singers and guitar players take us on a journey through their first hand experiences of the 1970s California scene. The engine room for the group are Garrett Evans (bass) and Robert Antonio (drums), who have worked together for several years and are also the rhythm section for local performing group Short Term Memory.
Brian and Carol enjoy the West Coast sound, having grown up with it and thus share common ground. Brian has had many experiences in the States with musical adventures, then also in London where he played for Billy Bragg. Brian also has a lot of experience playing as a London musician for many well known London musos.
All of the band have been influenced by the dynamics of bluegrass and Appalachian music, and grew up listening to Earl Scruggs and all that was coming out of Nashville at the time.
Brian and Carol collaborated for a gig at Thunderbird Cafe in Wellington last year. Garrett and Robert had been performing together with Short Term Memory, also with Brian in The Fairlanes, who performed at the WBS a few years back. The three invited Carol to join them, forming Clean Getaway. Some of their influences include: Jackson Browne, Tony Joe White, Steve Earle, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Poco, Laurel Canyon and Bakersfield, and they also perform originals.
Saturday 8th April – concert – Caitlín Nic Gabhann, Ciarán Ó Maonaigh and Cathal Ó Curráin
Acclaimed musicians in their own right, Caitlín Nic Gabhann, Ciarán Ó Maonaigh and Cathal Ó Curráin have joined forces to create one of the most impressive acts in traditional music. Their spirited music and dance is rooted in the tradition; brimming with soul and life. Through fiddle, concertina, banjo, singing and dance, the group breathes fire into musical pieces, combining their arts with chemistry and energy.
Caitlín Nic Gabhann is a three time All-Ireland champion on concertina and dancer with Riverdance for a number of years.
Ciarán Ó Maonaigh is a Donnegal style fiddle player who used to play with the Irish group Fidl, and former TG4 Young Musician of the Year.
Cathal Ó Curráin is a banjo and mandolin player, who sings too, and is something of a prodigy. He has won All Ireland awards for Sean Nós (old style) singing and is also a highly accomplished award-winning fiddle player.
Caitlín, Ciarán and Cathal have a connection as deep as the Irish folk traditions that were part of their upbringing. Their music is a joyful unleashing of talents learnt at the hearths of their parents, family and friends. Ciarán’s fiddle and Cathal’s banjo are complemented by Caitlín’s concertina and dance, her footsteps expertly tapping out the rhythms and elevating the duo’s musical excellence.
As artists, they have toured the globe extensively, performing in multiple countries in careers spanning over a decade through their own groups and also as integral parts of established top level performance companies such as Riverdance.
“Caitlín Nic Gabhann and Ciarán Ó Maonaigh are two of the finest instrumentalists in the Irish traditional scene. Individually they are stunning and together they bring a freshness and excitement to the music that is uniquely their own.”
– Robbie O’Connell, The Clancy Brothers
“Ciarán has that Donegal fiddlers’ knack of being technically exact, fearless and free. Caitlín’s concertina is equally thrilling as she expands perceptions of the instrument. It was her feet that lifted us though in the showpiece ‘Belfast Hornpipe/Ms. Mcleod’s’ with sublime synchronisation of her dancing shoes and Ciarán’s playful fiddle. The gasps were audible”
– New York Irish Arts, March 2015
Sunday 2nd April – workshops – The All Day Breakfast Stringband
“The All Day Breakfast Stringband from Montréal Canada have been playing traditional old time fiddle tunes and country songs together since 2011. They play concerts and square dances throughout Canada and have been finalists twice in the traditional band contest at the Appalachian String Band Music Festival in Clifftop West Virginia.
“They play old time music from the southern and midwestern USA. Fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo and voices join forces to confirm that the old music is still exhilarating. The band formed gradually through bourbon fuelled jam sessions in Montreal’s many public nature reserves, and solidified with recording sessions, as well as actual concerts for people who don’t spend all of their free time in parks. This semi-serious monkeying around has done quite well by the All Day Breakfast Stringband, taking them to beautiful spots around Quebec and Ontario as well as becoming an award winning band two years running at the Appalachian Stringband Festival in Clifftop West Virginia. The fiddle has always been at the heart of old time music and Max Evans makes his sound like the best bacon in the world popping and spattering in a burning hot cast iron skillet; Matt James’ banjo playing is as crude yet necessary as bacon’s timeless counterpart, the buttery fried egg while Andrew Kobus on the mandolin and Dara Weiss on the guitar chug like you did that pot of coffee after a night at the bottom of a whiskey bottle. This band may just be the best way to start a balanced day, or end an unbalanced night. Enjoy responsibly.”
Old Time Guitar
The basics of old time guitar accompaniment will be discussed. Students will be given tips on hearing chord changes in fiddle tunes and some runs and walk ups/downs will be shown.
Old Time Singing
Students will learn and sing two old time songs and some tips on finding the right songs and keys will be discussed.
Old Time Jamming Workshop
Students will play some simple tunes together. They will be given tips on playing in a jam and common jam etiquette will be discussed.
For beginners and intermediate players.
Students will learn some of the rudementary basics of old time banjo, tunings and styles. They will discuss techniques and learn how to further their own self learning and how to apply it to learning
tunes and playing with others.
Students can expect to learn about the tradition of ballad singing and some of its origins and history. They will learn about types of ballads and will learn a simple ballad.
Old Time Fiddle
For beginners and intermediate players.
Students will learn one or two old time fiddle tunes.
Old time fiddle technique will be discussed.
Old Time Mandolin
Students will learn one or two old time fiddle tunes on the mandolin. Old time mandolin technique will be discussed as well as the role of the instrument in the genre.
The schedule is:
10:00am – 12:00pm: workshop 1
12:00pm – 1:30pm: lunch break
1:30pm – 3:30pm: workshop 2
4:00pm – 5:00pm: free concert for those who attended the day to perform, also for teachers, and anyone else to come along and watch!
Workshops will run in parallel during the workshop slots and will be run depending on demand, so it is essential to book asap and specify what workshops you would like to attend. The programme will be scheduled according to those who book and what workshops are requested.
This an exceptional opportunity to immerse yourself in old time music.
Saturday 1st April – concert – The All Day Breakfast Stringband
TheAllDayBreakfastStringband from Montréal Canada have been playing traditional old time fiddle tunes and country songs together since 2011. They play concerts and square dances throughout Canada and have been finalists twice in the traditional band contest at the Appalachian String Band Music Festival in Clifftop West Virginia.
They play old time music from the southern and midwestern USA. Fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo and voices join forces to confirm that the old music is still exhilarating. The band formed gradually through bourbon fuelled jam sessions in Montreal’s many public nature reserves, and solidified with recording sessions, as well as actual concerts for people who don’t spend all of their free time in parks. This semi-serious monkeying around has done quite well by the All Day Breakfast Stringband, taking them to beautiful spots around Quebec and Ontario as well as becoming an award winning band two years running at the Appalachian Stringband Festival in Clifftop West Virginia. The fiddle has always been at the heart of old time music and Max Evans makes his sound like the best bacon in the world popping and spattering in a burning hot cast iron skillet; Matt James’ banjo playing is as crude yet necessary as bacon’s timeless counterpart, the buttery fried egg while Andrew Kobus on the mandolin and Dara Weiss on the guitar chug like you did that pot of coffee after a night at the bottom of a whiskey bottle. This band may just be the best way to start a balanced day, or end an unbalanced night. Enjoy responsibly.
Saturday 25th March – concert – Richard Adams and Nigel Gavin and George Rose
Graham Reid says:
“My belief is that great music comes about by some kind of alchemy. It is the result of painstaking study, a rare mix of ingredients, the moment of inexplicable magic, a wondrous consequence revealed… and of those elements the most underrated is painstaking study.
“It has been over 20 years since I first saw violinist Richard Adams play and almost as many for guitarist Nigel Gavin. In the intervening period they have worked like few other New Zealand musicians, creating their art in rehearsal rooms and recording studios, and presenting their magic in concert halls and to festival audiences at home and in Europe.
“They have played in separate ensembles, Gavin most notably with Robert Fripp, and brought other experiences to their music: Adams is a gifted painter whose work has been exhibited internationally and who believes the visual and musical sides of his personality each set the other on fire. Yet when they play together, as they have done for many years in the popular Nairobi Trio, there is that rare alchemy at work where each inspires the other, where melodies can twist on an emphasis, and the improvisation is instinctively taken in a new and rewarding direction.
“Catch Adams plucking the strings with pointillist precision… listen to the swirling urgency… where each player seems to goad and needle the other into even sharper statements; be seduced by the earthy elegance… or the cheeky percussive effects… grab if you can Gavin’s merest hint of Hawaiian music or acoustic funk (or when he betrays a sure knowledge of rock) and everywhere admire the wit, intelligence and sense of confidence…
“This is improvised music… and as with Adams’ abstract painting, it alludes to so much more than itself. Here are the elements of gypsy swing, a deserted marketplace at night somewhere in an ancient Arabia of the imagination, music for a stately European drawing room or a lively winebar…
“It must take something special and rare for Richard Adams and Nigel Gavin to produce music of such diversity yet coherence, to play at the top of their game but still leave room for the other, to be a master of an instruments yet let it have it’s own voice.” – Graham Reid
George Rose will open the concert. George and Richard Adams have had an enduring relationship from their youth, when both were living in Wellington, both were musicians, feeding off one another, George the free radical and Richard not far behind, but perhaps on occasion the sometimes surprised onlooker. As George says nowadays: “It was the bafflement of that part of your life – getting over your spunky youth and trying to work it out for yourself”.
Friday 17th March – society night – The Downunderdogs
Downunderdogs are a three-part vocal/instrumental blend featuring bluegrass, old-time, country, swing and originals. Like their music, Jack MacKenzie, Peter Dyer and Cathy Dyer are American-born and bred.
Jack grew up in Southern California. His splendid flat-picking evokes, among others, Doc Watson. This is no coincidence as Jack has picked with Doc and a host of other stars in the musical firmament at McCabe’s Music – the legendary venue Jack both managed and performed at in Los Angeles from 1971 to 1980. During those years Jack took full advantage of the unique opportunity to soak up and master the blend of musical styles that people later began to refer to as “Americana”. Jack shifted to New Zealand in 1984.
Peter’s roots are in “Little Dixie” – a region of Missouri settled by his Dad’s Virginian and Kentuckian ancestors in the early 19th century. His active engagement with the music of his iwi began in the mid 1970s. Like Jack, Peter is a fine songwriter and an accomplished rhythm guitarist. His songs include “Go Ahead and Cry” and “The Immigrants’ Song” – one of several that come with a yodel.
Cathy Dyer hails from the heartland. Born and raised near Detroit, she grew up learning classical violin while listening to Motown.
Cathy and Peter shifted to New Zealand in 2004. Jack and Peter met a few years later at the Levin Folk Club. There was instant musical sympatico. Countless hours of jamming followed and a number of gigs – as a duo and with others, including Graham Lovejoy, Allen Castleton and Kim Bonnington. After years of hearing Peter and Jack play, Cathy picked up the double bass. The fun was tripled when she brought this and her lovely vocal harmonies to the group.
The three ex-pats first shared this chemistry on stage in the Balladeer tent at the 2016 Wellington Folk Festival. Audience response made all the “woodshedding” well worth it.
Photo courtesy of Julian Ward.
Friday 17th February – society night – Loose Caboose
Loose Caboose describe their repertoire as being like an old time musical journey down the Mississippi River, ending in an excursion into the Caribbean. Expect a revival of an old time southern repertoire from the 1930s and others by the likes of the Allen Brothers, Joseph Spence, W C Handy, Sleepy John Estes, Jelly Roll Morton, Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster, and Chuck Darling; plus a few originals that fit the mould.
The members of Loose Caboose are all well known as Americana roots music enthusiasts.
Andrew Delahunty has had a long association with old time jug band music, country blues, and is an exponent of pre-war harmonica styles.
Nick Bollinger is one the country’s foremost music writers and reviewers, who is as well known as the bass player in bands The Windy City Strugglers and Rough Justice. Make sure you read Nick’s new book Goneville for more about Nick’s music experiences.
Chris Prowse is a Tui Award winner who likes to mix his music with a double shot of social history. He performed at the WBS last year with his daughter Eva Prowse.
Loose Caboose enjoy playing an interesting mix of songs and instrumentals and on stage there is likely to be a mandolin, harmonicas in various keys, a C6 lap steel guitar, el tres cubano, double bass and guitars.
Wednesday 8th February – concert – The Company
Australian bluegrass group The Company have a passion for high-energy original and traditional acoustic music.
Boasting two Australian Champions on guitar, fiddle and banjo. The playing and singing is crisp, melodic and soulful. In concert, you witness the band’s virtuosity but also a wry humour and engaging camaraderie. Highly regarded for their originality, the Brisbane-based unit recently released their third studio album titled “Six And Five”.
The new album is The Company’s most ambitious project yet culminating in thirteen all original tracks and showcasing the band’s individual and group virtuosity, ranging from traditional bluegrass style arrangements to through-composed pieces. The Company brings together Nashville-based, New Zealand-born George Jackson on Fiddle and Banjo, Brisbane’s Guitar guru Jamie Clark, deft tenor vocals and Mandolin of Townsville native Michael Patrick and Norwegian-born double bassist Markus Karlsen.
“A Masterclass in Bluegrass.” – Sean Sennett, The Australian
“The band started in 2012 after a few of us had been playing together in the band of another musician, we decided to get a regular band together and play as much bluegrass as we could. So that’s what we did, and that’s when the line-up solidified. We ended up having a pretty creative spirit in the band as we all like to write music, so essentially the band is a mixture of playing our favourite bluegrass standards and also arranging and composing our own music together. We’ve recorded three albums of mostly original music, our latest “Six and Five” is 100% our own and spans bluegrass through to almost classical arrangements.”
– George Jackson
“They have the song writing chops to go with the flying fingers… Get in early, this band seems certain to be a hit on the festival circuit.”
– Noel Mengel, The Courier Mail
“Fantastic! … This band is raising the bar for acoustic musicians in Australia.”
– Hamish Davidson of the Davidson Brothers, 3-time Golden Guitar winner
“Genre-busting, style-defying, marker-staking, bar-raisingly good. I know I am not alone in considering these guys to be the best band in town. Much of the country agrees, or soon will, if this is their first taste.”
– Nick Weinert, Brisbane Folk Rag
Saturday 14th January – concert – Maire and Chris
Máire Ní Chathasaigh (pronounced Moira Nee Ha-ha-sig) is “the doyenne of Irish harpers” (SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY), just awarded Female Musician of the Year in the Live Ireland 2016 awards and sole harpist recipient to date of Irish music’s most prestigious Award, Gradam Cheoil TG4 (Traditional Musician of the Year). Her celebrated partnership with Chris Newman “one of the UK’s most staggering and influential acoustic guitarists” (fROOTS), has toured in twenty-two countries worldwide to venues ranging from the tiniest of village halls and historic European churches to palaces in Kyoto and Istanbul, London’s Barbican, Sydney Town Hall and Cologne’s Philharmonie.
The duo’s performances are an emotional rollercoaster, deeply rooted but eclectic and adventurous too: a breathtaking blend of traditional Irish music from five centuries, hot jazz, bluegrass and baroque, coupled with striking new compositions – and what THE WEST AUSTRALIAN calls Chris’s “delightfully subversive wit”! They’ve made seven acclaimed albums together.
They guest on Irish rock legend Rory Gallagher’s posthumous Wheels within Wheels (BMG); Máire is harp/voice soloist with the New English Chamber Orchestra and the Choir of New College Oxford on John Cameron’s Missa Celtica (Erato Disques); her singing features on the Goldcrest film Driftwood and her harping on Dan ar Braz’s Gold Disc-awarded CD Finisterres (Sony). Broadcasts include televised concerts on TG4 and Rai Uno; TV appearances on RTÉ, BBC, S4C, HTV, WDR, ABC, France 3, PBS (the TV special associated with the Polygram USA CD release Celtic Harpestry) and countless radio performances world-wide.
Máire is “the greatest Celtic harper of our age” (LIVE IRELAND), whose West Cork upbringing steeped in the oral tradition led to multiple All-Ireland and Pan-Celtic wins and her development, while still a teenager, of profoundly influential techniques for harp performance of traditional Irish music – subsequently heard on The New-Strung Harp (1985), the first harp album ever to concentrate on traditional Irish dance music. “A mile-stone in Irish harp music” THE IRISH EXAMINER “Her work restores the harp to its true voice.” THE IRISH TIMES
Chris is “one of the UK’s greatest musicians” (BBC Radio 2), whose recent solo album Still Getting Away with It is “An astonishing, joy-filled romp… a must-buy for any guitar player” **** SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY “I’m fully conscious that I’m in the presence of greatness… one of the top guitarists of his ilk anywhere” THE LIVING TRADITION “The exuberance of Newman’s dazzling playing… would leave you open-mouthed if you weren’t too busy smiling.”***** ROCK n REEL He’s toured and recorded with luminaries of many musical worlds: folk (harper Máire, Boys of the Lough, Aly Bain &c), jazz (Stéphane Grappelli and Diz Disley) and comedy (Fred Wedlock) – composing the tune for and producing Fred’s hit Oldest Swinger in Town, which reached No 2 in the charts in the UK and No 1 in several other countries and brought him a silver disc. “Dazzling” ACOUSTIC GUITAR (USA) “His playing boggles my mind” Flatpicking Guitar Magazine (USA)
“Their blinding technique, sizzling Irish reels and hot jazz improvisation brought an extended standing ovation… Newman has the great gift of being informative and hilarious simultaneously” THE WEST AUSTRALIAN “This celebrated duo took the place by storm. Stately Carolan tunes, jazzy Django-ish numbers, dazzling Doc Watson style flat picking fliers, driving Irish dance tunes – this pair can nonchalantly do the lot. Guitar players applauded and went sadly home to burn their instruments!” THE BELFAST TELEGRAPH “Blazing guitar and dancing harp” DIRTY LINEN (USA) “Their stagecraft was masterly and their introductions informative and funny”THE CHRISTCHURCH PRESS (New Zealand) “An eclecticism and spirit of adventure that is quite thrilling” THE TIMES “Dazzling virtuosity” THE DAILY TELEGRAPH “Music of fire and brilliance from the high-wire act in traditional music” THE IRISH TIMES “In a class of their own” THE GUARDIAN “Brilliant, innovative harping and guitar-playing of astonishing virtuosity and versatility” * * * * SONGLINES
Friday 13th January – society night – In Memory of Clive
Featuring the Friends of Clive Chambers Memorial Band
“In remembrance of the recent anniversary of Clive’s passing, we would like to perform some of the different tunes we enjoyed with Clive in our jam sessions and afterwards invite you all to the WBS’s traditional jam.”
– Steve Conway
Ed: There is a significant back story to the above. Clive Chambers was singularly the most generous person, helping many in the bluegrass scene and other circles too. Clive had also regularly attended jam sessions that Steve and Linda Conway hosted for many years. He passed away in December 2015. The jam sessions continued on after Clive’s passing. Steve had organised with Clive’s family to inter Clive’s ashes, on the anniversary of his death, i.e. last month. On this occasion, those who got together for the jam sessions, and others, played music following the internment. Two of the group – Graham Lonsdale and Steve Conway, have written nice songs about Clive. The whole group have collectively been rehearsing their repertoire and will present this at the WBS this coming Friday.
The stage will also be open to any one else who would like to perform a song, a tune, or two.
Photo courtesy of Julian Ward.