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Canberra Today 8°/13° | Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Curtain up on the National Folk Festival

Nordic folk rock band Gangar… way too loud. Photo: Adam Purcell

Music / National Folk Festival Opening Concert. At EPIC, March 3. Reviewed by CASSIDY RICHENS.

The tender tones of multi-award-winning contemporary folk duo The Maes made a gentle start to the 56th National Folk Festival’s opening concert.

Complementing the harmony driven sound of the two sisters Maggie (guitar/vocals) and Elsie Rigby (mandolin/vocals), was Melbourne’s revered bassist and composer Isaac Gunnoo.

As conductors of the 2024 festival choir, The Maes will also direct daily rehearsals and a performance in the closing concert.

New managing director Heidi Prichard welcomed us to her first festival. Her tone humorous, she highlighted the work of festival volunteers, the program’s diversity, and increased participation opportunities.

Suara Dance. Photo: Adam Purcell

NSW-based Suara Dance gave an energetic performance of the Randai folk theatre tradition from West Sumatra. This artform uses their costumes — big trousers — as a sounding board for their rhythmic sounds, incorporating music, singing, and choreography. Their workshops for kids and adults will run across the festival.

Aboriginal Australian artist Jenny Martinello and Iranian musician Esfandier Shahmir performed a piece of spoken word with musical accompaniment on the Ney – a traditional Iranian flute cited as one of the oldest musical instruments in existence.

Aisling Lyons and Michelle Doyle. Photo: Cassidy Richens

Ireland’s renowned concertina player and harpist Aisling Lyons performed a set of tunes with Michelle Doyle – one half of the Mickey & Michelle duo. Taught to one-and-other just hours before the concert performance, the tune set included an original composition by both artists.

Described as “one of traditional music’s finest musicians,” Lyons, from County Clare, will give daily workshops on concertina in the Squeeze Box Experience.

Scottish born, Tasmania-based Hairy Man, performed an unaccompanied mining ballad, before John Shortis and Moya Simpson and the Choir from Canberra performed two songs from their Has to be Something Worth Fighting For show.

Aptly titled, the show, focusing on Australian protests and protests songs,  marks the end of a 20-year partnership between the National Library and the National Folk Festival. It will be performed in two parts over the Easter weekend.

Five-piece Nordic folk rock band Gangar could be described as a fresh take on Nordic roots music. Way too loud – were the early departing crowds merely trying to avoid the rush, I wondered.

Apart from the frenzied finish, first-time artistic directors Michael Solis, Holly Downs and Chris Stone curated an intelligent opening concert, illustrating the festival’s guiding principles of excellence, inclusion, integration and sustainability.


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Helen Musa

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