Wirrina Bluegrass and Acoustic Roots Festival

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Yes, Wirrina is having a music camp in 2023

by Caz Williams and Thea Taylor

TN155 Apr 23

We keep having enquiries about enrolments for our music camp here in South Australia so I guess we’d better run another one!

We’re planning an exciting program this year for most skill levels from November 21–23.

We hope to once again have a tutor or two from outside Australia, after the joy of hosting Kellie Allen, Beverly Smith and Pete Peterson from the USA as tutors and performers in 2022 (in addition to Mark Pottenger and Andrew Clermont).

We will post on our site www.wirrinabluegrass.com when we have secured our line-up of tutors.

At the camp, we offer classes for string band instruments including fiddle, mandolin, guitar and banjo.

We can offer various other classes if there is sufficient demand!

That means a minimum of 7 people.

So, if you play bass, ukulele or another instrument you think should have classes, please get organised with other players, and contact us with a serious expression of interest as soon as possible.

We can book a tutor and arrange a class space with enough committed paying people!

If we don’t know there’s demand, then we might not think of it … hint hint.

Camp precedes the weekend festival.

You can come for the week or 10 days, and really settle in at the campground.

If you wish to apply as a performer at the festival which follows the camp, we consider any acoustic music acts, not just Bluegrass.

Although most are somewhere in the string band canon we are open to suggestions.

Please email us (wirrinabluegrass@gmail.com, Subject: Performer application) and tell us about your work and how you might fit in to a small acoustic festival in semi-rural South Australia.

All camp and festival activities are held at Wirrina Cove Holiday Park, 10 mins out of Normanville on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

There is plenty of space for camping in the vicinity of horses, kangaroos and beautiful scenery.

It’s close to the water.

We’ve had people sail to the festival before.

There’s limited cabin accommodation available on site but there are Air BNB sites in the area (look for Wirrina Cove, Carrickalinga, Normanville or Yankalilla), and various accommodation off site through Yankalilla Visitors’ Centre, as well as hotel rooms at the Wirrina Resort that’s literally up the hill.

For those who attended in 2022, we’re still listening to all available comments, and as you know, we will pay attention.

This year we will have more activities and more options.

Our aim is to challenge all who attend, but of course, attendance at any given activities is optional, if, eg, your brain is full.

For any enquiries, please contact us at wirrinabluegrass@gmail.com with the subject Music Camp.

You can find our Facebook page – search for ‘Wirrina Bluegrass’, and follow our website www.wirrinabluegrass.com for information as it’s updated.

To keep in touch: please go to our website, the ‘contact us’ page, and sign up for our mailing list.

We don’t sell your details to anyone, it’s just used to update members 6-8 times a year about what’s happening with festival and related activities.

We hope to see you there, ready to learn and have a lot of fun.

 

Four patrons share their festival experiences

Published in T&N 153 December 2022

 

Chris Alway told festival organisers that she really enjoyed the diverse mix of workshops sampled at November’s Wirrina Blue Grass and Acoustic Roots Festival in South Australia.

At Chien Xuequian’s workshop we gleaned deep cultural insights and learnt to sing an ancient Chinese folk song with correct language pronunciation, vocal tones and poetic expression.

Our cultural sharing was strongly felt within the group.

We are surely now Chien’s gang of Chinese singing hillbillies.

Chien’s voice sounded acoustically exquisite in the rustic woolshed – even though she was worried by the resident goat contributing to her solo vocal backing.

Caz William’s techniques for unleashing our creative minds worked like magic.

This session concluded by each of us writing and reading out our unique and curious short stories – we will be ready for a masterclass next year.

Andrew Clermont’s ‘Doing what you find difficult’ session predictably caught me off guard – should have known Andrew would somehow find a way to make me do what he knows I most don’t like doing in public!

Andrew also gathered us together for a three part harmony workshop to teach us a gospel song he was going to later perform on stage and in doing so transformed us into a host of heavenly angels.

Josh Bennet’s mandolin workshop was well targeted advice for the time, scope and skill levels of participants.

Josh demonstrated both natural teaching talent as well as being a brilliant performer.

My three day mandolin tuition with Mark Pottinger was very comfortable, personalised, encouraging and left me wanting more tips and musical mentorship with Mark.

The highlight for me was that I got to dress-up in blue and dance on grass, Bollywood style, with Blue Guru.

That was Blue Grass going multicultural in country South Australia.

The Wirrina Festival continues to be a cosy gathering of musicians with diverse cultural interests and skills who freely mingle and share performance, ideas and skills whilst enjoying camping and jamming together in a country park setting.

Looking forward to next year’s sessions.

 

Another festival patron, Caspian Helm, said: Take a deep dive into bluegrass and acoustic routes and your audience’s ears will thank you for it.

The 3 day immersive experience music camp preceding the 2022 inaugural Wirrina Bluegrass folk and acoustic roots festival was well worth the time and money invested in my view.

Jamming confidently with other camp attendees and playing ‘somewhat better’ with a celtic circle were some of the joys of putting in the work at the music camp.

Learning guitar for what felt like the second time may have been a stretch for the brain and fingers, but the rapid improvement was evident.

Andrew Clermont took our group through picking and strumming technique, scales and variations and other exercises that honed my guitar skills and those around me of all backgrounds and capabilities.

Kellie Allen, Beverly Smith and Pete Peterson (USA) introduced techniques and songs from Maybelle Carter and the Carter family, and other workshops were delightful.

Living and breathing music for the music camp prior to the festival in a relaxed atmosphere was a truly unique Australian musical experience, for any and all.

 

Geoff Bridgland also attended and said: I have been to every Wirrina Bluegrass and Acoustic Roots Festival and despite trying, I have never been able to see every act on the program.

It sure is a busy 3 days.

And this year, it was busier still, because the featured US act, “Smith, Allen and Peterson” taught Old time Music skills at the Festival camp in the days preceding the Festival weekend.

So it was a great festival experience for learners and players alike.

Beverly Smith, Kellie Allen and Pete Peterson didn’t disappoint.

Their concerts and workshops were an absolute must for all Old Time Music appreciators, learners and learned alike.

Rock-solid renditions of Old Time favourites and fiddle tunes.

Traditional bluegrass and Old Time family band, The Burning Bridges, were a treat with their pre-war country sounds and songs.

Smooth harmonies and skilled mandolin playing from young Tom Somerville and Justin Vilchez, supported by Ma and Pa Somerville, long-time Melbourne traditional music exponents.

And the local traditional (and not so traditional) bluegrass outfits, Bluegrass Junction, The Cherry Pickers and Crooked Road were solid performers, as always, and Miss Ohio’s ballads and fiddle solos were certainly crowd-pleasers.

It was especially exciting to see a young Vic/SA combination, The High Street Drifters, on stage.

Danny Watkins and Justin Vilchez from Victoria and Mae Traeger and Gage Stead from SA play a strong blend of really tight traditional bluegrass sounds as well as having a compelling new-grass edge.

It is to be hoped that the Drifters continue this adventure, and get out to as many performances across the country as possible, as they have a lot of combined expertise, and a really strong sense of how to play this music right.

The Adelaide Scottish Fiddle Club did what they do best, with cheerful renditions from Auld Lang Syne, the Highlands and the Isles.

Good to see BluGuru at the Festival again, with their unmistakable blend of Sub-Continent-Celtic-Blues-Jazz fusion excitement and unpredictability.

Dave Diprose, straight from his gigs at the Mountaingrass Festival in Beechworth, as were some of the other bands, sang his biting, honest and perceptive takes on life as he does best.

As I say, I couldn’t see every act, but together with multiple workshops and sessions, this Wirrina Festival made up for the lost years due to Covid and hopefully puts this Festival back on track firmly for many years to come.

Add it to the list of festivals you must attend!!

 

Finally, Zac Quihampton also shared his thoughts on the festival.

Every year, the Wirrina Festival brings together an eclectic, talented and friendly group of people from all over the country.

It is fair to say, folk music isn’t my usual forte but getting lost in the atmosphere, amongst many like minded and easy going individuals, has been a highlight in my year.

From the opportunity to witness some of the country’s most talented musicians, to getting involved in a late night jam circle around the fire, finding your place at Wirrina seems too easy.

Although seeming impossible to choose just one or two, some acts certainly stood out from the crowd.

In his usual charming and confident demeanour, we saw Andrew Clermont take to the stage several times over the weekend, sporting a vast variety of instruments.

Even though his skill may seem unrivalled, he is always ready to share the spotlight and uplift fellow performers on stage, expressing some of the most beautiful music.

Gwyn Ashton has had the chance to play with many famous musicians in England but has since returned to Australia to show off his solo act.

Being able to play guitar, harmonica, bass drum, snare drum and high hat simultaneously seems impossible, but Gwyn showed this off almost seamlessly in his workshop at Wirrina.

If there’s anyone still unconvinced, I should mention the beautiful campground and surrounding scrub, well-equipped cafe, multitude of interactive workshops and opportunities to support local artists through purchasing of CDs and merchandise.

Spending a night or two, or even the whole week, amongst Australian wildlife and inquisitive horses, goats and dogs is easily another highlight.

Setting up base camp, surrounding yourself and getting to know your neighbours, even having guests around for mealtimes truly is the icing on the cake.

Most would find it hard to surround themselves in a more wholesome experience.

I can comfortably say it again, this experience remains a highlight of my year and I look forward to many more.

Music camp added for 10th festival

by Thea Taylor

Published in T&N152 November 2022

 

It’s our 10th Wirrina Bluegrass and Acoustic Roots Festival at Wirrina, SA, this year and we are celebrating that milestone with another great festival plus we’ve added a music camp for adults and teens.

This year’s festival will run from Friday November 25 until Sunday November 27.

All are welcome at our festival and participation is encouraged.

There are workshops/tutorials and led jam sessions that welcome beginners, rusty players, and skilled players alike.

New workshops this year include a PA workshop covering things that the sound guy wishes performers knew about PA, a Bollywood dance workshop and a session learning Chinese traditional folk songs.

Join in with the Scottish Fiddle Club, Irish Traditional Music and a good range of Bluegrass & Old Time tune sessions and other sessions, plus community gospel singing for those awake on Sunday morning.

A range of tutorials on various instruments and a creativity workshop to stretch your brain, this time with an extra session on Friday afternoon for early arrivals, are also available.

And of course, there are many opportunities for informal playing around the firepits and campsites at night.

On Friday and Saturday, there’s also Shanty singing at the Woolshed for all to join in.

This is lots of fun with traditional seafaring songs and a bit of dress-up.

Bring your own seafarer’s outfit if you like, and if you really want to get into the spirit of things, the Wirrina Cove Marina is just down the hill.

We have had festival guests sail down in the past!

Parrots are optional.

You can also be part of our blackboard concert.

Anyone can sign up for a 15 minute spot to play for an audience on Saturday and Sunday all day.

Full PA support is provided.

Young and newer players are welcome, or those who wish to try out new material.

Delightful Tasmanian songwriter, Anne Toner, whom we met when she played on the blackboard stage last year, features on the current program with her trio.

This year, on our concert stage, we are featuring a range of Australian artists including veteran Tamworth Songwriters Association 2019 ‘Bluegrass song of the year’ winner Dave Diprose, and family band, The Burning Bridges, from Melbourne, plus our American Old Time visitors, Beverly Smith, Pete Peterson, and Kellie Allen, who will also be teaching at our music camp, where we still have just a few places available.

Also performing are Canadian mandolin explosion, Justin Vilchez, and the UK’s, Gwyn Ashton, before his return to the European circuit early next year.

If you think that’s not enough, you can also see international performers BluGuru, complete with sitar, tabla and Indian dance.

Families are welcome and tickets for under-18s are FREE.

The venue is dog-friendly but please keep your well behaved dog on a lead and supervised.

The park runs a kiosk with decent meals, drinks and coffee available.

They are fully licensed and stock local wines and beers.

Our Music camp is running for the first time this year.

We’re gearing up for an intimate group of students to work intensively on instrument skills.

The schedule also features exciting extra tutorials on songwriting, music of the Carter Family, getting the most out of harmony opportunities with Andrew Clermont, and more!

Places still available are for fingerstyle banjo, Old Time rhythm guitar, mandolin, fiddle and melodic guitar.

This is a fabulous opportunity to be up close and personal with some of America’s most skilled Old Time players and teachers, as well as highly experienced Australian musicians, Andrew Clermont and Mark Pottenger.

If you want to improve your rhythm skills, and many of us should, melody playing or want to explore a new way to play the banjo, you are most definitely welcome to join us for the 3 days of intensive instruction.

Visitors can camp on site or there are guesthouses/hotel options in the area, and if you need transport to the camp, the SeaLink bus runs from Adelaide City to Wirrina Resort, arriving 5.00pm.

This is perfect for those flying in or without a car.

Arrive by Monday evening, enjoy camp activities from Tuesday, November 22 until Thursday 24th and be ready for the festival on Friday 25th.

Fun times!

Last minute limited scholarship options for camp fees only have become available.

If you think you cannot afford to attend at full fees but would otherwise love to and are willing to commit and participate, you are invited to get in touch with us.

Let us know how you would benefit, and how you could take what you learn back to your community.

Camping is available on site for the music camp and the festival.

Book powered or unpowered sites at www.wirrinacoveholidaypark.com.au.

You must use the promotional code bluegrass2022 to book dates between November 19th-28th as the campground is closed to the general public during the festival period.

You can arrive any time from Saturday November 19th .

Tickets and further information are available through our website www.wirrinabluegrass.com or for any enquiries, please email us at wirrinabluegrass@gmail.com.

 

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