Franklin Folk Club by Steve Gadd

In 2000, after 20 years the Franklin Folk Club reopened

There has always been music in the Huon Valley and especially around the Franklin area. Brass bands and choirs were common in the 1800s. Immigrants from Ireland and Britain brought ballads and children's songs which were gradually adapted to suit the local cultural experience.

All around the valley families would gather together to sing, play fiddles and the local instrument of choice, a simple button accordion called a melodeon. This combination, often with a piano added would supply the music for apple shed dances. The tunes were often adaptations of English and Irish tunes but there was a very large number of dance tunes from central Europe, from Germany, Austria, Poland and Bohemia, which were central to the repertoire. Such tunes were Polkas, Waltzes, Vassovienas, and Schottishes. These were originally sophisticated parlour dance pieces which moved to the Colonial rural setting of the Huon changed into lively country dances while retaining their beautiful melodies. Other tunes such as Dad's Waltz by Papa Dawson seem to be original tunes that had their genesis in the valley.

Some of these tunes are still played by older musicians. The Dawsons of Swamp Road, now into their nineties, still play tunes that they learnt from their father and other local players and which were old tunes by the beginning of the 20th century. These and other tunes from around the Valley have been collected by Fred Pribac, John Meredith and others and are undergoing a revival. Groups like the Butoneers and The New Franklin Ramblers play a number of these older tunes. It is now common to hear these old tunes being played at sessions and parties alongside folk standards, Blues, Celtic and Eastern European tunes. Also new fusions are taking place which reinvigorate the older tunes without compromising their essential simplicity.

The 20th century brought jazz bands and later rock and American style country music into the Valley. In all genres the Valley has had its own groups and stylists.

In the 1970s The Huon became one of Australia's most important centres for the Folk revival which had already started losing steam in Hobart and Sydney. The shift of new settlers seeking an alternative life style brought new players committed to an acoustic sound. Ironically it would be these players and their children that begin to rediscover the music of the Great-Grandfolk. In doing so music in the Valley has gone full circle. Now the older Huon Valley tunes are given fresh arrangements and mixed with playing styles and idioms from all over the worlds.

The Valley has show-bands, blues, bluegrass, Celtic, Gypsy, Cajun, Balkan Bush, Classical, Country ensembles. Also there is cutting edge work being done with, techno, ambient and NewAge electronic music.

The Franklin Folk Club has taken a proactive stance in promoting these musics. It has brought together musicians who have formed new groups and embarked upon new ventures. The eclectic and wonderful Voices of the Valley CD displays the variety of excellent music alive and growing in the Valley.

We are planning to hold a small music based Apple Harvest Festival in the last weekend of April.

Meanwhile we have our first international star, Rory McLeod, playing on Sunday 28th of Jan 2001, at 1.00 PM. He is supported by Shake Sugaree.

Be There!

The recent history of the Folk Club can be gleaned from the press releases listed below. All were published in the Huon News during 2000.

Franklin Folk Club to reopen after 20 years.

About 23 years ago two expatriate Irish musicians, singer and accordion player Mick Flanaghan and tenor banjo player Frank Byrne began taking their instruments to the Franklin Tavern for informal sessions, they were joined by Mick's wife Helen on mandolin and whistle. Before long a core of other performers from around Franklin and other parts of the Huon began to come along to join in and to contribute with tunes and songs. Among these were Liz and Ian Crellin, both fine singers with Ian bringing a repertoire of songs from his native Isle of Mann.

This led to the formation of the Huon Folk Club. Historian, Michelle Schaffer wrote a history of Folk music in Tasmania in which she describes the importance of the Franklin based Folk Club.

At the time this region became one of the most vibrant areas for folk and acoustic music in general in Australia. The late seventies through to the early 1980s saw the wild 'buttongrass' band The Apple Bruisers in a regular gig at the Franklin Tavern pulling huge crowds.

Meanwhile the Folk Club moved to Beaumont on Main Rd Franklin. There new performers such as Steve and Jane Ray, who would later form the Cockies and run the Cygnet Festival for many years, were given one of their first venues. Talented guitarist Garry Berryman would regularly perform there along with bands and acts from all over the state. Steve Gadd who co-founded nationally recognised group Shake Sugaree and gypsy duo Czardas had one of his first gigs at the club. Fiddle, mandolin and bass player Rob Bester, now in the Melbourne based band Xenos, was a regular at the club. Rob has since played internationally with residencies in Europe.

From these early origins at Franklin, The Huon Folk Festival at Cygnet began. First as a small alternative to the Longford festival then later as a large festival in its own right.

Later Mick and Helen Flanaghan and Frank Byrne were to go to the North of the state in search of work. There, Mick and Helen followed their success in the Huon by starting the George Town Folk Festival.

As people came and went from the area the Franklin club closed.

Now 20 years on it is set to start up again. Franklin is now the home to a number of musicians interested in a range of traditional and contemporary music. Dot and Roy Neuman are well known for their work in Irish and Bush dance band Rakish Paddy. John and Trish Noakes perform in the Stringy Bark Bush Band and John is a talented song writer in traditional idioms. Peter Hicks and Geoff Francis, who have recently moved to Franklin from Glaziers Bay, are well known throughout Australia for their original songs covering social and political issues. Peter is also the founder or cofounder of a number of Tasmanian bands such as The Ranters, In Like Flynn, Shake Sugaree and Mystery Train and plays every thing from traditional folk ballads and tunes through sophisticated world music sounds to mean old rock and blues. Hicks has also performed with the Borstall Boys, this Irish style band includes another some-time Franklin resident Matt Wooley.

Matt is a fine singer, guitarist and his wife Neve is a wonderful singer in her own right.

Also resident in Franklin is Steve Gadd who plays bluegrass banjo and blues guitar in Shake Sugaree and Gypsy music with local violinist Marjorie Hearn in Czardas.

As well as Gypsy music, Steve and Marjorie write tunes inspired by local life and history and have recently added traditional tunes collected from local Tasmanian sources to their repertoire.

Franklin is also the home to Jane Mills who is well known as a dancer in several traditional folk dance styles and to Gillian Van Duran a fine jazz and blues singer.

This is only a small part of the talent from the area. We welcome the involvement of any or all in the area who wish to be involved in the club. The club will be open to a wide variety of musical styles from traditional Australian, Celtic and European styles through to blues, bluegrass, country, acoustic rock ballads and world music idioms. Old jazz and music hall material would also be welcomed. Anything worth playing and preserving that might otherwise get pushed aside by mainstream popular forms. Also original singer-song writer material in any style will be welcomed.

As well as putting on jam sessions and concerts we hope to run workshops of the playing of various traditional instruments such as guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, bodhran etc. In addition we will host workshops on song-writing. The club will also work alongside The Huon Valley Song Archive Project which seeks to archive all original music and songs written by residents of the Valley from settlement to the present. In addition Marjorie Hearn will establish a youth string orchestra in the valley which will play arrangements of music collected in or written in the area and other parts of Tasmania. This orchestra along with The Huon Valley Song Archive Project and the Franklin Folk Club will help ensure that local culture be maintained and developed in the face of globalisation and homogenisation.

It is intended that new The Franklin Folk Club meet regularly in the refurbished Franklin Palais as soon as the upstairs area is ready for public use. Until that time we will negotiate an alternative and interim venue. We hope that meetings, sessions and performances will take place twice per month initially. Any musician, singer or other interested person who would like to join in the regular music making should get in touch with Steve Gadd in order to be placed on a mailing list for dates and events. Steve can be contacted by phone on 62663446 or by email on Hopefully the first meeting of the new Franklin Folk Club will take place this August. Please ell free to join up and join in.

Folk Club Opening a Huge Success.

On Saturday the 16th of September the Franklin Folk Club reopened its doors for the first time in nearly twenty years. An enthusiastic audience of more than sixty came to the Palais Theatre to enjoy the concert of short acts from a variety of local performers. Most stayed on for the supper and session which followed. Steve Gadd, the coordinator of the Franklin Folk Club, was overwhelmed by the show of public support for the club.

"The atmosphere and the involvement of audience in the singing was terrific. The numbers that turned up also really surprised me as I had hardly advertised the night. There has been a lot of encouraging input from those who attended and this has generated plenty of ideas for future Folk Club nights."

Ned Trewartha opened the concert ending with a song that had the audience singing along.

Peter Hicks and Ian Paulin both maintained and intensified this audience involvement with their respective contributions.

Czardas played a set of traditional Tasmanian folk tunes as well as some more recent Tasmanian compositions. The old-time country band, Loose Cannons, had people tapping their feet while the fiddle group F-Troop put on an inspiring first public performance.

In all six of the songs and tunes performed in that concert originated here in the Huon! This is in keeping with one aim of the Franklin Folk Club, that is, to develop and promote the music of the Huon as being on an equal basis to music from other sources.

The session after the concert soon developed its own momentum with many participants singing and playing a variety of music.

It was noted that some of those new to sessions might have been a little shy in coming forward with their own songs and tunes. Steve Gadd and the Folk Club committee say that they plan to remedy this by having a less formal session-only night on alternative fortnights to the full concert and session meetings of the Folk Club.

Steve said, " We hope, above all, to get new people playing and singing at these less formal sessions. There are lots of locals who play or sing a bit, be it folk, blues, country or whatever, but just do not feel confident about joining in the larger sessions. On October the 6th we will have our first informal get together, at the Franklin Palais Theatre, just to jam and exchange tunes and songs. We encourage any beginners or others that do not normally play in public to come along and play. We will provide a supportive and non-critical atmosphere for anyone who wants to participate. It is also a great chance for different people to meet and play together ".

Later in October, on Saturday the 21st, the Franklin Folk Club will hold a Grand Concert featuring some stunning performers. Among those currently lined up to perform on October the 20th are the Southern Lights Gospel Choir, vocal trio Women In Black, Kinsfolk and a range of other acts. Those not on the bill who wish to perform a song or two can place their name on the blackboard before the concert and, time permitting, should be able to get a spot between scheduled acts.

After the concert there will be an open session and supper up stairs.

Steve says that entry to the concert will be $3.00 to cover costs and to allow the Franklin Folk Club to donate a sum each month toward the second stage of Palais restoration work. He also stressed that the provision of supper afterwards depends upon the generosity of club members and patrons so please bring a plate.

Steve stressed that the folk club is there for the whole community and not just the musicians.

"I want everyone in the Valley to feel free to come along to our concerts such as the big one coming up on October 21st. If you are looking for quality entertainment and variety but don't feel like driving to Hobart then folk club is just the thing. The general public should also feel welcome to stay around after the concert and listen to the session, sing-a-long with the songs in the sessions and have some supper."

For any inquiries contact Steve Gadd on 62663446 or

Variety and Quality at Folk Club Concert.

The Franklin Folk Club had its Grand Public Concert on the 21st of October.

The Palais audience of slightly over one hundred saw a stunning array of acts show-casing a blend of local and Hobart based talent. Huon Valley group, the Kinsfolk, set a high standard with their tight harmonies and original songs dealing with rural life. The Southern Lights Gospel Choir demonstrated some complex and beautiful arrangements of traditional gospel standards.

The relatively new trio, Women In Black, showed that they are likely to become a major musical draw card with their gutsy but super tight songs and harmonies.

Other acts included Czardas, Matt Wooley, Ian Paulin, John and Caroline Bushby, Tony and Leslie Rees, and local performance poet Gail Galloway. All these acts were strong and polished. Each added to the variety and quality of the night. Shake Sugaree ended with a raucous set.

Club coordinator, Steve Gadd, was pleased with the concert.

" Overall it was an excellent show. The acts were great and some artists put in really inspired performances. If anything we suffered from our own abundance. The show was on the long side, there was no time for breaks and the schedule was a bit tight. This is all part of a learning experience for us. In future we will book less performers perhaps keeping main acts to one or two. That should leave more space for others to get up and perform a tune or two and for a longer post-concert session."

The next event for the Franklin Folk Club will be a small concert and session on Friday the 24th of November. This concert will function as the CD launch for singer song-writer Clare Grey's first CD. Steve says that this is one not to be missed. "Clare is a major talent, one of the best Tassie has produced in recent times. A fine musician and an extraordinary singer. We will undoubtedly lose her to the mainland so try to catch her while you can."

After Clare's performance there will be opportunities for others to add a song or tune. Sessions will follow.

For more information ring Steve Gadd on 62663446

Franklin Folk Club Venue for CD Launch.

The Next meeting of the Franklin Folk Club will be on Friday November 24th from 8.00 PM. There will be a variety of short acts with plenty of spare spots for those with a song or tune to perform .

The Main event for the evening will be the CD launch of Clare Gray's first CD, titled, All Brand New. Clare who hails from Hobart is a major Tasmanian talent. She is known for her moving and professional performances and her stunning voice.

Franklin Folk Club coordinator, Steve Gadd, is enthusiastic about Clare's first appearance at the Club,

" I first heard Clare sing and play a few years ago and I was so impressed. I was lucky enough to perform with her on one occasion. Since that time Clare has played as a professional with her blues and Jazz band. Alongside her jazz work Clare has kept developing and performing her original, more folk oriented material. Clare will be accompanied by Mat Ward on both 12 string guitar and acoustic bass. Mat is a player of sublime taste and subtlety and this suits Clare's atmospheric ballads perfectly."

As usual the concert will be followed by a small supper and a session.

All musicians who would like to session are invited to stay around to jam from 10.00 till late.

Steve said, "We have learnt from the previous concert not to run too many acts, nor to make the concert too long. The chalkboard is there for musicians to put their names on if they have a piece to perform but we are presenting only one main act this time. This gives Clare a chance to showpiece the tunes from her new CD."

The usual session will follow the concert at Franklin on the 24th as well.

The Franklin Folk Club has some big events coming up. On the 9th of December we have Ian Paulin's CD launch and a full supporting appearance by folk scene legend and mentor Mick Flanaghan.

Mick founded the original Franklin Folk Club as well as the Cygnet and George Town festivals. Ian Paulin said, "I will be honoured to Have Mick on the same Bill as my CD Launch concert!"

Steve Gadd 2001


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Jonathan Sturm 2001