Having not ventured from Perth/Fremantle since landing in Western Australia in April 2022, it was great to zip off for two weeks in a rented campervan to see the great south west, mostly to take in the 2022 Albany International Folk ‘N Shanty Festival. Heading off towards a weekend of music, song, and good people is hard to beat.
It was my first time driving in Western Australia and proved quite the revelation. WA for me conjures up images of stark rocky ranges, miles of pindan dust, and a harsh, dry climate. But Freo to Albany and return via Denmark, Nannup, and Margaret River has the look and feel of south east NSW or Victoria. Dairy cow, vineyard, and tall tree country.
Albany is quite stunning. Turning up early and staying late was wise. A boat across Oyster Harbour and up Kalgan River, a morning zip around King George Sound on a whale-spotting boat, a spin out to the wind farm, and wanderings around the tops of Mounts Melville and Clarence (Corndarup) – all recommended diversions. Bring a jumper.
Add in a trip to a local brewery and the giniversity and that was a pretty full first visit. Now add 2.5 days of a shanty festival and stir liberally.
This article also appeared in edition 151 of Trad And Now magazine in September 2022.
Here in south west Australia, and in niche but growing enclaves around the country and the world, many of us are starting to get a little excited for the upcoming Albany International Folk ‘n’ Shanty Festival which takes place from Friday 30 September to Sunday 2 October 2022.
“From fireside folk sessions and concerts, to full blown pub shanty singing, from tales of pirates, whales and shipwrecks; the Albany International Folk ‘n Shanty Festival turns historic Albany/Kinjarling into a playground of maritime culture.” – shantyfest.com
Albany may not lay claim to the most remote festival venue on the continent, but there would be few that could beat it. Albany is 3,335kms by road from Melbourne, 3,864kms from Sydney, and about a five hour drive south from Perth.
But more of the festival itself in a future edition. I mention it here for context to say I’ve been booked in to attend for a while, so when news of a CD launch of sea shanties and songs of the sea* bobbed up, my interest was already piqued.
* There’s a difference between the two. All shall be revealed hereunder.
Band members were understandably taking any chance to plug the CD and gig around Fremantle in the lead-up, and group member Jon Cope spent some time during ‘Folking Around’ on Radio Fremantle to talk in detail about the recordings’ evolution and background.
Normally, I would have been one of the interviewers, however, I was struck down by a debilitating (non-plague) illness that week, so my colleagues of the airwaves manned the bridge and took the wheel: Frank Hodges (asking the lion’s share of the questions) and Alan Dawson (on the panel, knobs, buttons, and light comic relief).
Victorian Celtic quartet Co-cheòl are launching their debut EP (‘Co-cheòl’) at the Boite World Music Café in North Fitzroy on Saturday 11 October 2014.
Boasting a wealth of instrumental skill and experience, a real strength of the group is in their vocal harmonising which comes to the fore in their EP. The group was also recognised with a runner-up award in the recent AUS-ACA A Capella Championships, plus awards for ‘Best Band’ and ‘Best Comedy Song’.
Co-cheòl made their festival debut in January 2014 at the ever-popular Cygnet Folk Festival in Tasmania to rapturous responses from audiences.
The group started singing together in October 2013 and this self-titled EP is their first recording.
Co-cheòl comprises Claire Patti (vocals/harp), Georgina Walton (vocals/ukulele), and twins Merrily Hansen (vocals/flute) and Ginger Hansen (vocals/accordion).
Ginger Hansen provided a little more background on where the band originated and what makes them hum (no pun intended):
‘Claire, Merrily and I have all sung together in the past at one point or another in a community choir. Claire has her own solo career as well as singing with Taliska. She was doing a solo album and obviously can’t do harmonies with herself while performing!
So she asked Merrily and I if we could give her a hand with concerts.
We did the backing tracks on her album and thought this is a good thing; we’ll keep doing this.
Claire works at a school where Georgina works, and one day Claire was singing to herself at work and then this other voice, Georgina, joined in with a great harmony line – and that was it!
We want to do more original material. We have one or two original numbers, as well as some lyrics that are ready to be put to music. Aside from this, we do all our own arrangements of a mix of traditional and more modern stuff.’
Co-cheòl is pronounced ‘Co-shaal ‘ and appropriately means ‘harmony’ in Scots Gaelic. Ginger spoke briefly about the origins of the band’s chosen music.
‘We have a family connection with Celtic music to varying degrees. We’ve all just had different amounts of exposure to it.
The National A Capella Championships were great. The event was incredibly well-organised, really well-attended, and it was just amazing to get in contact and make friends with a lot of other musicians and groups.
Quite of lot of groups from New South Wales and South Australia as well. When we go to Adelaide we’ll be meeting up with those people.
It was great to be in the company of a lot of other music nerds who enjoy singing as much as we do!
A capella is definitely a buzzword at the moment, so people are focussing on that aspect which is fine. They don’t necessarily have a picture of our music when they think of our singing, so that’s a nice surprise for them when they come to see and hear us.’
Victorians and South Australians have several chances to see Co-cheòl perform starting with the EP launch:
Saturday 11 October — Boite World Music Café, North Fitzroy (Vic)
Saturday 18 October — Darebin Music Feast, Wesley Anne, Northcote (Vic) 21 to 22 November — Carnival of Music, Clare Valley (SA) Sunday 23 November — Creatively Celtic, Church of Christ, Aldgate (SA) EP Launch