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Fiona White

by Fiona White last modified Jan 19, 2015 02:17 AM

Fiona White

Fiona White
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I first went to Traynor's in the winter of '65. Earlier in the year I had moved to Melbourne to study nursing, and was already singing at various folk nights and concerts involving the Victorin Bush Music Club along with Lenore Somerset and Denis Gibbons. A friend who was a classical pianist but had an intersest in folk music took me to Traynor's. Old school friends had already told me of the club, but I had taken little notice as I was interested in "real" folk music, not the pop variety on the radio.

We walked down Lonsdale St., and as we approached I could hear a beautiful melody floating in the night, a rich male voice and appeggio accompaniment. The club from the outside had a bohemian look which attracted me, and we opened the door onto a rustic room lit by candles, exposed brickwork, rough wooden tables, benches and wine barrels. The singer was Brian Mooney and the passion and naturalness with which he delivered Irish and Australian ballads captivated me - I had found my home.

Traynor's was a short walk from where I lived and I went down most nights. Though I was singing elsewhere, self-promotion was almost unknown, singers were "discovered" by talent scouts. I was happy immersing myself in the wealth of different folk styles and histories. Everyone has their favourites and mine were Brian, Martyn Whyndham-Read, who sang traditional and contemporary British and Australian songs with magnificent guitar accompaniments, and the Kenny white, Graeme Squance duo who defined folk blues in those early days with their energetic and rhythmic sound, which I only later heard from Sonny Terry and Brownie Magee.

Early in '66 the great singer Odetta toured Australia and gave a magnificent performance at the Melbourne Town Hall. The bohemian world was small in those days and singers, musicians, painters, dancers etc. mixed professionally and socially, often becoming close friends. I was fortunate to be asked to Odetta's post concert party by Rosemary and Martin Smith. Martin was a picture framer for many known artists, and Rosemary, a former ballet dancer, had become an older mentor and mother figure to me. At the party, also attended by some Traynor's singers, I was asked to sing for Odetta. Almost paralysed with nerves, I sang unaccompanied " The Wind that Shakes the Barley". Later, as I was leaving, Odetta followed me out, placed her hands on my shoulders and said in her lovely voice "I must say, I must say, you must sing ".

And so my Traynor's era began. The next night I went, Brian and Martyn were doing the final bracket together when Martyn said to Brian "tell that girl to come up here and sing", and he did, and I did. They were generous days when singers and musicians shared each others knowledge but rarely poached material. New singers arrived like Danny Spooner, Gordon MacIntyre, Shayna Carlin.  Margret Roadknight was bringing a new sound, and the list could go on.

Sometimes I sang alone, sometimes with Danny and Gordon, sometimes with Kenny and Graeme. There were the perennial management problems, and favouritism, but overriding that, Traynor's has never been replaced in its wonderful magical atmosphere, and the era of the 60's, reminiscent of the Heidelberg School in Art in the last century, can never be replaced. It was the renaissance of folk music and Traynor's was its birth place.

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Avatar Posted by Teana Amor at Feb 19, 2008 06:46 AM
Lovely Fiona. You captured the imagery for me. Thank you.