The Sound of Silence

In 2005 I attended Music at the Creek (the Major’s Creek Folk Festival). I’d been working on a new Festival that would focus on Irish and Australian music and, among other things was distributing brochures and drumming up interest for the event. Towards the end of the weekend, standing outside the main venue I was suddenly struck by the sound of silence. Upon looking in, there, sitting on the stage was a slightly built, sandy haired young man sporting steel rim glasses, guitar resting against his thigh. The audience was expectant. You’d have heard a pin drop on the grassy floor of that tented venue. Slowly he inclined towards the microphone and started singing – a song about baking bread, a voice of exquisite beauty. This was my introduction to a man with a rare gift. I decided then and there that he must perform at my Festival. As it turned out, it wasn’t until 2009 that the wonderful Michael Kennedy came to Turning Wave.

Michael Kennedy performed at two Turning Wave Festivals and, apart from my to-ings and fro-ings with him regarding these performances I couldn’t really say that I knew Michael well. I did however develop a great respect for him, both as a person and, for his incredible talent.

Michael In 2012, when I assumed the role of Artistic Program Manager for the National Folk Festival I was “over the moon” to see an expression of interest in the system from Michael to perform in 2013. Michael had a long association with the National, winning the Lis Johnston Memorial Award for vocal excellence in 1999 and going on the be a regular face over the ensuing years on the Festival’s Budawang, main stage. Michael was a quiet, unassuming man of great humility and was almost apologetic when he phoned me just prior to the 2013 Festival to withdraw due to illness. That’s how Michael was, thinking more of how this might inconvenience the Festival rather than focusing on himself.

In the 12 months between the 2013 and 14 Festivals we lost many of our “folk” family but none touched me more than Michael’s loss. As Steve Dennis wrote in September 2013,  Enough can be a feast indeed… Perhaps this line out of his (Michael’s) hauntingly beautiful “Miracle” sums up Michael’s life. We have been blessed by a tragically short life, but “enough was a feast indeed.

In her eulogy Michael’s wife Carla said, Michael’s presence on stage when he sang was masterful, beautiful and silenced us all.  

Now, a new album titled “Hearth” produced by Luke Plumb and made with such love and care will celebrate Michael’s rare talent. Due for release in 2015, I am delighted that there will be a special album launch of “Hearth” at the 2015 National Folk Festival. And it will be special! We’ll be releasing more details as they come to hand but in the meantime read more about this very special project for a special body of work, written by a special man.

For all the latest information, tickets and performer releases for the 2015 National Folk Festival visit our website.

About FolkMusicMatters

Pam Merrigan is an experienced Artistic Director with a demonstrated history of working in the festival and music events industry. Previously both Director and Artistic Director of Australia's National Folk Festival (July 2012-March2020), Pam has worked successfully with a broad range of individuals, groups and organisations as curator, creative facilitator, performer and arts administrator. Pam has had a life long and passionate engagement with the folk arts in all their diverse forms. Pam is currently President of the Folk Federation of NSW, Director of the Sydney Folk Festival and Manager of Turning Wave Festival Inc.
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