The popular Millthorpe music event returns from May 2023, with a hand from the Country Arts Support Program.
After a break that many regular music events took over the pandemic, acoustic sunday‘s organiserrs (and yes, it’s an all lowercase title) were able to test the waters in late 2022 with a reboot gig as part of Arts OutWest’s Live & Kicking program. The full house and very appreciative audience gave them hope to bring the monthly folk-focused music events back. But more than ever they felt it was important to pay the performers guaranteed industry rates. That’s where a small grant from the Country Arts Support Program came in.
We caught up with musician and acoustic sunday co-organiser Genni Kane to get an insight into how a music program grows and survives, and to roll of small grants programs like CASP.
What’s the history of acoustic sundays?
It’s pretty much a ‘build it and they will come’ scenario. About 15 years ago, we approached one of the local Millthorpe cafes and asked if they could stay open for an extra couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon while we played some acoustic music. We were looking for a space to share original music that wasn’t a noisy pub. We didn’t know a lot of local musicians then, and suddenly they were coming out of the woodwork to play in a quiet room to people who wanted to listen! Clearly we were onto something!
We soon outgrew that space and moved into the guest lounge in the local motel, and finally to Club Millthorpe where we have been curating 6 concerts per year since 2016.
What do people love about acoustic sundays?
I think that our audiences love that they are guaranteed to hear beautiful and original acoustic music. They may never have heard of the featured guest, but we have built a level of trust so that people know it will be something high quality and meaningful. Even if it’s not their cup of tea, they love being exposed to something they may never have listened to otherwise. Mostly though, they leave as a new fan with a CD ticked under their arm.
Our musical guests love it because it has grown into a respectful listening space where audiences listen and engage in the music.
Tell us about the atmosphere of the acoustic Sunday gigs?
I’m quite proud to say that we have created a supportive and immersive experience for our supporters and guests. As a musician, it is such a joy to be open and nurtured in such an intimate space. It can be quite confronting and humbling to play to a completely silent room full of open hearts. As an audience member, you really get to know the performer and feel a strong connection.
How are you using CASP funds?
We have progressed over the years from gold coin donations at the door to fully ticketed shows.
It is really important to us that all of our guests are paid properly. 100% of the CASP grant combined with ticket sales, has allowed us for the first time ever to be able to offer a guaranteed fee to all of our performers.
What’s the schedule of acoustic Sunday events this year? Which performers are involved?
We have 6 concerts on the third Sunday of each month from May to October:
May 21 is our songwriter feature with Bathurst & Millthorpe musicians Andy Nelson & Jon Wilby. These two lovely men have both come to song-writing later in life and this adds an interesting depth to their writing. They both also have rather lovely beards!
June 18 features Great Aunt from Melbourne. These two powerhouse women, Chelsea Allen & Megan Bird, write fabulous songs about life in all of its guises. They have such an interesting & unique sound. I’m super excited for this one.
July 16 sees Nerida Cuddy taking the floor. Nerida is a well known and loved singer-songwriter from Canowindra. She writes straight from the heart and tells stories of her life. This is Nerida’s final performance before heading off on a UK tour.
August 20 we welcome back The Wildflowers from Cowra. Andy Baylor & Lucy Lehmann have a unique old country style. This concert will feature songs from their brand new album ‘Another Day in a Country Town’. The Wildflowers last played at acoustic Sunday in 2017 and we are so happy to welcome them back.
September 17 is Corn Nut Creek month! Danielle Vita (USA) and Tanya Bradley (Australia) are storytellers whose original songs draw upon the traditions of Appalachian music. They dance and sing and play fiddle and banjo. What’s not to love?
October 15 is our final concert in this series. American songwriter John Prine passed away due to complications from COVID in 2020. He was a great influence on many local singer-songwriters. We are thrilled to bits to welcome Central west musicians Chloe & Jason Roweth, Amy Viola, Eagle & the Wolf, Ron Van Der Zwaag and others to perform their favourite John Prine songs. It feels like a fitting way to end this series.
CASP is only small grants, how can a small grant assist local arts activities?
Organising any kind of niche music event is always going to be a struggle financially outside of the larger cities. I see the CASP grant as a ‘sharing of the load’. This grant enables us to top up our artist fees and offer a guaranteed fee.
It goes beyond that though. We don’t only receive the money, there is also a tonne of support and guidance provided by Arts OutWest as a part of the process.
What future do you hope for acoustic sunday?
I think that the future looks bright for acoustic sunday. Every year we learn new things to make it better for the following year. We are building trust with not only our audiences, but also musicians who want to play in this beautiful space. I hope that we will continue for many years to come.
IMAGE: The audience at the acoustic sunday reboot, as part of Arts OutWest’s Live & Kicking program in November 2022. Photo: Zenio Lapka.