Flora Knight and Sean Donald

7 September, Haumoana Pavilion Sitting Room Session

In search of the Sitting Room Session with Flora and Sean, I drive out to Haumoana not sure of exactly where I’m going. I pull up in the rain outside Haumoana Hall. The lights are on and I peep inside. Under fluoros a couple are setting up a fraying badminton net. Wrong venue. Unable to find any reference to tonight’s gig online I revert to the telephone and ask someone for help. A couple of calls later and I find myself at the right place, at Haumoana Pavilion.

I’m greeted by the host Jamie who warmly welcomes me and introduces me to Sean and Flora. There are candles, crackers and cheese, and wine. Jamie offers me a beer. He tells me the sessions are BYO and I feel incredibly grateful and excited at the prospect of a life of BYO gigs ahead of me. The crowd slowly arrive. Most are locals who made the short journey “over the paddock” and seem to know each other. I feel like I’ve walked into a dinner party.

Flora and Sean are soon on stage and taking us on a trip through American folk music. Flora is an incredible fiddle player and shares how she learnt from the amazing musicians who keep the music alive in Virginia, Georgia, the Appalachians. Sean is a great guitarist with an equally great sense of humour. The duet were very relaxed and admitted to being way more talkative than usual on stage. Both are totally immersed in their music and share their stories and knowledge with the audience. These are the travelling troubadour professors of American folk.

The show is split into two halves with covers of songs dating back from the 1920s. We are given musical insights and stories that surround the music and their histories. Tonight isn’t just about listening to music but about sharing two musicians’ passion for a type of music not often heard. Sean and Flora chat about the origins of songs, their possible meanings and of their personal connections with them before sharing them with us. It’s inspiring to hear musicians talk so well on the music they love and that inspires them.  The power of each song was enhanced by these very personal intros. The music was full of energy, melancholy, frenetic fiddling, and beautiful lyrics. The evening ends with a Kiwi song, “Blue Smoke” which is a nice touch, making a homegrown connection to those beautiful ballads from those hidden corners of America.

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