Friends of Melaleuca WILDCARE

A music night to share the beauty, conservation ethic and stories of Port Davey also raised funds for Friends of Melaleuca’s volunteer work. The 25th May was a wintry night but the Moonah Arts Centre auditorium was booked out! Tony Fenton, Peter Marmion and Mick Lawrence put together this program of music and photography inspired by the Southwest of Tasmania.

Rob Banfield started the evening with an acknowledgement of the traditional people of this land, and then Janet Fenton briefly explained the role of Friends of Melaleuca and Wildcare before Peter Marmion took over as MC for the evening. First on stage was Tony Fenton with ‘A Piano’s Wilderness Odyssey’, the story of the King family’s piano, its chequered life of fire and water and how it arrived by sea to Bond Bay in Port Davey.

Tony Fenton telling A Piano’s Wilderness Odyssey. Photo by Jim Emms.

In 1958, pianist Jessie Luckman (a notable bushwalker and conservationist), wrote ‘Boat Song for Bond Bay’ for the piano’s then owner, Winsome Clayton (née King). This gently rocking melody was sensitively played for us on Moonah Arts Centre’s piano by Steve Crump. We are privileged that such an acclaimed pianist and composer played at our little show. Two of his albums are collaborations with Bob Brown — Bob’s poetry and Steve’s music. See more about Steve Crump here:

Steve Crump plays Boat Song for Bond Bay. Photo by Jim Emms.

Next, Greg Wells and The Blackwater Band came on stage. Greg is well known to many as a host of Par Avion’s Southwest three-day camps and day tours with Par Avion. Greg knows the waterway from Melaleuca, through Bathurst Harbour to Port Davey like the back of his hand. He loves to tell guests the stories of the place, and there are many of them. Mostly he does not admit that he is a songwriter, singer and guitarist and that these stories come alive in rousing and heartfelt music.

The Blackwater Band. Photo by Geoff Fenton.

The Blackwater Band members are a great bunch. Emily Wolfe is a well known Tasmanian fiddle player. She is much sought after, and pops up in many different bands where she can play in with anyone. Dave Elliston is a talented singer and multi-instrumentalist (really multi!). He can be seen as the lead in the Wallaby Track Bush Band, singing sea shanties at events such as the Seafarer’s Festival, or with the fabulous Lagoon Bay Zydeco. The other band member present on the night was Al Campbell on guitar. Al is another multi-instrumentalist, as well as a producer and sound engineer who runs a recording studio, The Chapel.

The Blackwater Band. Photo by Jim Emms.

Jimmy Emms and Peter Marmion, photographers and tour guides who are both intimate with Port Davey, projected their glorious landscapes behind the band: rippling tannin water, mist-filled valleys, awe inspiring waves, serene reflections, rocky textures and inviting foreshores.

At interval, Peter Marmion auctioned off a flight into Port Davey, generously donated by Par Avion.

After a short break and lots of chat, John Coleman came onstage with three of his own compositions, two he had not previously played to an audience. John is a singer/songwriter and guitarist in the acoustic folk/rock tradition. See more of John at:

In 2016, Bob Brown invited eminent Australian composer, conductor and musician Nigel Westlake, to join him on a trip to Bathurst Harbour. The landscape and waterway became the inspiration for ‘Spirit of the Wild’ oboe concerto collaboration with soloist Diana Doherty (ABC Classics recording 481 7899). For more on Nigel Westlake go to: and

Tasmanian film-maker Mick Lawrence melded his remarkable images to echo the riffs and patterns of the unique and dynamic oboe performance in this recording. Mick’s stills and film sequences follow the story of a Par Avion Camp (where Mick and Greg Wells are guides). The camp, the landscape, foreshores and waterway in varied moods, abstract detail, a visiting quoll, a swimming snake, and the human light hearted touch are all bracketed by the flight to and from Melaleuca. A breathtaking production! Many of you will have seen Mick’s amazing film ‘Rogue Waves’, shown at the State Cinema in 2019.

What varied and creative music, stories and visuals the Southwest has inspired! A big thank you to all those talented creatives.

Thanks also to the helpful Moonah Arts Centre staff, especially Hamish who dealt with the technicalities, to Mick and Helen Statham who took tickets at the door, to Pete for being the perfect MC and to the audience who came along to make the evening such a success. And thanks Tony for all that treasurer’s work in the aftermath.