2020 Song and Tune Writing Award Winners

Performers Compose Themselves For Awards Night

(Article from the Folk Federation’s Drumbeat Magazine, Feb 2021)

A Covid 19 year set a grim picture for the Folk Federation’s Song and Tune Writing Awards in 2020. But with courage in the face of adversity and all that – the competition forged ahead and culminated on Saturday November 21st in a brilliant concert celebrating Tasmanian talent, creativity and originality.

Whilst we had expected a “bumper crop” of songs as people may have hunkered down during lockdown periods the actual number of entries was down slightly from last year.   However the standard was high with 15 separate acts performing on the night, each allocated 2 songs. All of the entrants into the competition this year attended the concert which may also be a first (although one was via pre-recorded video, not for any pandemic-related reasons, simply by virtue of being an in-demand professional musician).

The concert featured performers from right across the state including Louise Conroy and Michael Horton from Launceston and Chris Okunbor from Wynyard and the organisers would particularly like to thank these performers for making the huge effort to be there on the night.

A special feature of the night was the younger talents of Jess Earney – who won the Under-19 award (best composition – song or tune), while Jemma Rose Sweeny and Rosie Cann also wowed the audience with fantastic performances. A special moment was when Jemma performed on the piano unassisted by sound technology creating the perfect lounge room atmosphere.

The winner of the Mike Silverwood Award -Song category was Dave McNamara for his song “Three Loves” while Dave also shared the honours of the best tune this year with Rachel Meyers for their tune – “Nipaluna Sky”.

At the eleventh hour, the organisers also chose to award a $100 prize each for a Highly Commended song and tune, the winners of which were Louise Conroy for her song Red Dancing Shoes, and CC Thornley for his tune Queenstown Rains. CC couldn’t be there on the night but in a Song Comp first he pre-recorded a spiffing YouTube track featuring his song which was played for the crowd.

The judges must have gotten something right because Dave and Rachel shared the prize of the People’s Choice award in a tie for best Performer/Act with Stephanie Katz – a repeat of a previous year when the result for the People’s Choice was tied. Each year the fact that every artist gains a number of votes in the People’s Choice confirms the variety, appeal and talent on offer at the Awards concert.

A lovely aspect of the competition was the emerging use of Tasmanian indigenous language – palawakani in song lyrics with Sally Brown and Té Sman featuring songs with many indigenous references. Thanks to our other performers who all gave very credible renditions of their songs – Matthew Valentyne, Cheryle Holmes and Brendan Wakely who kicked the night off with his moving song about Tassie’s environment – Mountain Peak.

Once again a huge thanks to the Folk Federation Team, the Fern Tree Tavern and especially David Beniuk who mixed and set up sound requirements with ease and managed the Covid safe procedures nimbly in between. Thanks also to those regulars who “keep coming back” to support the night and check out the songs and stories that Tasmanian folk artists are telling.

All in all it was a terrific concert and bodes well for forthcoming competitions and concerts.