Ready for Mayhem?

AUSTRALIAN UK-based folk-punk troubadour, Benny Mayhem, is returning to his home town Albany to perform with his band on Sunday.

Benny recently released his new single Song For Absent Friends.

Written in a hotel room in the Austrian Alps, the song is a mix of Benny’s trademark folk-punk sound with Sunnyboys-style Australian power pop and a touch of Californian punk.

“I lived in Albany for 11 years, growing up at Middleton Beach, Lower King, Spencer Street and Burgoyne Road,” Benny said.

“My family moved around a lot, but each place had its own magic.

“Hearing the railway shunting at night, walking the jetties and wharves, bushwalking and fishing are all happy memories. And the rain on a tin roof.

“I have a song called Kinjarling, the traditional name for Albany in the Menang Noongar dialect, and means ‘place of rain’.

“I wrote that when I was 29-years-old and it describes many of my fondest memories.”

Sunday’s gig will be Benny’s third trip to the region since he first returned as a solo musician in 2014, helping with the Anzac Albany commemorations.

He performed at the Stirling Terrace Mess Hall and conducted workshops at TS Vancouver naval cadets, where he and his father were once cadets – as well as at Denmark TAFE.

Benny moved to Perth with his family in 1994.

“We didn’t intend to stay away for long, but in those days the big city had many more opportunities than we had in the county so I lived there for the next 18 years,” Benny said.

“I threw myself into the original music scene where I was very active for a long time – especially with my punk/rock’n’roll band Project Mayhem, which is how I became Benny Mayhem.

“The old band were very successful locally and performed for 10 years straight. We were a band of buddies and eventually we decided we all needed to do something else for a while. 

“I had never travelled, so I moved to London. But I didn’t really have much of a plan of what to do when I got there.

“So I did what came naturally and became a full-time professional musician.

“I took every opportunity I could and that took me right across Europe, including the UK, Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

“I’m now able to take that experience and build on it here in Australia and especially WA, which is my home and a place that will always be dear to me, wherever I may find myself.”

Benny will perform his own brand of folk-punk at the King River Tavern, Millbrook Road, on Sunday May 21.

Tickets will be available at the door.

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From snippet to stage


IN 2005, a single paragraph from an article in the Weekend Australian caught Dianne Wolfer’s attention.

It briefly mentioned a young girl who lived on Breaksea Island and the postcards she received from troops gathered on Navy ships in King George Sound before departing for war.

The postcards thanked her for relaying messages to the troops’ families as the soldiers anchored in Albany’s protected waters.

And that’s about all there was to the story – a short, sweet little snippet humanising the departure of 30,000 troops from Albany in 1914.

But Wolfer’s fervent imagination just couldn’t let it go.

She was curious about that little girl, Fay Catherine Howe, the lighthouse keeper’s daughter.

“It got me thinking when I was walking down the beach,” Dianne said.

“I was looking across to Breaksea Island and kept imagining her out there and couldn’t get her out of my head.”

It was the genesis for two of the local author’s books Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy.

These books’ recent stage adaptation by Black Swan State Theatre Company in Albany and the ensuing extended season of the play in Perth, has had Wolfer’s name buzzing around town.

She’s grateful for the recognition and is more than happy to jump back into conversation about the story of little Fay Howe and those troops.

But there is much more to discover about the award-winning author.

Wolfer is a primary  school teacher by profession and without lamenting the fact, she knows the grind of making a living from being an author – even with 16 books to her name. There are no million-dollar best-seller contracts. With guest-speaking visits to primary schools and public libraries and royalties on book sales, she still earns less than a first-year teacher.

“Most authors have another job, so it’s a matter of what job and how much can you survive on versus having time to write. So that’s always the trick,’ she said.

“For me it’s not that you sit down one day and say ‘I’m going to be a writer’.

“It creeps up and then slowly you get more books published as you spend more time at it.

“But I just can’t not write. You get ideas and you write them down and they stay in your head and I shape some of them into stories.”

The work ethic that accompanies Wolfer’s vivid imagination and relentless researching also becomes apparent as she discusses her approach to writing.

She can write anytime, anywhere and often takes a few pages of a manuscript with her for editing to fill in some of life’s idle moments.

“You don’t have to be on a Greek Island, but you just need a space.

“Sometimes it’s the quiet corner of a café.

“Sometimes getting out of the study works really well for me,” she said.

“I think if people are sitting and waiting for inspiration, then good luck it might happen, but it’s like any job.

“You can’t just go to work and say ‘I’m not feeling inspired.’”

That constant drive to write usually results in Wolfer penning several stories at once and regardless of whether it’s a 6,000-word piece of historical fiction or a 32-page playful picture book, the process is incomplete until it’s as perfect as the deadline allows.

“Usually I’ve got three or four things that I’m writing at once,” she said.

“For example Light Horse Boy and Granny Grommet and Me. They are completely different books.

“I was writing them at the same time and they both took three years.

“I know it’s crazy. Why would a picture book take that long? There’s so few words.

“But you wouldn’t believe the emails back and forth with an editor over a sentence.”

With the whirlwind of excitement from the premiere of the production of Lighthouse Girl easing, Wolfer still has plenty on the go.

With its release due next month, her forthcoming picture book Nanna’s Button Tin will break stride from the run of historical-based fiction for a moment.

Although Wolfer is also happy to reveal she is working on a third, and perhaps final, installment to follow on from Light Horse Boy and continue the war-themed story to its conclusion.

With the fine details of the story’s plot lines still bouncing around the page, she confirms it follows Rose, a young English nurse who meets Jim (from Light Horse Boy) and is set in the shadow of WWI against the deadly Spanish influenza pandemic.

Her latest release The Shark Caller is another story for her growing number of young/adult readers to ingest.

The story was inspired by past family holidays to Papua New Guinea and was brought forward from the back-burner thanks to a scholarship from UWA.

The scholarship allowed Wolfer to write the book as part of her PhD on Anthropomorphism, the attribution of human qualities afforded to animals and objects.

Donning the graduation gown and throwing the hat in the air is also on her to-do list for the middle of the year, but please: don’t call her Dr Dianne.

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Sounds like many of my favourite things


THE Opening Night of The Sound of Music was received with rapturous applause last Friday, as Albany again showcased its formidable talent in one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most popular musicals.

Ever since it hit the screens in 1965, The Sound of Music has won the hearts of millions, with generations of fans still charmed by its unashamedly sentimental and whimsical story and timeless music.

And once again, under the directorship of Anne Davidson, the Albany Light Opera and Theatre Co (ALOTCO) has demonstrated it can take on any challenge and produce a sell-out season of eleven performances before the first curtain goes up.

It didn’t matter that most of us knew the story and the songs back to front and word for word.

We just wanted to sit back for a night of nostalgia and smile indulgently as Maria did her best to become a nun, before she won the hearts of the seven von Trapp children, and their father, through lots of singing, dancing and fun.

We silently sang along to all our favourite songs, and soon adjusted to the variations in the stage production, compared with the film, and barely noticed a few changes in some of the songs and events.

The costumes and scenery were superb, and the three-hour show never missed a beat or a do-re-me.

Each role was well cast, with the whistle-blowing captain Georg von Trapp played to perfection by James Turner.

Newcomer to ALOTCO Mollie Hare was delightful as Maria, with a strong voice and a natural acting ability that beautifully captured the essence of her demanding role.

The cheery nuns in the abbey were all blessed with glorious voices and were led by the versatile Carmen Fasolo as Mother Abess.

Carmen’s powerful rendition of Climb Every Mountain was one of the highlights of the opening night’s performance.

As expected, the von Trapp children stole the show.

Bonnie Staude (Liesl) looked as though she had just stepped out of the film and onto the stage, and amazed the audience with her amazing voice; Hudson Bell, (Friedrich), Bella Fasolo (Louisa), Kye Stewart (Kurt) and Josie Staude (Brigitta) slipped confidently into their roles, while Rosie Talbot, who performed at opening night, will take turns with Jessica Turner playing Marta.

The part of Gretl, the youngest member of the family, is being shared by Madison Bradford and Asha Lewis, both of whom have produced heart-melting performances.

Tom Croucher, who stepped in at the last minute when Todd McGregor became ill, excelled as the self-serving, witty Max Detweiler, while Azi le Page made an impressive ALOTCO debut as Baroness Elsa Schraeder.

Last but certainly not least, a round of applause must go to musical director, Hayley Burns and the orchestra for another excellent performance.

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Dani’s horses for courses

DANI Flynn is in heaven.

She’s checking on her horses and has a guitar strapped to her back.

It seems she has everything she needs.

We’ve agreed to meet at the windswept block of land high above the Southern Ocean where her horses roam.

We’ve spent the previous hour or so volleying questions and answers in the corner of a nearby café as she tries to summarise where she stands as a musician and as I try to grapple with the incongruity of equine-infused folk-jazz.

Once we jump the gate and wander the hillside waiting for the horses to show their faces, it all becomes clear. Flynn has such a deep affinity with her horses that it simply seeps into her music.

She is a kinesiologist by day and practises acupressure on humans and horses.

But she is also a sweet singer who can move effortlessly between folk and jazz as though there is no clear distinction and she knows her way around a guitar too.

Musically, Flynn is perhaps best known along the South Coast as one half of the duo, Freya’s Bounty, with bassist Madeleine Winton.

The pair have had no shortage of work over the past few years, but the grind of playing to noisy pub crowds with their backs turned took its toll on Flynn, who has bunkered down to write and record a solo album.

She says turning inwards with her music has helped rekindle the need to play.

The writing process for the album so far has been a mixed bag.

Flynn says she spent a lot of time working on a particular song that is dedicated to a friend she lost recently.

She worked tirelessly to get the song right and could concentrate on nothing else until the job was done.

But with the song done, the lid has been lifted on her creative output with ideas for words and melodies popping up at any time of the day or night.

She has half-a-dozen songs down for the album, which have flowed with a lot more ease.

“It’s often when you’re busy doing something else or you’re driving along that a line for a song will just jump out,” she said.

“So you’ve just got to stop and write it down before it disappears, which is a bugger when you’re running late.”

Flynn hasn’t set a deadline for the album’s completion, so we’ll just need to watch this space while she goes to work.

– Anthony Probert

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Legend eulogised

THE ABC has honoured one of Albany’s favourite sons by naming its main ABC Albany radio studio after the late Eoin Cameron.

Local and Perth ABC staff mingled with the extended Cameron family and community members at a special function at the St Emilie Way building on Tuesday.

After a Welcome to Country by Menang representative Larry Blight, ABC state manager Sarah Knight welcomed all present and introduced the late broadcaster’s immediate family.

Eoin Cameron’s son Ryan Cameron thanked the ABC for the “tremendous honour”.

“It’s truly remarkable to think that nearly 50 years ago Mum and Dad met at radio 6BA studios just 700 metres down the road from here,” he said.

“Mum reminded me on the weekend of Dad’s first broadcast – he was so petrified he vomited onto the balcony on York Street during the music breaks.”

“Who could foretell that this was the beginning of a fabulous union and brilliant broadcasting trajectory?”

He gave particular thanks to his grandmother Imelda and to longstanding producer Brad McCann (aka “the slim but savage one”).

“Slim was and always will be one of dad’s closest friends and confidants, a fine upstanding producer and an all-round great fellow,” he said.

“Thank you for the part you played in Eoin’s career and life. We very much consider you part of our family.”

Together with his sister Jacinta and mother Wendy (“the war office”) Cameron they then unveiled a plaque to be hung in the newly named Eoin Cameron Studio.

– Geoff Vivian

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Sinfonia reaches milestone

ALBANY Sinfonia’s 21st birthday party matinee show at Albany Entertainment Centre on Saturday proved to be an afternoon of pleasant surprises.

The gala concert program  looked to the past and the future with its variety of classical and popular numbers and strong support from guest acts. As a community orchestra, Albany Sinfonia has always had the performance of classical pieces at its heart.

But the collaboration with prodigious vocal talents and leading cast members of Albany Light Opera Theatre Company’s (ALOTCo) forthcoming production, The Sound of Music, highlighted the broad appeal that has grown on the orchestra.

For classical fans, Dambusters March was a stirring way to open the show before the first of the guests took to the stage soon after.

Vocalist Bonnie Staude, an Albany Senior High School student, gave a truly uplifting performance of The White Cliffs of Dover.

It would have been a treat for her to have the backing of an orchestra and a reward for Albany Sinfonia to have this rising star taking their music to another place.

After a quick interlude with Tchaikovsky’s  Cappriccio Italien, Staude was back on stage with the ALOTCo crew for The Sound of Music medley.

Audience members who already have tickets to this forthcoming show would have been grinning from ear-to-ear at this tantalising sneak-peek.

Mollie Hare, as Maria and Carmen Fasolo, as Mother Abess, didn’t stand in Staude’s shadow for a moment and together with James Turner, playing Captain Von Trapp and Evan Ayers as Rolf, highlighted the region’s depth of talent.

Sinfonia artistic director Neville Talbot has heightened the ambitions of the group since he came on board, but asks nothing of the members he wouldn’t be prepared to do himself.

Taking the lead on the hammed-up Always Look on the Bright Side of Life was a great example, proving Talbot is the just the sort of ambassador the Sinfonia needs to take it through the next phase of its life.

Following the intermission, complete with birthday cake and party food, the program continued to offer something for everyone, from the William Tell Overture to the Pirates of the Carribean theme.

Again, the addition of vocalists gave the Sinfonia wings.  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu, with Staude, Sabrina Ives and the Take Note Choir out front, was heavenly and a show highlight.

Local vocalists in front of a local orchestra, in a world-class local venue – not a bad way to spend your 21st birthday.

– Anthony Probert

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