Down The Lawson Track
By Martyn Wyndham-Read

Read Jack Crawford's review here

Down The Lawson Track is, and I quote from The Christ’s Hospital Theatre publicity sheet for their Performing Arts events:

Down The Lawson Track is a poignant and amusing celebration of the rigours of the Australian Outback in story and song with music from Martyn Wyndham-Read and No Man’s Band and readings by Shirley Collins and Pip Barnes centered on the writings of Australian ballad poet Henry Lawson. This rich seam is exquisitely mined by these masters of their art to bring you a deeply enriching evening’s entertainment. Pure Joy.

I could not have put it better myself!

We have performed Down The Lawson Track now at Lewes Folk Club, where it had its World Premiere, The Electric Theatre, Guildford and The Cheltenham Folk Festival. Each time it has been a delight to be part of this production.

My first introduction to the works of Henry Lawson, 1867 – 1922 was through the late but very great Chris Kempster back in the early 1960’s in Australia. I can still recall the absolute thrill that I had on my first hearing of Chris singing Reedy River, the Lawson poem which Chris had written the tune for in 1949. Chris was instrumental in bringing so many of Lawson's works to the stage. His book The Songs Of Henry Lawson, first published by Penguin Books Australia Ltd in 1989 has many and varied tunes to a selection of Lawson’s poems. Over the years I have become enthralled with Lawson’s poems and stories and to me he epitomises everything that is Australian and he was indeed one of the first Australian poets to give a true Australian identity to these writings.

Many people have taken Lawson’s poems and written tunes for these, and indeed when the Folk Song collectors were sweeping through Australia in search of “ the old songs “ many of Lawson’s poems appeared as “ old songs” sung by the old singers. So these poem / songs had become engrained in the Australian Folk Song Tradition.

How Down the Lawson Track unwinds itself is: Shirley Collins and Pip Barnes read some of the stories and we musicians weave in and out with relevant poem / songs to the stories and then fade back into them thus giving a seamless experience to the audience. We are so very fortunate to have Shirley Collins and Pip Barnes to do the readings as they both create the perfect atmosphere for people to absorb the spirit of Henry Lawson. As to the musicians the songs themselves are so evocative to sing, and with the talents of Iris Bishop, concertina and accordion, Gary Holder bass and Jackie Oates fiddle, these poem / songs come to life.

Martyn Wyndham-Read