Gary Crowley - Entertainment extraordinaire, Cofounder of ‘Stage in the Sticks’ with his wife Ruth
We’ve been farming in the Trundle district for 125-plus years – we’re fourth generation
farmers. We’ve got merino sheep, cropping and a few pigs. We got a crop in this season, but didn’t get a crop off. We’ve got a trucking business as well to do a bit of harvest work and stock carrying.
We founded the Trundle Abba Festival, that’s our baby.
We funded it, got it off the ground and grew it from 500 people in the first year to 6000 people last year. We had a vision for it, including getting Bjorn Again on board. They are the most successful tribute band of all time, internationally, and they come to Trundle. They have told us that it is in their top five of all the things they have ever done, and they have been playing for 30 years all over the world.
In my late teens, I started playing music with some groups. And my talent was that
I hung around with people who were really talented (laughs).
Trundle has got a Bush Tucker Festival that has been going for nearly 30 years, and I have been involved with that for 20-plus years.
I used to be in charge of the entertainment for the Tullamore Irish Festival. All of this has been done voluntarily over the years, and you just do it because you love it. The people you meet are incredible.
My wife Ruth and I have both formed our Stage in the Sticks business. Our first major
event will be Opera in the Sticks. It has been pretty tough lately on the farm, so it’s a fun distraction to put on.
We have the philosophy of always using local. The St Pat’s school in Trundle, where there are 27 students, are hiring their bus to bring people over for Opera in the Sticks, to earn money for their P&F. I would like to see Gilgandra do that, or Warren, so that these smaller communities benefit also.
We are passionate about rural communities,
because that is where we come from. And rural tourism. We go to conferences and skill ourselves up, and everyone is so willing to share. It’s all about networking.
Opera in the Sticks was launched in October, with Aussie performers Mark Vincent and Antoinette Halloran. They have never sung together, but they instantly liked each other. Mark was supposed to sing one song, but he ended up singing two because he got carried away (laughs). Musos can’t help themselves.
Mark was our first choice.
We have seen him perform before; he was amazing and very personable. We’ve always gone for the top shelf first. With Antoinette, we were told ‘this is our whole stable of sopranos’ and we listened to all of them. Antoinette has a very warm, round sounding voice. It’s not shrill and is very easy to listen to. She is such a character – we instantly liked her.
Antoinette generally does whole operas, and she doesn’t
get to talk to the crowd. But she is hilarious – she’s a real dag! She has also been on Spicks and Specks, twice.
They are picking their favourite solos and duets to sing, things from musicals and a bit of popular music, and there may be a bit of a surprise with a certain Ed Sheeran song. Mark Vincent will have his band playing.
I’m wanting people that would not normally go to an opera, to go to this event. We had a young girl there at the launch, and she was so effected that she cried, and she had never been to an opera before.