Kyabram Free Press
Farmer makes a key change
Retired dairy farmer Fraser Thomas Williams has turned to his passion for music during the COVID-19 era, recording two albums, one instrumental and the other a collection of songs.
The music harkening back to a bygone era was composed over a lifetime of farm work and subsequent retirement and was both inspired by and features the melodies, people and history of dairy farming in the Kyabram region.
The first album of Mr Williams’ piano compositions found its way to respected classical writer Clive O’connell, formerly chief music critic for The Age.
“Williams aims, for the most part, to depict his farming life . . . the texture is mainly note against note and the harmony firmly diatonic, but the looking process is slightly varied each time Williams casts his musical glance,” the critic wrote.
At the urging of his family, particularly son Martin, Mr Williams recorded the first album in 2020.
Music has always played a part in the dairy farmer’s life, the 84-year-old said, from a young age of learning piano and singing to five decades playing the organ at the Masonic Lodge in Kyabram.
On retirement 24 years ago, Mr Williams rediscovered his passion for playing.
“When I came to Kyabram — just before we left the farm — I went back to the piano and learned from Sandra Davis, who is a local teacher. I was with her for about three years,” he said.
The lessons lead to a recognised Grade Five achievement and Mr Williams passed on the skills to his grandchildren.
“I taught my three grandchildren to play,” he said.
The first Eight Reflections, features compositions inspired by the natural environment and farmland where Mr Williams worked, with titles such as Morning Showers, Looking Out and Beauty All Around. Another, The Williams Family, is dedicated to his father.
The use of old-school technology album, necessitated Mr Williams getting each composition noteperfect in a single take — at times a laborious process, the musician said.
The second album, still in production, focuses on diaryfarming inspired songs, some featuring the people and places of Mr Williams’ life.
“It explains how in the early days of farming farms were smaller and centred around the family. Most of the herds were around 100 and the farmer owned the farm and the family worked on the farm,” Mr Williams said.
“Sometimes the farmer would have a barbecue and all the neighbours would come around. That’s all over now — it represents a bygone era that’s gone.”
While pragmatic about the potential popularity of his works, especially with younger audiences, Mr Williams hopes to donate the music to the Kyabram Historical Society, where he is a member.
“I thought eventually I’d give them a copy and they can put it away and one day in 50 years’ time someone may dig it out and think ‘Oh, look at that,’” he said.