The String Contingent’s music is described as “acoustic chamber-folk”, but Araluen-based musician Holly Downes laughs when asked to clarify that designation.
“It’s really just music that we’re all into”, she says. The ‘we’ referring to her two fellow band members, violinist Chris Stone, and guitarist Graham Mcleod.
Holly plays the double bass, an instrument she took up when she was 15, but before that she had played piano and violin as a child. She trained in classical music at the Canberra School of Music, but String Contingent takes an innovative approach to music, with, as Holly says, “all the elements of music going into the melting pot”. As a result, sometimes the bass plays the melody with “the instruments being turned on their heads, allowing for a lot of musical freedom”.
The band usually undertakes two extensive tours every year, and is currently coming off an epic three and a half months across the Top End, driving from Cairns to Broome and taking in far-flung towns and communities that don’t usually get the opportunity to see live music.
Holly says that the incredible diversity of the landscape and the places they visited have inspired a lot of their new music.
Holly has lived in Araluen since 2012 and loves the peace of the valley. Her house is a solar-passive strawbale home which stays cool during Araluen’s sometimes ferocious summer heat and holds the warmth in winter. “It’s a very grounding house”, she says.
The last time the band played Majors Creek was the last time the festival was held under the “Music at the Creek” name. Visitors to this year’s Majors Creek Festival will be able to hear String Contingent playing from their new album, Iterations, as well as some of the new music they have written inspired by their adventures across the Top End.