Robin Etter-Cleave banner

the folk and irish music scene in brisbane

Robin playing guitar on the beachI have always enjoyed the folk scene and started off playing only folk music on my guitar. I just loved Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot and my guitar was with me just about everywhere I went as a young teenager. Once I cycled 20 miles to and from a beach with my guitar strapped across my back, and spent a lot of time sitting on the sand strumming and singing with one of my good friends. These days, my flutes and penny whistles replace my guitar!

I met Brian Brett through neighbours in 1985 and he told me that he was a guitarist. We stayed in touch and in 1992 when I needed a guitar player for a concert I was organising for the Nursing Mothers Association, I asked Brian if he would accompany me while I did a couple of numbers on my flute. He said yes and 22 years on, we are still making beautiful music together! Ahem…….!

In the mid 90’s, Brian called me to ask if I would like to join the Irish band he was currently playing in – Colcannon (Ann and Gerry O’Neil) – and I said that I’d like to, but I didn’t know any Irish music. He told me that I’d probably be okay, just come along and see. So I did and I found out that a lot of the “Canadian” music I had grown up playing and singing was actually Irish!! So Brian and I played regular gigs with Colcannon for about a year until Colcannon folded and then we formed our own band with Ian Evans on bass guitar, (from The Best Music Shop). We originally called ourselves Shades Of Green, but when I got a call from a guy in down south saying HE had the name Shades of Green registered (oops!) and we couldn’t use it anymore, we made a quick change to Silken Thomas and have played under that name for the last 18 years. We now play regular gigs in and around Brisbane as a four-piece, with our drummer Steve Stiller, playing mostly Irish folk music and a few non-Irish covers.

As well as performing as part of Silken Thomas, Brian and I love to play as a duo and have performed at a few Folkies Old and New concerts, at Indigiscapes as part of the Folk Redlands scene, at the Upfront Club in Maleny, and as regularly as we can at the Red Hill Folk Blackboard sessions on Wednesday nights. I loved playing alto flute, C flute and penny whistles as a studio musician on a few CD’s, including Anne Infante’s “Love Is A Circle’ and Mark Davidson’s “Laughter In the Clay” – both great musicians and lovely to work with.

As I am now working as an ESL teacher (English as a Second Language) at Brisbane TAFE, I also play tenor sax and flute with the Southbank All Stars, a fun multinational music group consisting of TAFE students and some teachers. We have a great line-up and get quite a bit of paid and unpaid work. Good fun!
Another great band I’m in is called Confederation Bridge and we play lots of folk and trad Irish, Scottish, English and yup, you guessed it, Canadian tunes and songs. We’ve just got going this year and have had some great gigs with more to come next year.

Brian and I are also involved with a friend ( in another three-piece band, playing originals and covers – 2015 will no doubt bring some great performance opportunites for us.

And then, there’s the church band!!! Luckily, I don’t need to attend many rehearsals – I can just rock up on the day and play. Sounds good to me, especially after a late Saturday night!! The band is very understanding and supportive!

I loved playing alto flute, C flute, penny whistles and keyboard as a studio musician on a few CD’s, including Anne Infante’s “Love Is A Circle", Mark Davidson’s “Laughter In the Clay” and in Mark’s group providing part of the soundtrack for a documentary entitled “New England Airways”. It was really neat seeing our names in the credits!

I love quotes about music and have been taking note of ones I particulary like. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do! Here are some of them:

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