Champion among the Nariel folk 

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THE Nariel Folk Festival has a national champion among its attendees this year.

Jeff Wilmott from the Yarra Ranges is the reigning Australian Gum Leaf Playing Championships title holder.

The title might be little known but can be hotly contested with up to 20 rivals taking part.

Mr Wilmott, a regular visitor to the Upper Murray, first won the title at the Man From Snowy River Festival in the late 2000s and has retained the crown since.

As the 50th Nariel Folk Festival swings into action, Mr Wilmott has set up camp with other musically inclined people who are regularly drawn to the serene location near Corryong.

In an impromptu performance for The Border Mail, Mr Wilmott ripped a branch from one of the Cottonwood trees planted to provide shade for festival goers, selected a leaf and produced a tune within the space of minutes.

“There is no real secret to it,” he said.

“Just perseverance, perseverance and more perseverance.

“I’ve found not blowing across the leaf but easing the air onto the edge of the leaf causes it to vibrate.

“It’s good fun and also costs nothing.”

The festival is regarded as the longest continuous event of its kind in Australia and another eclectic mix of musicians and regular festival goers have set up camp on the banks of the Nariel Creek.

They include Susan Graham, who was playing her hand-crafted harp made from King William Pine and Blackwood.

She also provided some tuition and encouragement to a relative newcomer to the harp, Gai George.

“It’s not the years you spend playing the harp, but the hours are the important thing,” Ms Graham said.

Arthur Rich from Warburton has also settled back into the festival scene after an absence of 25 years.

He celebrated his 65th birthday on Boxing Day and plans to spend the next week fine-tuning his violin playing skills.

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