A lady and her love of music moves to Canowindra
“It was more out of habit and ‘It’s what I do’ more than anything else,” says Eleena Markcrow, who over the past few months has been behind a live music revival in the town of Canowindra.
The monthly Sunday Sessions she began six months ago have proven to be extremely popular, sometimes drawing a couple hundred people to the Canowindra Community Bowls and Recreation Club for a free afternoon of live music.
For Eleena, all the work she puts in is simply about her own love of live music and sharing it with the community she became part of 18 months ago.
Growing tired of living under the flightpath in their small Newtown home, Eleena and her husband Paul began looking to the Central West for a better life for their two young children.
“We wanted something for our boys, a bit of room for them to run around we just wanted fresh air and space,” said Eleena.
“We'd looked at places all over the Central West— Orange, Blayney, Cargo — we looked everywhere, but as soon as we walked into Canowindra we just had this feeling… We just knew this was the place we wanted to move to. After many weekends of house-hunting we found the perfect place and that was it.
“The town has a feeling of something special. There is acceptance of people for being who they are, just as it should be, and even more so than what I have encountered in a city.”
The local music scene they’d seen on their visits to Canowindra was definitely part of the attraction for Eleena and Paul, but on the very week they bought their new home, the local music venue closed.
“We were very excited to buy a house on the same street as a music venue in a small town, then sadly it closed down,” said Eleena.
“Part of the reason we came here was the great attitude to live music but as things happened in life, it sadly moved on.”
With a gap in the local live music scene, ideas started to form for Eleena, who — as it happens — has spent most of her life in the music industry.
“I started working in Sydney’s music scene helping out in my then boyfriend’s band in the early 1990’s,” said Eleena, who learnt her trade as a photographer in the pre-digital era.
“I got to go to gigs and festivals for work and spent a couple of years in Europe camping at music festivals and sneaking in to see pub bands in London. I returned to Sydney and 1998 and ended up working with a recording studio and helping with the production of CDs, promoting albums and working on some basic design work.”
It was a time when Sydney musicians were struggling to find live venues. So, motivated by the talent she saw in her friends and other local artists, Eleena began hosting her own acoustic showcase.
“Twenty years ago, I started what I do now. A small but amazing dingey, little club on William Street in Kings Cross had a spare night on a Tuesday for bookings. I loved that place and the people that worked there. We created a space for upcoming musicians to showcase their music and other venues started to follow the format. I feel proud to have been part of that.”
Eleena went on to work as the Touring and Event Merchandise Manager with a major music company, working with artists such as Grinspoon, Powderfinger and Jimmy Barnes.
“I used to manage all the merchandise for things like the Big Day Out and Splendour in the Grass — all the big festivals — and a lot of big international touring artists,” said Eleena.
“It always sounded very glamourous, but it was incredibly hard work. I was working 24-hours and getting a on a plane, a few hours’ sleep and off you go again.”
After taking time off with the birth of her two children, Eleena was offered a job as the General Manager of a small music promoter’s company in Sydney.
“It got me off the road and into the office. I worked for some amazing artists and still to this day Ï work as the booking agent and touring manager for a great Canadian artist called Ann Vriend, who will be performing in the Central West later this year!”
Since starting the Sunday Session in September last year, Eleena has been surprised by the response from the community.
“The community spirit has been amazing. The first show was Fathers’ Day last year and people just turned up and every month since, it has been great! We started up thinking we'd just start small and it just absolutely took off,” said Eleena, who never dreamed she would be promoting her own music show on top of work and family life when she moved to Canowindra.
“I couldn’t help myself, it is just a bit stuck in me,” she said. “I have always seen the best in a musician and their drive and passion to want to perform. There is so much talent in this region and the Sunday Sessions at The Bowlo are about supporting that talent and allowing artists to perform their own songs…. It’s about making music accessible to everyone.”
Eleena sees a bright future for live music in the Central West, although she would not give away what she has planned for the coming year.
“I've had such amazing feedback. I've been getting a lot of artists calling up from all over the place now word has got around, it has been a fantastic response from the musicians as well,” said Eleena.
“I am just taking small steps, but have other ideas brewing for later in the year with some smaller touring artists who fall out of the regional music category with the Sunday Sessions — watch this space!