Music & Entertainment

The late Con Klippel was passionate about music and family tradition. Con also loved the Upper Murray, crisp mountain air and socializing with friends through good music, song and dance.

He was a good mate of the late Tom Mitchell and lived in the Nariel Valley all his life. Here Con raised 3 children with his wife, Beat.

Con and Beat married in 1931 and together they milled their own timber and built their own home, making many of the household furnishings. Con was the musician and Beat a great hostess and old time dancer, teaching many of the locals. Both were highly resourceful people but most of all, they loved good company and a laugh.

Con knew the Nariel Valley like the back of his hand. He knew every rock and trout pool, grew fantastic vegetables and fruits for preserves. He also had an appreciation for the indigenous people, their cultural sites and story telling. He loved developing friendships through music and was very passionate about his life. He was known to recite poetry and verse in his sleep.

In the early 1960s, Con hosted a couple from Melbourne who were interested in collecting music. Con and Beat were “discovered” when the city folk stopped at Omeo and were told to drive on over the Gibb to meet the Klippels at Nariel. Con and Beat’s fine country hospitality obviously paid off. They organized family and friends to attend a special dance for the Melbourne visitors. They played music and danced until the early hours of the morning. The night was a huge success so Con decided to initiate Australia’s first Folk Festival in 1963 and keep a good thing going.

Con soon became known for his “Nariel style” music, yet his accordion playing was an inherited talent from his grandfather who migrated from Germany in 1851.

The music collectors of the early 60s inspired Con to do his bit to preserve and protect his heritage too. Con started to write frantically to friends and family throughout Australia to promote his dream and vision, a festival that embraced all cultures and music styles. Con wanted all people to celebrate their heritage and share their stories through music, dance and song.

In the early 70s thousands of people gathered and the ABC made a special documentary about the unique Black and White Folk Festival. Con’s mates would play the Gum Leaf and the Swaggy would tell his tale. There were violins, tin whistles, banjos and didgeridoos. The crowds loved it, it made national headlines and the setting was superb! Campers then followed from all over Australia to enjoy a week of music and good entertainment along the banks of the Nariel Creek every Christmas New Year. During the day music and cultural differences were embraced but when night fell, it was reserved for Con’s Old Time Black and White Dance Band.

Con also developed a junior dance band to learn the traditional music, dance and song. He wanted to leave a legacy and today some of the original junior dance band members still play their accordions and gather at the Christmas New Year celebration, established in 1963.

The original Black and White Old Time dance Band incorporated Con’s cousins, brother and son Keith. Today it’s called the Nariel Creek Folk festival, the essence of friendships and cultural exchange through music still remains. It is an historic site where people have been playing music and celebrating for thousands of years.

Con’s motto was “My greatest joy in life is making people happy”.

Con died performing on stage in 1975 aged 66. His family photos, story and many family artefacts can been seen at the Man from Snowy River Museum.

The museum also holds a large collection of early musical equipment and associated items.