In the heart of Australia's regional communities, where the warmth of hospitality meets the soulful tunes of acoustic music, the Festival of Small Halls has become a beacon of connection and creativity.

HBNC was honoured to last week partner with Woodfordia Inc in bringing the Festival of Small Halls to Dundowran Hall.

The live music event brought the historic hall to life, with more than 100 guests turning out for a celebration of folk music and community connection.

The night was opened by local act, Harding's House. Lead singer, Nicole Cornish, is a member of the HBNC team, working in the Local Industry Futures Training team.

Nicole said the experience of performing in these small, intimate venues was nothing short of magical.

The journey for Harding's House began in 2017 when siblings Robbie Harding and Nicole Cornish, along with drummer Shane Cornish, formed their family trio. Initially, they explored the music scene through cover gigs, but their true passion lay in creating and performing original music.

The turning point came with the support of a kind advocate from the Fraser Coast Regional Council, who guided them toward opportunities like grants and local events that celebrated original music.

Nicole fondly recalls the introduction to the Festival of Small Halls.

"When Small Halls came to Hervey Bay in 2019, the council hosted the event and booked Harding’s House. We have maintained contact with the Woodfordia team via social media, and are always very excited to be a part of any shows they put on. Our goal is to get to perform at Woodford Folk Festival next year," Nicole said.

For Harding's House, playing in Small Halls is a homecoming of sorts.

"Considering the fact that raw, stripped back folk music was where my brother and I originally started performing together, playing Small Halls is like going back to our roots, and it is an incredible feeling," Nicole said.

The unique charm of these performances lies in the respectful and engaged audience, Nicole said.

"It is a rare thing to play your own original songs to a crowd of people and have all eyes (and ears!) on you! It is truly so special," Nicole said.

"The connection established in these small communities is unparalleled, offering a rare opportunity for artists and audiences alike."

As a musician and community worker, Nicole emphasises the empowerment that comes from feeling connected to something bigger.

"Storytelling, especially through sound and song, is one of the most basic elements of being human," she said.

"This is a rare experience these days, in our modern world. Coming together to tell stories through song is something that everyone can find connection and beauty in, and the opportunity this provides for regional communities and emerging artists is unparalleled in any other initiative that I am aware of, so Small Halls is truly unique."

Describing the atmosphere of Small Halls, Nicole recalls every moment on stage as memorable.

"To have an audience who is so appreciative and engaged in hearing live, acoustic, original songs written by artists they may have never before heard of… that is something truly special and rare," Nicole said.

The recent performance, with a maximum capacity of 120 guests, was sold out online, demonstrating the popularity and demand for such intimate and authentic musical experiences.

As Harding's House continues to enchant audiences, their journey exemplifies the transformative power of music, storytelling, and the shared joy found in the smallest of halls across Australia.