John Warner is a Sydney-based, traditional-style singer and poet/songwriter with a wide-ranging repertoire biased towards chorus songs and songs of history, industry and the environment. John is renowned all over the world for his well-crafted songs - as recent accolades from Gordon Bok and Danny Spooner affirm. Many people have recorded "Anderson's Coast"; and "Bring out the Banners" is sung by Trade Union choirs all over Australia, and also in the UK and Canada. He is an accomplished musician on the 6 and 12 string guitars and also on bouzouki. John has a strong voice, often sings unaccompanied, and is an inventive and sensitive harmony singer.
Origins and early influences: Born in England, John came to Australia when he was 10 and grew up in South Gippsland. He began writing songs in his University student days at La Trobe University, taking as his role models a number of poets such as Rudyard Kipling, Banjo Paterson and Judith Wright, and songwriter, Ewan MacColl. John worked in the public library system in Canberra for many years and was involved in the folk scene, a community theatre group, Blue Folk, and medieval groups; and these pursuits were enlivened by John's songwriting and other creative abilities.
The Sea and the Soil is a recording of some of John's writing up to 1992. This first solo was produced with the assistance of Victorian singer/songwriter, Fay White, and has songs about the Australia's environment (wilderness and urban); explorers; trades people; horses; bunyips - all from John's inimitable world view.
Between 1993-2003 John worked in a duo with Margaret Walters and this fruitful decade produced some remarkable writing, many memorable performances around Australia and two tours in the UK. Margaret's preferences lead John closer to traditional influences and her energy contributed to the recording of many of John's compositions:
Pithead in the Fern 17 songs by John Warner recorded with Margaret Walters & Taliesin in 1994. A documentary in song of the coal mining region of South Gippsland, Victoria - the coming of the railways and farms, the isolation of pioneers, the industrial strife, the plight of the Aboriginal people, the effects of civilization on the temperate rain forest region.
Who Was Here? 15 songs - 10 by John Warner, 5 by MacColl, Jez Lowe et al recorded with Margaret Walters in 1997. Who was here? Their names are on a memorial stone in an obscure coastal town in New Zealand's south island. Their track is the canal and the railway line; their footprints the rust and ruins of old works, or the lasting brilliance of well-maintained crafts. Not forgetting dinosaurs and other monsters.
Pack o' Pirates 12 songs by John Warner recorded 1998. John's solo album brimming with sensitivity for the world viewed from a child's perspective. John's compositions radiate energy and enthusiasm for Sydney Harbour's tugs, sirens on emergency vehicles, frogs, trains, dinosaurs etc. There's the response of a child being left at a child care centre, and a worker's fulfillment watching a child learn to walk.
Power in a Song 14 songs featuring Margaret's singing with 4 songs by John Warner: Llewellyn Walking, Murrumbidgee Water, Largo and Windsong.
In the late 90s, John (in collaboration with Margaret Walters) wrote the remarkable song and verse cycle, Yarri of Wiradjuri, a major piece of music theatre that had its first performances early in 2000 and a most memorable series of performances were held in Gundagai in June 2002 on the 150th anniversary of the events depicted in the cantata. This was finally recorded in 2006..
John is a member of the "spirited pre-acappellan group", The Roaring Forties which specialises in sea shanties and other traditional chorus songs and contemporary songs written in the tradition. John also performs solo as a children's entertainer and can hold his own in any collection of poets and yarnspinners.
See under REVIEWS for more about John....
John has a long list of workshops or theme presentations.
Workshops and theme presentations presentable as solo or duo (with Margaret Walters) or group (Roaring Forties):
• Here's to the People of All Trades: songs reflecting the language and tools of trades
• Who Was Here? songs painting pictures of workers and their environment
• Bread, Broom and Bucket: songs of domestic trades circa 1900-50
• Hard and Acid Scarred: working lives in Australia
• I Never Navvied Nastier than Koo-wee-rup: songs of the railways and the folk who built and worked them
• Sandpit Picket: a look at childcare from the viewpoint of the workers: includes John's poignant song, Llewellyn Walking, about a child's first steps. (Once called Millennium of the Child)
• Bring out the Banners: songs written during the Maritime Union's industrial action in 1998 plus other songs of union solidarity - all with tub-thumping choruses
• Whaleroad: the lure of the sea: songs and shanties of going "down to the sea in ships"
• Madness in the Blood: explorers and seafarers
• The Trades of Old Sydney Town: Australia's first white settlers at work
• Pithead in the Fern: songs and stories inspired by the history of the coal mining region of South Gippsland where John grew up
• Yarri of Wiradjuri: a song and verse cycle about an Aboriginal hero who saved the lives of 49 Europeans during the Gundagai flood of 1852.
• Lambing Flat: gold mining days
• Beef Beer and Breugel: - an as yet unstaged folk opera set in a Belgian village in the C17 - about a frustrated blacksmith, his feisty wife, her mother the witch, and what happens when a platoon of mercenaries turns up with a canon needing mending.
• The Wind in a Million Leaves: songs of the environment
• The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: songs commemorating friends, the famous, and some characters from history
Fisherman's Tour of Heaven: a 40 minute epic poem paying tribute the redoubtable Robin Connaughton and some notorious characters who've passed St Peter's portal