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
• 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
• 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
• 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
Solo efforts include:
• Bunyips, Dinosaurs and other Beasties - not just for kids!
• Pack o' Pirates - especially for kids
• The Briggs and Stratton Pump - verse in the Australian bush
· Wordsmithpersonship - writing songs (especially on