The Roaring Forties is an archetypal trad-style acapella folk group singing maritime songs and other robust material concerning Australian social, industrial and political history; choruses, harmonies and wit abound, They also perform finely-crafted original material, some accompanied.
The singers who form the core of the Roaring Forties (Robin, Margaret and Tom) were singing unaccompanied songs when the New Age a cappella group members were still in the cradle. Back in the late 70s and early 80s they used to gather whenever a call went out for a group of shanty singers, augmented by other available singers. They used the name “Sydney Shanty Singers” and then, for a time, they laboured under the moniker “The Ensemble of Fat Bearded Shantymen” (EFBSS) – an esoteric reference to the EFDSS (the English Folk Dance and Song Society). But in 1988, they thought it was time they had a more distinctive name – and so The Roaring Forties was born. It was the year of the bi-centenary with lots of tall ships visiting Sydney, and with lot of gigs on offer, they brought out their first CD, Hazard Hardship and Damned Little Pay.
That was 25 years ago, and the Forties have never lost their love of shanties, though from time to time, they have worked on other projects. See ABOUT for details.
Current members of the group:
|Don Brian: – a singer of traditional Australian songs, a one time member of the Tin Shed Rattlers when he lived in Wagga Wagga. He remained a valued member of the Roaring Forties though his five years of self-imposed exile on Norfolk Island. He has also been in a duo with Margaret Walters called Southern Cross Trawlers. Both associations have resumed since Don’s return.||Robin Connaughton – resident wit and devilish writer of satirical songs that can make a politician spontaneously combust. Robin worked for many years in the NSW steel industry at Newcastle and Wollongong and he and John Warner have written a series of songs about the experience. As expected in the writings of John and Robin – folklore, danger, mischief and ratbaggery are brought into stark contrast with a deeply compassionate look at the industry’s impact on its workers and the indigenous inhabitants of the region. Robin and John combined for a period as a duo called themselves “Who Shot the Sheriff?” singing tunes, traditional and self-penned songs – mostly with an industrial bent.|
|Tom Hanson – the group’s Basso Profundo, was the first to put the Roar in the ‘Forties. Tom is a great source of songs from his extensive travels and he’s had some real sailing experience on tall ships like the New Endeavour and the Duyfken.||Chris Maltby – the youngest and most recent member of the group who has bought a fresh approach to old songs. He’s also impressed the old farts with his formidable ability to learn new material on the run and he tantalises them with his knowledge of the repertoires of the likes of Peter Bellamy and Leon Rosselson. A passionate member of the Greens, Chris also sings with the environmental choir, Ecopella.|
|Margaret Walters – a warm, passionate voice, edged with iron, a huge solo repertoire, a presenter of workshops on topics such as convicts, peace, feisty damsels. Margaret and John have performed and recorded as a duo [Walters & Warner] and have a following in England having performed at folk clubs and festivals there in 1994 and 1998. Margaret frequently revisits the folk scene in the UK.||John Warner – highly regarded for his song writing, with a powerful voice and an inspired way with harmonies. John is the author of Yarri of Wiradjuri, a song and verse cycle concerning the 1852 flood that destroyed the original township of Gundagai. Yarri and other Wiradjuri were instrumental in saving the lives of 49 Europeans, and John’s words draw out some implications for reconciliation in the present day. Members of the Roaring Forties were involved in many performances of this moving folk opera. (The full cast involved additional musicians and indigenous singers and dancers). Yarri Of Wiradjuri has now been recorded on CD.|
Former members of the group include Tony Cochrane, Brian Grayson, Len Neary and Jennifer Lees.