Formed in 1988, Forty Degrees South have over 30 years of robust singing under their belts. First known as The Roaring Forties, in 2018 they became Forty Degrees South (40°S or “forties” for short).
Powerful individual singers the group has a formidable repertoire of traditional and trad-style contemporary songs. They have a lengthy list of themes: sea shanties, whaling songs, forebitters, work songs, mining songs, union songs, bush songs, songs of Australian history, protest songs, humorous songs, god-bothering songs, drinking songs – you name it!
They are regulars on the Australian folk festival circuit and have toured in the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States, New Zealand and Norfolk Island.
The Forties are always reinventing themselves, but some things remain constant – the enjoyment they get from singing harmonies and encouraging audience participation.
[They] sing songs of maritime and mayhem, maidens fair and sporty
Old hymns and worksongs and the like, [they] are the Roaring Forties!
More information about Forties recordings and presentations here.
Forty Degrees South is happy to announce the publication of their new recording of nautical mayhem: Crossing the Line: songs of the southern oceans – see details under CDs and hear tracks on our Bandcamp page. You can obtain copies of the album or downloads via Bandcamp or direct from the group by emailing us. Paypal facilities available.
The album was recently completed in time for what was to be the Albany International Folk n Shanty Festival in WA in July 2021. Sadly, the festival has been affected by COVID-19 restrictions and is now scheduled for early October.
As the title suggests, the focus of the album is the southern hemisphere starting with Don Brian’s song “On the Middle Ground”, about the whaling grounds between New Zealand, Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, is the first track on the CD.
Over half the songs date from the 1800s: some familiar titles like “South Australia” (track 21), are recorded here in very early versions. A New Zealand take on “Blood Red Roses” (track 13) concerns sealers rather than whalers. An American hymn by Phillip Bliss (1871) “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning” (track 7) is still part of Norfolk Island’s maritime hymn tradition; “Nets Below the Gangway” (track 18) is a delightful poem from 1909 set here to a traditional tune. “Across the Line” (track 22) – a love song to the sea from about 1909 – makes a fitting conclusion to the CD.
More recent compositions include three titles by Harry Robertson (1923-95), a Scottish-born ships’ engineer who worked on whaling fleets from the North Atlantic to the Antarctic settling in Brisbane, writing clear-sighted songs about his experiences; a setting of Merv Lilley’s “The Birchgrove Park” (track 14) about a collier wrecked in Broken Bay; “The Wind and the Waves” (track 2) describes a convict’s voyage to Australia. Bernard Bolan’s whimsical “Rose Bay Ferry” (track 20), which topped the pop charts in 1974, is one of several cheerful and energetic songs on this album.
Forty Degrees South is indebted to Christina Mimmocchi and Greg White for their help in producing the album, and to the songwriters, collectors, authors of ships logs etc. And special thanks to the many singers worldwide who have influenced the group over many decades, not forgetting the shanty singers of the 21st Century who have refocused the love of these songs…
Seasonal songs were the order of the day when the Forties sang at the Folk Federation of NSW’s annual variety End of Year Folk Bash held at the Gaelic Club in Surry Hills. Black Joak Morris presented a Mummer’s Play – always the highlight of the Bash. The evening was complemented by some exuberant renditions of English Village Carols at the Shakespeare.
The theme of History Week in NSW was “Life and Death” and, together with The Museum’s own ‘pirate band’ The Mutineers, 40 Degrees South relished singing some of the more macabre songs in their repertoire.
There were stories about Australian convict pirates and whaling ship disasters followed by rum (courtesy of Peg Leg Tavern) and sea biscuit (made by our own Sue Brian)!
The concert took place in the Conservation Building of the Australian National Maritime Museum.