Warp Four




Contact Details
Address: Pat Sheridan, Ballinrea, Carrigaline, Co. Cork
Email: Pat Sheridan

Warp Four Log

Warp Four has its roots in the great folk revival of the fifties, when the Clancy Brothers changed everyone's perception of folk music and Ceoltori Cualann did the same with traditional music. In Ireland B.C. (before Clancy's) it wasn't cool to be a lover of the traditional music heard in the country kitchens and occasionally at early Fleadh's. The Clancy Brothers changed that. Closet folk singers 'came out' and folk clubs mushroomed all over the world. Irish songs became fashionable and we also robbed some English songs and called them our own. 'The old maid in the garret' (Andy Irvine) is an example of an English song, which is to be found in many 'Irish' songbooks. Other English songs had a lot of exposure in Irish folk clubs. Included here are the Sea Shanties. Although the Irish sailors sang the Shanties, as they shipped out of Liverpool in the days of sail, these work songs failed to integrate back into the Irish Folk culture until the days of sail were well and truly over. Niall recalls that it must have been during the nineteen sixties that Johnny Moynihan introduced the shanty to the Irish Folk Scene in a session at the famous Neptune Folk Club on Cunningham Road in Dublin. Dave Smith and Tom Crean were two other exponents of the genre around this time.

In Dublin the Buskers were an early group consisting of Dave Smyth, Derek Monks, Natalie Joint and Pierce McAuliffe. When the group broke up both Dave and Derek pursued solo careers singing in the folk clubs around the city. Other groups evolved and dissolved during this early sixties period. The Corcorans were a family group, which included Gay Corcoran. When they disbanded she teamed up with her eventual husband Terry Woods. In later years Gay was the lead in the rock group Auto de Fe and Terry became a Pogue. Andy Irvine came to Ireland and stayed. He had been a member of the B.B.C. Rep., and came with a substantial acting C.V. He and Johnny Moynihan joined up with Joe Dolan from Galway to form Sweeneys Men. Al O'Donnell, Johnnie McEvoy, The Ludlows, The Johnstons, Emmet Spiceland. The Dubliners, Jimmy Crowley, Jim McCann were the mainstay of the growing list of Irish Folk scene Performers during the sixties.

Tom Crean was a singer of some substance when he invited his pals Greg O'Hanlon, Niall Fennell and Derek Monks to join what was to become The Press Gang. This group were an unaccompanied harmony group and brought a new perspective to the folk music scene in Ireland. The Press Gang repertoire was mainly English folk songs in the style of the Coppers. There were influences from other great English groups such as the Watersons and the Young Tradition and of course sea shanties picked up from Stan Hugill, Bert Lloyd etc. In a very short time they were doing the circuit of Irish folk clubs and broadcasting regularly on Radio Eireann.

Seán Corcoran, Mick Moloney and Paul Brady were students in University College Dublin in the mid sixties and were fairly active on the folk club circuit. The pressure of studies forced them to break up as a group but they continued as soloists for a time before Mick was invited to join the Johnstons. When Michael Johnston left the group Paul Brady filled his place.

When Derek Monks and Greg decided to leave the Press Gang, Seán Corcoran and Dave Smyth took their places. The following years were hectic for a part time group. Singing all over the country from Belfast to Donegal, Galway to Cork and Kilkenny, and all the while attempting to hold down day jobs was, to say the least, difficult. Their radio audience was quite substantial what with their many broadcasts including - Ballads of a Saturday, presented by Dick Cameron, The Sound of the Light with Joe Linnane and the Radio Eireann Light Orchestra. Niall also played French Horn and was on the deputy panel of the orchestra. Dr. Brian Boydell, the composer, was professor of Music in Trinity and he paid a great tribute to the Press Gang when he said that they made the sound that he had been striving to attain for years with his own group The Dowland Consort. The Press Gang's repertoire was primarily English country songs and sea shanties and also included a number of Irish songs in both the Irish and English languages. Christmas carols made up a considerable share of the repertoire.

By the time the Press Gang made their L.P. The Press Gang in 1973 the face of music in Ireland had changed beyond recognition. Rock, traditional, folk, jazz were being cross pollinated much to the dismay of some in Ireland and the envy of musicians in other parts of the world. Before Phil Lynnott formed Thin Lizzie he asked the Press Gang to do a recording session with himself and Gary Moore and a drummer. Neither of the two songs recorded at that session were ever released. An experimental group with Phil on bass guitar, Alec Finn of De Danaan - guitar, Liam og O'Floinn - uilleann pipes, Niall - french horn, Seán Keane of the Chieftains - fiddle, Rick Ward, a blues singer, was formed and some traditional tunes and Rolling Stones songs rehearsed, but it came to nought. Another experimental group in which Niall was involved was called Bagatelle and was the standard classical wind quintet. This group lasted for almost a year, in the early seventies, and played classical, traditional Irish as well as Rock 'n roll. It's members were: Jimmy Kehoe - oboe, Maurice Molloy - flute, Jack Conaghy - Clarinet, Niall Fennell - french horn and 'Whacker' Byrne - Bassoon. For some reason Bagatelle's audiences preferred music from the classical repertoire and, when it was obvious that the experimental departure into non-classical music had failed, the group broke up.

The Tradition Folk Club on Wednesdays in Slattery's of Capel Street ran for many years and was a platform for the best in folk music in Ireland. The Press Gang had a residency there and built up a great number of loyal supporters. Al O'Donnell one of the most respected singers on the circuit asked the Press Gang if they would collaborate with him on a recording of Henry my Son. This is a Dublin street version of Lord Randle and was given to Al by another stalwart - the singing architect - Frank Harte. Rehearsals took place and details were finalised for the recording session when they received word that another group had beaten them to the post and had recorded the song. This raised a few eyebrows because there was an unspoken rule that one wouldn't 'steal someone's thunder'.

Over the years The Press Gang shared the stage with many famous musicians: The Dubliners, The Johnstons, Sweeneys Men, Skid Row, Clannad, Christy Moore, The Watersons and many many more. They also were pleased to have the sleeve notes on their L.P. written by John Banville.

Another unaccompanied a cappella group Garland came on the scene around 1967. Garland took their name from The Watersons record A Yorkshire Garland from which they assembled their initial repertoire. They were Denis Ryan, Pat Sheridan, Paul Noyes & Michael Andrews.

Garland had a loyal following on the Dublin folk circuit and continued singing as a group for about twenty Five years. They mainly played in the Folk Clubs in Dublin such as The Coffee Kitchen Folk Club in Molesworth Street, The Universal Folk Club on Parnell Square, The Swamp in Inchicore, The Neptune Folk Club and occasionally in Slattery's. They also played several Folk Festivals, such as the Ballysadare Folk Festival and Cork Folk Festival and also made several radio programmes including a Radio programme on the Dublin Folk Scene presented by Shay Healy. They remember having a wild weekend in Rakish Paddy's in Newtown Cashel and performing a set of Shanties with Pumkinhead (An American Group living in Ireland), at the end of each gig.

Pat Sheridan & Denis Ryan (Garland) eventually ran the Folk Club in the Blessington Inn (also known as the Blue Gardenia). Garland or just Denis & Pat sang each evening and had such guests as Johnny Moynihan, Pumpkinhead and Tony McMahon. Unfortunately Garland never made a record.

Neither The Press Gang nor Garland broke up - they simply faded away, and their a capella space was filled by The Voice Squad with Phil Callery, Fran McPhail and Gerry Cullen.

The Voice Squad's contribution to music in Ireland is considerable as is their collaboration with other musicians: The Chieftains, Rita Connolly, Christy Hennessy, Elvis Costello, Jimmy McCarthy, Sinead O'Connor, Liam O'Flynn, John Renbourn, Dolores Keane. There are many who believe that the pathfinders for their style were the Press Gang.

In 1991 Pat Sheridan (Garland) and Jack Harrison (Craiftine) formed a group with some other shanty singers to participate in the Tall Ships visit to Cork 1991. The first shanty specific gGroup was born and was the foundation stone for what was to become Warp Four. Jack Harrison and Pat Sheridan were requested to perform several years later at a Maritime Weekend in Galway but were short of a third voice. Pat and Niall were old work colleagues and Niall had introduced Pat to a cappella singing around 1965, during the early years of the Press Gang, and the pair had sung together occasionally over the years. (Pat subsequently joining Garland in 1969.) Pat contacted Niall explained the situation. He was delighted to help out and Warp Four was born. They had not sung together for ten years or so but one brief rehearsal over some pints and it was a natural blend. They had an incredible weekend of Shanties and teamed up with Liam Clancy, Donal Clancy and a Liverpool guy plus some sailors Waterford (Pat Ormond for one) for what was probably the longest session of maritime music ever performed in Ireland and should have entered the Guinness book of records. They all agreed that an album of such Shanties must be produced and vowed to make it so. It took a further two years to deliver on this vow, but given that the artists were well and truly 'Under the Weather' when the vow was made is an achievement in itself.

Sean Laffey was invited to join Warp Four for a gig and subsequently remained with the group for about a year including the Recording of A Hundred Years Ago and for several international Festivals thereafter.

The recordings of sea songs and shanty's with Clancy O'Connell Clancy developed so much useful material it resulted in two CD's A Hundred Years Ago with Warp 4 on which Clancy, O'Connell Clancy were guests and The Wild and Wasteful Ocean with Clancy, O'Connell and Clancy on which Warp Four sang the choruses. The launch of the CD's was closely followed by the Cutty Sark Tall Ships Festival visit to Dublin in 1998 so the groups collaborated on a Programme of Songs and Shanties for the Festival and their submission was accepted as part of the weekend's entertainment. Pat built a working Ships Capstan for dockside demonstrations and invited the Maritime Demonstrator and singer John Wright from Paris to join the group and help with the demonstrations and performances. They performed on Dockside Stages on Board the tall Ships and at the Point for the 'Captains Banquette'. It was 'total immersion' and the groups practically overdosed on all things maritime for the weekend.

Important engagements to follow the CD launches were:
Feile na Deise-Dungarvan, Cork Ford Regatta, Dublin Cutty Sark Tall Ships Festival, Paimpol Fete du Chants de Marin - Brittany, Late Late Show, the track Banks of Newfoundland - sold for an Italian television commercial, Paimpol 99 Festival. Mumbles Maritime Festival '99 - Swansea, Wales, Aonach Paddy O'Brien Festival Nenagh Ireland, Hull Sea Fever 700.

Further Evolution
The group went into semi-retirement but only briefly as they re-energised with a new line up which has spanned the three Groups Warp Four - The Press Gang - Garland almost completing the circle. An invite to perform at the Mystic Seaport Maritime Festival and at The New York City Folk Society in June 2002 has revitalised the group and indeed has had the side effect of bringing the Press Gang back after a break of approximately 25 years.

Tom Crean had already agreed to fill in the fourth spot vacated by Sean Laffey. Jack Harrison was unable to travel in June due to family commitments and as a long shot Niall chanced Seán Corcoran who was singing throughout Europe all year with his group Cran. We were lucky, Seán had most of June free and was able to stand in for Jack. So fate had brought three members of the Press Gang together in Warp Four with Pat, originally from Garland.

This opened up a huge range of opportunities for flexibility and diversification in the singing styles and repertoire for the Group particularly for the New York gig. As a result of a successful and unbelievably enjoyable trip Warp Four continues and the team can now be drawn from five singers all with something special to bring to the sound, Jack Harrison, Niall Fennell, Pat Sheridan, Tom Crean & Seán Corcoran. The second spin off benefit is that The Press Gang are performing again with Niall, Tom, Seán and with Pat making up the fourth member. We are sure that this evolution will continue and will add to the craic, and creativity of the groups.


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