Folk Troubadour John Thompson Passes Away
Receives Inaugural Services To Folk Music Award From Folk Alliance Australia
Folk Alliance Australia (FAA) announces a “Services to Australian Folk Music Award 2021” to John Thompson.
FAA is currently considering the Awards it will present to members of the folk community and we are in the process of launching a program of national folk awards.
In announcing the award, FAA President Keith Preston said:
“When singer John Thompson’s ill health was called to our attention we moved to recognise his contributions to folk music by making him the inaugural recipient of our discretionary Award for Services to the Folk music community. This was awarded 4 Feb 2021 the same day as his passing.”
About John Thompson 1964 – 2021
John Thompson was an acclaimed singer and collaborator, an interpreter of traditional songs, a lover of Australian folk music in all its guises, and an artist who will make you laugh.
His biography (on the Cloudstreet website) reflects not only his musicality, which embraced many genres, but his wry humour. There you will also find recordings of his beautiful singing.
Early musical highlights include the St. Stephen’s Cathedral Boys’ Choir in Brisbane, joining the band No Right Turn and being a founding member of One Step Forward where he developed his trademark harmonies with Maree Robertson and Ann Bermingham.
His work with the Legal Aid Office took him to Townsville where he launched himself into the local folk scene. One Step Forward continued to perform at festivals around Australia and in 1994 played at the National Folk Festival in Canberra.
John’s unique vocal style and strength earned him the inaugural Lis Johnson Memorial Award for Vocal Excellence. It was in Townsville that John started to perform with Martin Pearson, their madcap adventures in satire and storytelling evolving into the duo Never the Twain.
It was also in Townsville that John met and fell in love with Nicole Murray. In the early years of their relationship, they each performed with different groups before Robertson asked them to support Chris While and Julie Matthews at their first Brisbane performance.
Shortly after, Cloudstreet came into being as a vehicle for their ongoing collaborations. After three years of festivals and two albums, John left the legal world in 2003 and took up full-time performing. Cloudstreet travelled to the UK ten times and performed in Japan, the USA, New Zealand, Denmark, Morocco and Germany.
John played guitar, English concertina and whistle and also began learning trombone and violin. Singing remained his passion and his remarkable vocal range provided some enthralling listening in Cloudstreet’s arrangements.
In 2009, he toured the UK with the legendary Spooky Men’s Chorale and three years later was invited to join the Australian tour of War Horse, the National Theatre of Great Britain’s worldwide phenomenon. He played the role of the Song Man from December 2012 for nine months.
In 2015, John was awarded a QANZAC100 fellowship by the State Library of Queensland to undertake a research and song-writing project around the conscription debate in Queensland in the First World War, and produced a show and album called Censors, Conscripts and Queensland.
He co-founded the Maleny Celtic Winter School, an annual school for traditional music which ran for seven years, and played Scottish music for community dances and weddings with The Ceilidh Clan for many years.
John’s final concerts included a gala performance with Cloudstreet and a small orchestra at the State Library of Queensland in 2019, and taking the orchestra to his beloved Woodford Folk Festival that year.
John also performed as a debater, master of ceremonies, marriage celebrant and parodist.
Other John Thompson achievements are:
- Graduate Diploma of Folk Life Studies
- 2006 Trad and Now Album of the Year for Dance Up The Sun (with Nicole Murray)
- 2010 Artist of the Festival, Mt Beauty Music Muster (with Nicole Murray, as Cloudstreet)
- Recipient of The Order of Woodfordia, 2020 (presented for his outstanding contribution to the Queensland Folk Federation and Woodfordia Inc, as a dedicated volunteer in many roles; and as a source of wise counsel. A much-loved performer and orator with a stunning voice, known for his strong social conscience, and proudly advocating for Woodfordia across the globe)
He was diagnosed with advanced cancer after Cloudstreet’s 2017 UK tour and sadly passed away on 4 February, 2021.