The Voice Squad's (Phil Callery, Fran McPhail and
Gerry Cullen) style of singing in harmony does not form part of
the Irish singing tradition but each singer had already served their
time in our individual tradition before coming together to sing
in harmony. They have carried with them this individual approach
to the song and it is this that gives the group its unique sound.
Voice Squad has been compared to those great English family groups,
'The Watersons' and 'The Copper Family' and while they would have
enjoyed the singing of both these groups their strongest influences
have come directly from our own traditional songs and the styles
of our individual singers. It is the union of the distinct tenor
voices of Fran and Phil plus the bass of Gerry, along with their
own particular arrangements of good songs, that has made them one
of the most distinctive unaccompanied singing groups of recent times.
However as a group they were also much in demand as
studio session musicians adding their vocal textures and melodic colour
to the recordings of other artists who have included, The Chieftains,
Rita Connolly, Christy Hennessy, Elvis Costello, Jimmy McCarthy, Sinead
O'Connor, Liam O'Flynn, John Renbourn and Dolores Keane
group add a unique dimension to the cultural heritage of Ireland
which they have brought to many audiences as they tour across the
UK, Europe and America.
While in recent years live performances
by the group have been rare, in October 2002 they performed, in
front of Ireland's President Mary MacAleese, at the Gala opening
of Dublin's newest concert venue The Helix at DCU. The concert was
recorded by RTE television for later transmission. The track they
performed was a special Shaun Davey arrangement of The Parting Glass.
In June 2003 the group appeared on stage for the opening ceremony
of the Special Olympic World Games 2003 with Rita Connolly and Ronan
Tynan to perform 'May We Never Have To Say Goodbye' composed by
Shaun Davey, it was the theme song for the games.
In 2012 the group reformed for
a concert on St. Patrick's Day in Dublin's National Concert Hall.
Since that reunion the group have continued to tour in the UK and
Ireland, packing them in where ever they go.
A new album has also been recorded for release early in 2014.
"The Voice Squad represent the melding of two related but
separate traditions — a British harmony-singing tradition (as exemplified
by the Copper Family and the Watersons) and the unaccompanied solo
singing tradition of Northern Ireland (as exemplified by such legendary
artists as Paddy Tunney and Joe Heaney). By taking the traditional
Irish repertoire and harmonizing it in a generally British style,
the three members of the Voice Squad have created something new
and absolutely wonderful. All three singers have excellent voices,
but tenor Fran McPhail is the one who brings something tonally unique
to the ensemble; his voice has an eerie, almost horn-like quality
that blends beautifully with the harder-edged voices of tenor Phil
Callery and baritone Gerry Cullen. This 1995 reissue of Many's the
Foolish Youth, originally released in 1987, brings improved sound
quality to a set of songs that showcases this group at its best,
on a program that ranges from the romantic regret of "The Banks
of the Bann" to the traditional parting song "The Parting Glass"
and stops off in between for a couple of Christmas songs ("The Holly
She Bears a Berry," "Kilmore Carol," "Shepherds Arise"). The Voice
Squad deliver everything with a marvelous combination of power and
tenderness that is bound to touch your heart". — Rick
Anderson, All Music Guide
Quotes from The Irish Times:
"...all three singers
merge miraculously into a single, enchanting confluence."
| Eugene McEldowney