There have been a lot of changes as the Seaport in the last 5 to 7 years, which have affected the sea music festival, but are connected to issues that are far larger than the sea music festival. It's like the old parable of the blind men and the elephant, when you're in touch with only one part of the larger organism it seems like that's the whole animal, but it's not. Remember, the Seaport has a working shipyard, that not only restores ships, but recently built a replica of the Amistad, they have a large library, a program for college students, a planetarium, over a hundred buildings, etc... The Seaport's budget is in the tens if not hundreds of millions and they work on huge projects, the restoration of the C.W. Morgan (tens of millions), for example, or the conversion of the old Rossi Mill to house the museum's enormous collections of small boats, maritime artifacts and photographs (also tens of millions). There are many people out there who are just as enthusiastic about the preservation of small boats as we are about the preservation of sea music. The museum has to be able to balance all these things.
Mystic had a major change of management in early 2001, which has clearly brought a different style and focus to the administration of all parts of the museum, some that has not been for the best. Shortly thereafter, the disaster of 9/11 changed tourism patterns, and had a major effect the bottom line of every large outdoor museum in the country. Mystic has also had to compete with the growth of the Foxwoods casino, and later, the Mohegan Sun casino, which have further siphoned off tourist dollars. In our myopic focus on the festival, it's easy to forget that we don't just want the festival to succeed, we want the entire museum to survive if not flourish. Sometimes that means making unpleasant choices.
As for the chantey program at the Seaport. Interpreters make very little money. It is very difficult to live on what those four great guys were making. But they did it for twenty-years or more because of their dedication, and because the Seaport was a wonderful place to come to work everyday. But who can blame them for wanting to move on? One wants to go back to grad school, another wants to explore different musical areas. More power to them! That no one has stepped in to fill their shoes is, again, the product of a lot of economic and social issues. I inquired about taking a chanteying job there, at least on a temporary or seasonal basis, but after talking to a number of folks there I realized that I couldn't make it work financially. Perhaps, though, if the sea music program is so important to you, you'd like to quit your job and work, for probably less than $10.00 an hour, as a chanteyman. No? I can't say I blame you.
So who's to blame for the difficult straits the sea music program is in? I don't know, but I'm inclined to blame George Bush... Or maybe blame should not be the name of the game.
My two cents,