The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220 Message #3014638
Posted By: John Minear
24-Oct-10 - 08:16 PM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Gibb, Frank does not give any indication of contextual notes for "Fanny" in NEGRO SINGER'S. Nor does he give any references for his statement about this being a "cargo-loading" song. My *guess* is that he may have gotten this from ART OF BALLET, which takes us back to where we were before on that. There apparently was no tune printed for "Fanny" in NEGRO SINGER'S. And I would add that as near as I can tell, there were no tunes notated for any of the 230 or so songs in Frank's book. Apparently the whalemen didn't write down music. Frank does provide tunes for each of the songs, but they come from other sources, such as later chanty collections, printed music, etc. Interestingly enough, the tune he provides for "Fanny" is "Fine Time O' Day" from Trelawney Wentworth's THE WEST INDIA SKETCH BOOK!
Smith only copied the title of "Fanny" in his journal, not the lyrics or the tune. I agree with you that this leaves open the question of whether he actually ever sang the song, or whether the song was ever actually used as a hoisting chanty on board a whaler. Once again, we don't have the info on any of this. Frank says,
"Most of Fred Smith's known song and tune collecting was been (sic) done during his first four voyages, when he was a cabin boy, seaman, boatsteerer, and deck officer in three whaleships and before he ascended to the responsibilities and distractions of marriage and command. He kept journals of all four voyages in a single volume, which also became his reference library and study guide in matters of seamanship and celestial navigation." (p. 358).
He goes on to say,
"It would undoubtedly delight folklorists and performers today had Fred Smith or some other whaleman seen fit to transcribe shipboard fiddle and dance tunes,note-for-note, just as he knew them - preferably with grace notes and ornamentation, the way they were played in the forecastle and aftercabin at sea. But, so far, no such transcriptions have emerged, and Smith's mere list, inscribed on a single page of his journal, is about the best and most extensive documentation of such tunes on American whaleships." (p. 358)
There is some indication that "Fanny" may have been used in minstrel performances. Frank says,
"That the song may also have been making rounds on the music-hall circuit is suggested by an allusion on an earlier page of the same songster [NEGRO SINGER'S] (p. 196), in a section entitled "Conundrums," intended as a collection of vaudeville-like dialect quips for "Negro" musicians. It is attributed to the so-called "Black Apollo," whose real name was Charles White, "and all the Colored Savoyards at the Principal theaters in the United States":
Why is Fanny Elssler like the Bunker Hill Monument?
Because they are both out ob town. (Frank, p. 374)
Out of the 230 or so songs in his book, Frank only lists seven as "deepwater chanteys" All of the rest were used for some form of entertainment on the whaling ships. Frank does seem to make the assumption that "Fanny" was used as a chanty, but gives not documentation for this assumption. See page xix in an introductory essay entitled "A Few Words about Chanteys" where he says,
"A large number of chanteys survive; probably as many have been lost since steam propulsion supplanted them. But comparatively few original cotton-steeeving songs survive. "Fanny Elssler Leaving New Orleans" [#178] is a rare specimen of known vintage."
It is also possible that if this song was actually sung on board of the whalers, it was sung for entertainment as a music hall song. Again, all that can really be said is that the song title shows up in a whaleman's journal written sometime between 1854 and 1869. It is one of 21 titles on the list.