The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220   Message #3032381
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
15-Nov-10 - 12:53 AM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Great detail on performance practice! And stringing-out.

It was in the windlass songs that the accomplished shanty-man displayed his fullest powers and his daintiest graces. When he began a song, he usually began by singing the first chorus as an announcement of what he expected of the men, who, being thus duly warned, joined in the second chorus. He was always careful to rest his voice while the others were singing, and it was considered the proper thing for him to begin his lines so closely after each chorus as to make his first note a prolongation of the last note of the preceding chorus. His lines were expected to rhyme, but he was prudently economical of them, generally using only one line, repeated twice, for each verse.

One of the best known of the windlass songs was the " Shanandore":

You Shanandore,I long to hear you.
Hurrah, you rollin' river!
You Shanandore, I long to hear you.
Ah, ha, you Shanandore.

This is clearly of negro origin, for the "Shanandore" is evidently the river Shenandoah. In course of time some shanty-man of limited geographical knowledge, not comprehending that the "Shanandore" was a river, but conceiving that the first chorus required explanation, changed the second chorus. Thus the modified song soon lost all trace of the Shenandoah River, and assumed the following form, in which it was known to the last generation of sailors:

For seven long years I courted Sally.
Hurrah, you rollin' river!
I courted Sally down in yon valley.
Ah, ha! I'm bound away on the wild Missouri.

I'm going to assume for now that by "windlass" he means "capstan." SHENANDOAH would be awkward at the brake/pump windlass, no?

Perhaps the wildest, most mournful, of all sailor songs is "Lowlands." The chorus is even more than usually meaningless, but the song is the sighing of the wind and the throbbing of the restless ocean translated into melody.

I dreamt a dream the other night.
Lowlands, Lowlands, Hurrah, my John.
I dreamt I saw my own true love.
My Lowlands aray.

Much care was evidently given to "Lowlands" by the shanty-men. It has often been improved. In its original form the first chorus was shorter and less striking, and the words of the second chorus were, "My dollar and a half a day." It is to be regretted that no true idea can be given on paper of the wonderful shading which shanty-men of real genius sometimes gave to this song by their subtle and delicate variations of time and expression.

It's the first text of LOWLANDS AWAY. (The title was mentioned in 1868.) Note the "aray."