The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #145654 Message #3372883
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
06-Jul-12 - 01:57 PM
Thread Name: A.L.Lloyd & Sea Chanties
Subject: RE: A.L.Lloyd & Sea Chanties
I really appreciate you posting that passage. Thank you!
If I were to take what Hugill said at face value, it does ring pretty true. My sense is that Lloyd would have preferred the "modal" tunes in the same way that, I believe, Cecil Sharp did. They struck one as being more "original" and "ancient" and, by a certain logic, more authentic and even more English--with the assumption that English song was the original source of the genre. I don't think Lloyd had a particular agenda, but I do suspect he had an unconscious bias that shaped his vision of chanties and thus also shaped his preferences along these lines. By the same token, much like in the case of Sharp, typical chanties like "Sacramento" (too American and popular/vulgar) and "Shenandoah" (too American and Black) might have been passed over because they didnt fit the preferred vision as well. I am not saying that Lloyd was adamant that his chanties were "English," but that he probably preferred them to at least be "folk" -- this sense of an authentic music of a people. The disparity between what selection that vision turns up and what sailors actually commonly sang seems to be provoking the comment.
We can say that the example titles that Hugill gives were among the very most noted of the chanties during the Age of Sail and reasonably assume that they were among the most sung, too. Lloyd's percentages -- what he emphasized versus what was common in Hugill's experience -- were "off". This continues to be off in revival scenes (not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that). Lots of reasons for that. In certain years, certain songs will just seem too hackneyed, I suppose. Rarely would anyone sing 'Drunken Sailor" at a contemporary chanty sing, though the similar "Roll the Old Chariot" is done to death for some reason (kind of a "lazy" singer's song, that can easily generate a lot of sound). Interestingly, the chanties that Hugill mentions are still not sung a lot--relatively speaking. They are well known, but slightly avoided in actual practice; other songs -- all sorts of odd bits revived in the last couple decades -- seem to have more cache. Some of that is the product of year-by-year trends, but some of it may have also been established by what Lloyd's generation chose to emphasize.
The disproportionate (it seems) preference for minor keys and modal stuff seems to continue, and that may be simply the musical preferences of the Anglo-/Euro-American audiences, whose ears spend more time in the world of traditional British and Irish song than in the minstrel and Afro-American sounds that pervaded the chantyman's world.
Being more critical of Hugill's statement, I suspect we'd find he's exaggerating a bit, and due to speaking casually, wasn't quite accurate. I am guessing that "Bring 'em Down" is the chanty that was pulled from a book of Jamaican songs; that's what I've found, at least. I don't recall "Sally Racket" being that different from Hugill's (in SfSS). I'll take a closer look at this later on.
I'm not sure if I've heard Lloyd's "Sally Brown." The collected versions have melodies that are very consistent with each other, however. Not sure what he would have done differently.