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Sea Shanties timing and tempo

Jon W. 18 Feb 98 - 06:11 PM
Barry Finn 18 Feb 98 - 09:16 PM
Paul Stamler 19 Feb 98 - 02:05 AM
Frank in the swamps 19 Feb 98 - 05:51 AM
Bill D 19 Feb 98 - 09:19 AM
Barry Finn 19 Feb 98 - 10:27 AM
Jon W. 19 Feb 98 - 10:47 AM
Bruce O. 19 Feb 98 - 11:47 AM
Bill D 19 Feb 98 - 03:46 PM
Bill D 19 Feb 98 - 03:53 PM
Bruce O. 19 Feb 98 - 03:56 PM
LaMarca 19 Feb 98 - 04:53 PM
Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca 19 Feb 98 - 06:46 PM
Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca 19 Feb 98 - 06:51 PM
Barry Finn 19 Feb 98 - 10:39 PM
harpgirl 07 Mar 00 - 08:59 AM
Callie 07 Mar 00 - 09:15 AM
Pelrad 07 Mar 00 - 09:17 AM
GUEST,T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 07 Mar 00 - 09:35 AM
SeanM 07 Mar 00 - 07:02 PM
The Navigator 08 Mar 00 - 08:10 AM
Jacob B 08 Mar 00 - 10:26 AM
harpgirl 08 Mar 00 - 10:55 AM
SeanM 08 Mar 00 - 12:12 PM
harpgirl 08 Mar 00 - 01:18 PM
SeanM 08 Mar 00 - 02:42 PM
GUEST,Barry Finn 08 Mar 00 - 06:20 PM
Jon W. 09 Mar 00 - 12:28 PM
SeanM 09 Mar 00 - 01:50 PM
Billy the Bus 10 Mar 00 - 04:05 AM
harpgirl 10 Mar 00 - 08:15 AM
GUEST,Barry Finn 10 Mar 00 - 09:11 AM
GUEST,Heely 10 Mar 00 - 04:53 PM
harpgirl 20 Aug 00 - 12:23 PM
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Subject: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Jon W.
Date: 18 Feb 98 - 06:11 PM

My wife has been volunteered to teach music in grade school a couple of times a month. The first unit is on work songs, including sea shanties. Our question is, is it possible to tell what type of work was done by the tempo and rhythm of a shanty? For example how would a short haul shanty differ from a capstan shanty, or a long-haul shanty? Also I would be interested in the descriptions of other (land) work songs and how they relate the rhythm of the task being done.

Thanks, Jon W.

PS I have refreshed the Heave up songs thread which has some related info.


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Barry Finn
Date: 18 Feb 98 - 09:16 PM

Jon W, try getting ahold of "Shanties From The Seven Seas" by Stan Hugill, latest edition pub. by (& available from) Mystic Seaport Museum. You won't find a better discription & explanation on shanties. As to being able to tell the type of work by the song, yes, alot of the same songs were used for different tasks just be changing it a bit. Shenandoah was used at the capstan (capstan shanties usually have a grand chours), in the West Indies it's used as a rowing shanty (under the name of 'World Of Misery') while chasing blackfish (whales), chop part of the grand chours down & it's been used at the winches for loading cargo.The same proves true for prison work songs, 'Plumb The Line' & 'Down The Line', very similar, melodically & structurally, though the later is used for flatweeding & the former for crosscutting, & still by the way the song is sung you can tell what task it was used for. "Ain't No More Cane On The Brazos" depending on who & how (usually solo) it was sung would be for cane or cotton, where as 'Ol Dollar Mamie' done fast & choppy could be for double crosscutting & sing a different version & slightly change it & it's used for flatweeding. Track lining gangs had their songs & the roustabouts had their songs, loading & unloading steamboats of cotton bales (7,000 bales at a wack sometimes). One of the fanciest of the steamboats was the Jon W (any connection). Of the prison songs see Bruce Jackson's "Wake Up Dead Man"`, pub by Harvard Un. Press, don't know if it's out of print but the accompaning LP was just eissued as a CD from Rounder. Barry Barry


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Paul Stamler
Date: 19 Feb 98 - 02:05 AM

Incidentally, if you want to check tempos on various shanties, listen to the two recordings issued by the Library of Congress' Archive of Folk Song (now the American Folklife Center), "American Sea Songs and Shanties". The LPs are long out of print, but the cassettes may still be available (and let's hope they're reissued on CD soon!) Most of the singers on these field recordings had been sailors or shantymen in the days of sailing ships. Interestingly, most of the songs are sung much more slowly than they're usually sung by revival singers today.

Peace. Paul


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Frank in the swamps
Date: 19 Feb 98 - 05:51 AM

The following might be helpful, quoted from Joanna Colcord's "Songs of American Sailormen."
....Away haul away, oh haul and sing together,

away haul away, haul away Joe..

In this shanty, the only pull was on the word "Joe,"


and, quoting Masefield on "haul on the bowline"....

.....It is a slow, stately melody, ending with a jerk as the men fall back with the rope.


about halliard (halyard) shanties....

...with a solo line followed by a chorus of the same length...Sometimes the chorus line provided for two pulls on the rope; generally, however, for only one.


On windlass or Capstan shanties.

......Not for intermittent operations like pulling and hauling were [these songs] used, but for continuous process. In hoisting anchor, warping ship, etc. the rope or cable was wound round the barrel of the capstan, and the men walked steadily round & round it, pushing the bars before them. It followed that any song with a long chorus and a "Swing" to it was likely to go well as a capstan shanty....After the Civil War, the marching songs of the army were great favourites on the forecastle head; and many an anchor came in to the tune of "John Brown's body" and "Marching through Georgia."....
Again, she quotes Masefield..."In a capstan shanty, the solo man begins with a single line of verse. Before he has spoken the last word of it the other men heaving at the bars break out with the first chorus. immediately before the chorus has come to an end the solo man repeats his line of verse to be interrupted at the last word by the second chorus...


You could also suggest that your wife practice works songs while taking out the trash, mowing the yard, etc. But I wouldn't recommend it, You might wind up in the swamps too.

Frank.

Frank I.T.S.


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Feb 98 - 09:19 AM

At a festival put on by our society a few years ago, we decided to try a fairly realistic demonstration of what work songs were about, so some guys rigged and built some things to allow the singers to actually 'work' as they sang. There were pulley systems with weights to simulate anchor raising, a 15' section of railroad track for track lining calls, a double-handled, 4-man 'pump' using heavy springs to do pumping shanties, a 'tree' planted for chopping, 2 picnic tables end to end and a dozen volunteers for waulking wool..(using 'only' water)...and a longboat donated by the SCA for rowing songs...(there were several other demos that were not quite so much work...)

Anyway, some of the singers, notably the "Boarding Party", a fine group of local shanty singers with several albums to their credit, had their consciousness raised about exactly how much work was involved.....and why songs like "The Ebeneezer", a humorous pumping shanty, were usually sung too fast...you just can't DO serious pumping at a zippy tempo!

(BTW...I was on the official photography crew for this...and have several video tapes of these demonstrations...it makes me wonder if we ought to check out the possibilities of making them available for educational use...we usually just archive them, and there are often 'legal' concerns if stuff is shown publicly...but some of them are too good to just sit on shelves!!)


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Barry Finn
Date: 19 Feb 98 - 10:27 AM

If you happen to be in the area of Mystic Seaport during the festival (June12-14), you can catch the Buckingham Lining Bar Gang doing rail work to work songs the same way they did it back in the 50's before they retired & you can also catch the Northern Neck Shanty Singers doing their songs from the Carolina Manhaden fishing grounds, again the same way they did before they retired. These are probaly (aside from the Manhaden Chanteymen) the last of the work gangs doing the songs from their trades. Most other work gangs that sang have since died out, with the exception of convict gangs & the last I knew of their singing together was through the efforts of Allen Lomax presenting them at the Newport Folk Festival bach in the mid 60's. Barry


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Jon W.
Date: 19 Feb 98 - 10:47 AM

Thanks for all the great info. I knew I could count on you guys.

Barry, I've researched a lot on my ancestry and have so far never found a steamboat in it, just humans :-)

Frank, I have a recording of one capstan shanty which fits exactly the description from your book. It's probably sung to fast though.

Bill, I think releasing the videos would be great. I suppose you'd have to get permission from every recognizable person in them. Are you a member of the SCA? How does one find out about local chapters? Also, can you describe the process of waulking? I have a tape with a couple of waulking songs (I believe), sung by several women in Gaelic, with noise in the background which makes me believe they were recorded in the "field" while the women were actually waulking wool. The noise is kind of "scrape thump thump" or maybe "scrape scrape thump"(my wife is taking the tape to school today so I can't verify this).

Thanks again, Jon W. (not the steamboat)


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Bruce O.
Date: 19 Feb 98 - 11:47 AM

Re: Barry's mention of Hugill's 'Shanties from the Seven Seas'. I ran across the paperback reprint in a Border's bookstore just yesterday or the day before. Bill D. mentioned the Boarding Party and Barry mentioned "Shendoah". The Boarding Party's version of this is called "Solid Fas'" on Folk-Legacy FSI-97. This is by far the best version of the song I've ever seen or heard, but is a relatively recent version from the West Indies.


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Feb 98 - 03:46 PM

I'm not a member of SCA, but I have seen web pages and newsgroups devoted to it..if you get newsgroups, bring up your list and search on SCA...on the WWW, a search on 'Society for Creative' gave me 5000 hits..like this...

http://www.itasca.net/~sgh/sca.html

as to Waulking...they spin the yarn and weave the cloth...then it is soaked..(traditionally in cow urine, I believe) and beaten on a table or bench, passing it around or back & forth so it gets 'moved' to different positions and is thus shrunk evenly....see this picture (there are a lot of 'hits' on waulking, but I didn't look further than this..)


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Bill D
Date: 19 Feb 98 - 03:53 PM

and then I went and read this...more that you ever wanted to know!!

click


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Bruce O.
Date: 19 Feb 98 - 03:56 PM

I'm not a member of SCA either, but they (Greg Lindahl) host my broadside ballad index at www.pbm.com/~lindahl/ballads/ballads.html


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: LaMarca
Date: 19 Feb 98 - 04:53 PM

Just an addendum to Bill's earlier post about the Washington Folk Festival's "Rhythms of Work" workshop - the infamous track lining song required the Festival crew to move the abovementioned 15' section of railroad track out from storage to the stage area, then back to storage again...ouch.

The tempo consciousness-raising session for pumping shanties occured when , in a fit of vengeance for all the work setting up for this @#@!! workshop required every year (moving railroad track, rigging pulleys in poison ivy infested trees, moving yurts, etc), our crew chief Dwain installed a couple heavy-duty shock absorbers on the rocker pump instead of the springs that had been there. When KC King and Tom McHenry of the Boarding Party launched into the pumping tempo they had used in previous years for the spring mount pump, they rapidly found out why pumping shanties were usually done at a much more deliberate pace.

After a run of several consecutive years of doing this workshop for the WFF, it was retired before the volunteer crew did....


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca
Date: 19 Feb 98 - 06:46 PM

A good CD of sea shanties is one I have mentioned here before, Blow Boys Blow, by A.L. Lloyd and Ewan McColl, re-issued from a 1960's LP. (According to the liner notes Frank Zappa, of all people, was fascinated by it.) The pace at which they sing these is often different from what you hear sung nowadays. Most sea shanties now are sung faster than these two fellows sang them -- I don't know the mechanics of it but I suspect the sailors would get very tired very quickly if they worked at such a pace.:)

Incidently, some of the lyrics on this CD would not be considered suitable for schoolchildren by many, although I imagine parents who are into folk music would explain to their children the historical context of such songs. Lloyd and McColl sing a most un-PC version of Congo River.


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca
Date: 19 Feb 98 - 06:51 PM

A good CD of sea shanties is one I have mentioned here before, Blow Boys Blow, by A.L. Lloyd and Ewan McColl, re-issued from a 1960's LP. (According to the liner notes Frank Zappa, of all people, was fascinated by it.) The pace at which they sing these is often different from what you hear sung nowadays. Most sea shanties now are sung faster than these two fellows sang them -- I don't know the mechanics of it but I suspect the sailors would get very tired very quickly if they worked at such a pace.:)

Incidently, some of the lyrics on this CD would not be considered suitable for schoolchildren by many, although I imagine parents who are into folk music would explain to their children the historical context of such songs. Lloyd and McColl sing a most un-PC version of Congo River.


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Barry Finn
Date: 19 Feb 98 - 10:39 PM

Beware Long ramble.
The pace of some shanties could become very quick at the end of the task. Once the anchor broke ground, was strait up & down & was sighted the pace would speed up as the work got easier & speed was needed to secure the anchor, a swinging hook could cause a good bit of damage. A friend who was on the Unicorn while under sail has a tape of Tom Sullivan, past shantyman of the Unicorn, singing at what would seem brake neck speed for a halyard shanty, yet this is what I was told was the pace they worked at for the job. A L Loyd sings Billy Riley at a good clip, Tom was a bit faster. I sang a pumping shanty while on the handle of a set of downtown pumps & had to stop working because I couldn't keep up the pace of the others & sing at the same time & was promptly told that's why the shantyman doesn't work while he sings. I'm not saying that shanties were fast, only that the pace could quicken if the job on hand required it. Bruce O, I'm not convinced that Solid Fas (World Of Misery & Shenandoah) is all that recent, maybe to the word outside the West Indies. As with the Georgia Sea Islands, versions are/have been found that are very old. The black sailors from the Carribean were sought after as very able seaman since the Revolutionary War. They, as slaves & freeman, sailors & watermen pretty much had a large foothold on the costal trades from north of the Chesapeake to southern islands up until the Civil War, as well as the deep water & foreign trades. Black crews with black captains (& some black owners) were not that uncommon before the Civil War. After that they were forced from these avenues of empolyment, & hence (my belief), their influence on Shantydom, from that time on, was very limited to Gulf Port steveadores, the fewer blacks that were able to get to sea, the coastal fisheries, the cabin boys & cooks & the other odd situations that lent a hand to gaining a spot onboard. If this were to hold true than it may also be possible that the hayday of Shantydom for the Afro American sailor was waning, while it was on the rise for everyone else. Still, don't have near enough to back this up but it's plenty to go after. I've just recently found connections between prison work songs & sea shanties. There's always been a known connection between the sea & the railroads & the railroads & the prisons but I've yet to find anyone who made the connection from sea to prison, musically. Yet if the music traveled within it's own culture, unexposed, then it's influence may be underestimated as well as when & where it's influence would've been felt. So, Bruce O, maybe some riverman heard "Solid Fas" from a Caroliana Coaster who heard it from a West Indian & then though it might sound nice as Shenandoah. Any thoughts? Barry


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: harpgirl
Date: 07 Mar 00 - 08:59 AM

...Welcome Navigator...Here is another you might like...harpy


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Callie
Date: 07 Mar 00 - 09:15 AM

Wow. I've learnt so much. I've only ever heard Sea Shanties bellowed out by the dozen at folk gatherings. Thanks for all the details. --Callie


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Pelrad
Date: 07 Mar 00 - 09:17 AM

Jon, Bravo to your wife for compiling a true curriculum on traditional work songs. I was never so disappointed in my life as when our public school's general music teacher announced he was going to teach us about sea chanties; the entirety of the lesson was us listening to a recording of Blow The Man Down (accompanied by instruments) and then of Shanendoah (done in a really hoky style with lots of instruments). I applaud any educator who's willing to do it up right!


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: GUEST,T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 07 Mar 00 - 09:35 AM

"Right" is too strong a word. What's appropriate for ship-board isn't necessarily appropriate for the concert hall. Irish dance music when played as concert music is often played too fast for dancing. The sailors themselves modified the music when they took songs from the concert hall or the railroad line or wherever and adjusted the pace to suit it to their own work.

Still I can't think of any better way of understanding shanties than by trying to appreciate them as work songs.

T.


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: SeanM
Date: 07 Mar 00 - 07:02 PM

Barry Finn earlier mentioned the Buckingham Lining-Bar Gang, and I can't second the recommendation to see them more heartily.

I was lucky enough to be playing at the same gig (Railfair '99) as they were, and saw them several times in their demonstrations... it's an education watching the work, hearing the songs... Plus, we were lucky enough to play a few songs for them during a private dinner. Very VERY wonderful people as well.

Somewhere out there they have a website which I've lost the URL for, but they have a cassette available of the basic rail calls... also a wonderful listen.

M


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: The Navigator
Date: 08 Mar 00 - 08:10 AM

I don't think I've really learned to navigate through the maze of a subject yet, but I will. When I was learning to sail on the Lakes, capital L intentional, I sailed a lot on a boat owned by a friends father called Chantey. I always equated this to Sea Chantey, a different spelling than I've seen in this thread. Any comments? The Navigator


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Jacob B
Date: 08 Mar 00 - 10:26 AM

A book about black sea-faring men was published last year, under the title "Black Jacks". I heard the author speaking on the radio, and it sounds like very interesting material.


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: harpgirl
Date: 08 Mar 00 - 10:55 AM

...Navigator...I was once a second mate on the Great Lakes but my "chanteys" were mostly Beatles songs. The term does indeed refer to a "sea shanty" and is likely a derivative of the French "chanson" (song). I was a winch handler (see pumping chanteys), sail bagger, anchor hoister, and third in line at helm.
The Digital Tradition has a delightful song refering the the second mate "ringing the bell". Put "chantey" in the Forum search box and see some "chanteys"...harpgirl


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: SeanM
Date: 08 Mar 00 - 12:12 PM

Could this be the chantey you're referring to, Harpgirl? One of my all time favorites by the name of "Strike the Bell (Second Mate)".

M


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: harpgirl
Date: 08 Mar 00 - 01:18 PM

...yes, matey thar' she blows!!


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: SeanM
Date: 08 Mar 00 - 02:42 PM

Actually, to be completely accurate, I think Strike the bell qualifies more as a sea song or forebitter... the rhythm doesn't seem condusive to anything other than (maybe) a capstan shantey for work.

Still love it, though...

M


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: GUEST,Barry Finn
Date: 08 Mar 00 - 06:20 PM

Strike The Bell was used at the pumps. Barry


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Jon W.
Date: 09 Mar 00 - 12:28 PM

I was wondering the same thing about "strike the Bell" a couple of days ago. One reason is that I've heard it (two different recordings) done with instruments. Barry (or whomever), what is the pumping motion that has rhythm matching the song? Is it up and down or what?


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: SeanM
Date: 09 Mar 00 - 01:50 PM

I'd imagine the tempo would be slowed down considerably from what we hear it today. The reason I originally thought it wouldn't be for much besides a capstan was from talking to my uncle, who knew the song from working a Destroyer during WWII. He'd said something to the effect of having heard it from people who claimed that it never was used as a shanty, and others who claimed it was at the most used for light work.

Anyway...

M


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: Billy the Bus
Date: 10 Mar 00 - 04:05 AM

Hmm...

"Strike the Bell"

Great Lakes Chantey?

Having heard it now, NO, an Australian shearing song, known as "Click go the shears"...;^)

The Mudcat filename bears that out...;^)

So does the tempo...;^)

Ain't it great how we can sit and philosophise about "work songs" from a century back, without having to do the sweat they did when singing 'em...;^)

Cheers - Sam


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: harpgirl
Date: 10 Mar 00 - 08:15 AM

...Sam...I didn't refer to this song as a "Great Lakes Shanty". Though I would like to know some. It is merely a shanty I thought my father "The Navigator" would like, since he spent most of his seventy six years living aboard and sailing boats on the Great Lakes and the Atlantic....


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: GUEST,Barry Finn
Date: 10 Mar 00 - 09:11 AM

Hi Jon, I believe Strike The Bell would've been used at the Downtown pumps. The're like a set of wheels at oppisite ends of an axel, each wheel having a handle sticking out of it, one handle being in the upper position when the other is in the lower position & 2 men at each handle, while one handle in rotating the wheel by spinning it downards & away the other is spinning it upwards & in & each man is working oppsite their facing partner. This motion is smother & not choppy as the lage brake pumps with their up & down motion like on one of those little pump railroad carts. Barry


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: GUEST,Heely
Date: 10 Mar 00 - 04:53 PM

As a Chanty singer and a teacher, may I suggest that you hand some of the students a mop, give some others a piece of stout rope to tug back and forth, or better yet, put them abourd an old vessel nearby and have them haul at the dock. Then ask them to set the tempo that they need. That is what the Chanteyman did.


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Subject: RE: Sea Shanties timing and tempo
From: harpgirl
Date: 20 Aug 00 - 12:23 PM

reflux


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