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sea shanties

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Matthew Bram 21 Feb 99 - 01:46 PM
harpgirl 21 Feb 99 - 08:47 PM
SeanM 21 Feb 99 - 10:37 PM
dwditty 21 Feb 99 - 11:07 PM
Robin 22 Feb 99 - 01:26 AM
23 Feb 99 - 10:17 PM
Matthew Bram 23 Feb 99 - 10:18 PM
Alice 23 Feb 99 - 10:57 PM
Dani 24 Feb 99 - 07:57 AM
Bert 24 Feb 99 - 09:34 AM
Bob Schwarer 24 Feb 99 - 11:33 AM
SeanM 24 Feb 99 - 01:10 PM
takeo 24 Feb 99 - 06:59 PM
Susan of DT 24 Feb 99 - 07:10 PM
Matthew Bram 25 Feb 99 - 11:30 PM
Matthew Bram 25 Feb 99 - 11:35 PM
Matthew Bram 25 Feb 99 - 11:37 PM
mystdragon@hotmail.com 26 Feb 99 - 06:17 AM
Dani 26 Feb 99 - 06:33 AM
Bert 26 Feb 99 - 09:27 AM
Matthew Bram 26 Feb 99 - 10:35 AM
Matthew Bram 26 Feb 99 - 10:36 AM
Susan of DT 26 Feb 99 - 10:56 AM
SeanM 26 Feb 99 - 01:24 PM
Matthew Bram 26 Feb 99 - 02:30 PM
Alice 26 Feb 99 - 04:00 PM
jets 27 Feb 99 - 12:53 PM
Matthew Bram 27 Feb 99 - 01:45 PM
Wotcha 27 Feb 99 - 07:35 PM
Sandy Paton 27 Feb 99 - 09:33 PM
SeanM 27 Feb 99 - 10:23 PM
Wotcha 28 Feb 99 - 12:51 AM
Barry Finn 28 Feb 99 - 04:46 AM
Ian Kirk (inactive) 28 Feb 99 - 06:22 AM
Margo 28 Feb 99 - 10:33 AM
Wotcha 28 Feb 99 - 10:51 AM
SeanM 28 Feb 99 - 12:46 PM
John Mayberry 28 Feb 99 - 12:51 PM
Barry Finn 28 Feb 99 - 05:22 PM
SeanM 28 Feb 99 - 06:09 PM
Ferrara 28 Feb 99 - 08:48 PM
Pete M 28 Feb 99 - 11:40 PM
rich r 28 Feb 99 - 11:40 PM
Wotcha 01 Mar 99 - 09:17 PM
Big Mick 01 Mar 99 - 10:06 PM
takeo 01 Mar 99 - 10:18 PM
takeo 01 Mar 99 - 10:52 PM
Barry Finn 01 Mar 99 - 11:04 PM
Gerry Stensgaard 02 Mar 99 - 12:38 PM
Martin _Ryan 02 Mar 99 - 01:21 PM
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Subject: sea shanties
From: Matthew Bram
Date: 21 Feb 99 - 01:46 PM

Congratulations on a great website!

I live in NY City and have been collecting Sea Shanties for quite some time. I am writing a book, which currently contains about 400 songs of the sea, complete with a multitude of footnotes: always massively opinionated, usually entertaining, often amusing, and sometimes even informative.

As is usually the case in the folk tradition, I am not doing this for money, but to preserve these treasures. I once went to Newfoundland with a tape recorder and a box of blank tapes, and came back with 314 songs. It's just possible that some of those songs (sung into my tape recorder by frail, old voices) might otherwise have disappeared.

If anybody wants to join me in this pursuit, I'd love to hear from you. Please post your answers here, or feel free to contact me directly, at MattGB1@Juno.com


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: harpgirl
Date: 21 Feb 99 - 08:47 PM

Well, Matthew Bram, you will be a welcome addition to our Mudcat family, as Big Mick would say. In your Newfoundland collecting did you run across any dear old ones singing "Sweet Forget Me Knot?" I am enchanted with this song and my band the DoneyGals is working up a rendition of it with double psalteries as well as our voices. I would love to hear more Newfoundland songs! Are your field reordings collected anywhere the public might have access to them? We have had some lively and interesting discussions about sea shanties which you can find by doing a "forum" search with sea shantie as the search word. We have many collectors of shanties on this site and wickedly good singers they are as well, I might venture!! harpgirl


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: SeanM
Date: 21 Feb 99 - 10:37 PM

Bravo! I'd also like to thank you for fighting the good fight... There are too many songs dying because noone is handing them down. I'd like to suggest that you contact someone in San Francisco, as there is a truly wonderful Shanty sing that happens there monthly. Sadly, I am not in the area, but I hit it whenever I can. The songs range all historical eras and areas... I've heard everything from a 2000 year old Israeli sailing song through WWII Destroyer shantys.

Good luck! Keep us posted!


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: dwditty
Date: 21 Feb 99 - 11:07 PM

The Mudcat's own Barry Finn is a singer of shanties. You can send him a personal message by clicking at the top of the page. I am certain he would be interested.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Robin
Date: 22 Feb 99 - 01:26 AM

The monthly sea chanty sing in San Francisco is held the first Sat. of the month. It's at the Maritime Museum, a lovely collection of old ships. We usually sing on the Thayer. The accoustics in the belly of the ship are wonderful. The event is free, but you need to make reservations by the Thurs. before the event. Call the Maritime Museum.

Robin


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From:
Date: 23 Feb 99 - 10:17 PM

Thank you all, so much, for your kind wishes. We have a monthly shanty sing, here in New York, at the South Street Seaport. A few months ago, we had a very special evening, paying tribute to the late Bernie Klay, a dear friend of mine, founder of the X Seaman's Institute and pivotal figure in the sea shanty community for the last 30 years.

I must say that for the first 20 years of my sea shanty hobby, I had to keep it a secret, somewhat like a closet fetish or illegal religion, confining my singing to safe venues, such as alone at sea... or in the shower. It wasn't until February of 1996 that I stumbled over a whole bunch of fellow shanty lovers, and began writing my book.

In answer to harpgirl's question, I'm sorry to say that I don't have "Sweet Forget Me Knot." (At least not yet!) The closest I have is "The Sweet Town of Anthony," a descendant of the Irish ballad, "The Sweet County Antrim."

I hope I'll pick up a few more gems by talking to folks like you. And I'm glad to be a part of your group.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Matthew Bram
Date: 23 Feb 99 - 10:18 PM

Oops. I forgot to sign my name to the above message.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Alice
Date: 23 Feb 99 - 10:57 PM

.... Matthew, did you say shower?...

that's a joke, son.... for the rest of the story, do a forum search with the word 'shower' in the body field.

Alice in Montana


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Dani
Date: 24 Feb 99 - 07:57 AM

Matthew, keep us posted on the book! I'd love to see/hear it. I'm just beginning to appreciate these songs, they're not ones you get to sing everyday, as you pointed out. I just this weekend stumbled on an LP of these songs at an estate sale and am wearing it out.

Can we talk about spelling for a minute? I know you SAY 'shanty' (as in, "we'll hang around the shanty and put a good buzz on") but is that the right spelling? How about all these 'chanties?'

What's the origin of the word? Any mavens care to comment?

Dani


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Bert
Date: 24 Feb 99 - 09:34 AM

From the French chanter - to sing.
A lot of dictionaries list both spellings.

I love 'em. Just can't wait for the book Matthew.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Bob Schwarer
Date: 24 Feb 99 - 11:33 AM

I didn't know Bernie Klay died. Sure sorry to here that. Haven't been to South Street since the early eighties.

Bob S.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: SeanM
Date: 24 Feb 99 - 01:10 PM

On spelling...

There are soooo many variations on the word that it's not even funny... basically, any way you care to spell it seems to be correct. I've seen 'shanty', 'shantie', 'chanty', 'chantie', in one old book 'chantry', and even once 'schantie', but I'm pretty sure the last one was a misspelling.

As to origin, it could very well be French... Stan Hugill had a lot to say on the subject of the origin, and several theories, but, sadly, I don't have the reference handy... Anyone care to throw out some of the other theories? I know I've heard one about it being Portugese...

M


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: takeo
Date: 24 Feb 99 - 06:59 PM

i love to hear sea shanties sung by paul clayton. tradition label once has "paul clayton/ the day of moby dick" album, this is the most favorite one of mine in folk music. from which state did he come from? i think he's not a southern person but north like bay area in boston. japan also have many many sea shanties couse our land is made with many tiny islands. some songs are from continent, some from pacific polinesia. we can see the original form of oriental shanties at okinawa island in japan, where ry cooder loved and sung to. -takeo


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Susan of DT
Date: 24 Feb 99 - 07:10 PM

Come to the Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festivbal in early June (if you haven't already been there). Besides hearing lovely music, you can meet the curator of several whaling/sea museums, many of whom are performers.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Matthew Bram
Date: 25 Feb 99 - 11:30 PM

Hi Dani.

I've been writing this book as an ongoing project, and was actually thinking of having it published posthumously. I state a disclaimer in the book's preface: *****

This book is filled with more plagiarism than a college freshman's term paper, but I'm still printing it for two reasons: 1. Folk music is usually considered to be in the "public domain," especially since almost every folk song ever "written" is really just a slightly reworked copy of some other song that came before it. I'm just continuing that "noble" tradition. 2. I don't charge any money for this, so I'm not committing an act of copyright infringement. I typed this on my own time, and copied it at my own expense. My motivation: deep love for this stuff, the desire to share it with others, and the fact that I don't have much of a life anyway so it's not like I had something better to do with my time instead. Pathetic, isn't it? ***** Well, I actually do have quite a life, but I enjoyed writing that just the same. My thought about a postumous publishing would be to avoid all the lawsuits. But maybe I won't die very soon, so I might want to publish it anyway. Any advice?

>I just this weekend stumbled on an LP of >these songs at an estate sale and am >wearing it out Could you please tell me, which LP?

As for the origins of the word, it comes from the French, "Chanter" which means "to sing" the French word for "song" is "chanson" Anyway, the word we use has many spellings: Chanty, Shanty, Shantey, and so on... although I keep hearing the the only "official" spelling is "chantey." Harumph. I don't beive in an official anything.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Matthew Bram
Date: 25 Feb 99 - 11:35 PM

Hi Takeo.

Konbanwa. I'm so glad to see that your a fan of Paul Clayton's. I have been a devoted fan of his for over 20 years. In my mind, his versions of many songs are what i consider to be the definitive versions. OAs for others... well, he had his style.

Unfortuately, when I asked the late Bernie Klay about Paul's whereabouts, Bernie replied "um, we sort of killed him." He was referring to the fact that Paul's life wasn't going very well, so one day he decided to take a bath with his toaster. A sad end for a fine artist... and another little gem of folklore.

By the way, I would LOVE to learn some Japanese sea shanties, complete with melodies and translations. could you help me with that?

Matthew


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Matthew Bram
Date: 25 Feb 99 - 11:37 PM

Dear Susan of DT.

Of course I'll be at Mystic -- again. I'm a devoted follower of Forebitter, Don Sinetti, and all the other Chanteymen. I'm particularly excited about this year's upcoming Mystic debut of the WindLasses. Keep an eye out for them.

Matthew


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Subject: Sea Shanties
From: mystdragon@hotmail.com
Date: 26 Feb 99 - 06:17 AM

Hello all!

Avast, and what not, even.

Yar! Okay, enough silliness, its just very early in the morning, and I've spent most of today looking for a decent .wav or .mp3 or real audio version of any number of good, fun Sea Shanties. Forbitters, long hauls, anything.

If anyone has any they'd be willing to part with to help start a personal collection, it would be much appreciated.

Besides that, I spent 4 years in the Navy, and never got to sing a real Sea Shanty once... pretty sad, such a good tradition fading to black.

Keep up the searching, ye landlubbers!

Any files or the location of such files (I'm especially looking for an audio of Yo Ho Ho - 15 men on a dead man's chest - which, while it may not be a real shanty, is one I really would like to hear the words sung to.) can be sent to:

mystdragon@hotmail.com

Thanks!


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Dani
Date: 26 Feb 99 - 06:33 AM

Matthew, the recording is SEA CHANTIES by The Roger Wagner Chorale on Capitol. Can't find a date. But it is 'dated' - on the back is a blurb that says "This monophonic microgroove recording is playable on monophonic and stereo phonographs. It cannot become obsolete."

I asked my husband if they ever sang when he was in the Navy. He said there was one guy who was always trying to get a song up, but that everyone laughed at him. Isn't that sad? Guess they don't let 'em stay out to sea long enough anymore. Or maybe it's the TV/VCR. Like us, they can watch someone else singing.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Bert
Date: 26 Feb 99 - 09:27 AM

mystdragon,

Yo Ho Ho is on 'Blood, Booze, 'n Bones', Elektra 108, recorded by Ed Mc Curdy.

I lost my copy years ago but seem to recall that he had a fairly long version.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Matthew Bram
Date: 26 Feb 99 - 10:35 AM

Dear mystdragon@hotmail.com (if that's your name),

The "yo ho ho" song you seek is called "Derelict." It has been delightfully rendered and recorded by the group "Spindrift" among others.

If you like, I can send you the lyrics, the midi file of the music, or both, but I don't have an audio file I can send you.

Let me know.

- Matthew


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Matthew Bram
Date: 26 Feb 99 - 10:36 AM

Dani,

I would like to talk to you about that record album. Could you please send me your e-mail address? Mine is MattGB1@Juno.com

Thanks.

Matthew


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Susan of DT
Date: 26 Feb 99 - 10:56 AM

Matthew - If you get a mudcat tee shirt by June, we can find you. Or ask performers to point us out - most of them know us.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: SeanM
Date: 26 Feb 99 - 01:24 PM

On the subject of the Navy no longer singing...

From the personal experience of having been there, a large part of it is the increased size of the crews, and the change in the type of work involved.

I worked with a Senior Chief who would regale us (when bribed with enough drinks ashore) with stories of his recent stay on board a minesweeper... These are tiny little ships, with only 6-10 people on board. When any job needed to be done, the entire crew - captain included - would turn to and finish the job. He mentioned several times that they would often sing traditional shanties to help the work along.

As to the type of work, once you're off of the smaller vessels, there really isn't anything that requires a song, or even asks for it. After all, it seems slightly silly to sing 'South Australia' while pushing a button and watching the anchor haul itself in. 'S matter of fact, I ws at sea for 7 months straight, and because of my duties on board, the closest I ever came to a traditional 'sailor's duty' was mopping our berthing area out...

M


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Matthew Bram
Date: 26 Feb 99 - 02:30 PM

Muckscrapper,

You've hit the nail on the head... but you've sort of whacked your thumb with the hammer. With all of its great ballads, forebitters and drinking songs, the heart of the sea shanty is still its function as a work song -- designed to get people to work together in unison. What good is a common cry of "Haul Away, Joe" when your cargo is being hoisted by an electric winch?

Aside from their musical or other qualities, sea shanties only existed because of that. As for any correllation to the size of the ship, that only applies in modern times inasmuch as the smaller ships don't always have all the necessary gizmos, so men still have to work in unison. Even in the old days, size didn't matter. Ahem. I mean, no shanties were used in the Navy, because any voice but the commander's could interfere with battle. So they achieved work unison by a series of whistles instead of using the songs you and I love.

Matthew


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Alice
Date: 26 Feb 99 - 04:00 PM

Interesting that your last message mentions Haul Away Joe.

I just got back from singing folk songs to a 6th grade class, and they sang Haul Away Joe along with me. I had them imagine the rhythm of men working together pulling on a rope. They loved it. I also gave them a handout that included a webpage of links, with the Mudcat/DT at the top. We may have even more youngsters show up.

alice in montana


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: jets
Date: 27 Feb 99 - 12:53 PM

David Kasanof Who writes "Fo'c'sle" for the Wooden Boat magazine decries the fact that Sea Chantys today are being sung by those with good singing voices.He thinks that it detracks from the authenticity of the song ,for in the old working days of sail ,these songs were sung by rum soaked ,hung over seamen.And as for females singing these songs ,how real can that be? These are his thought and are not a reflection of my own. I suppose that the ansuer is, to be a least haf boomed when singing sea chantys.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Matthew Bram
Date: 27 Feb 99 - 01:45 PM

Hi jets.

I understand what David means, but I'm not such a purist that I won't accept a song unless it's out of key and sung by a voice that reeks from last night's rum.

The only thing that detracts from the authnticity of a song for me is when it is sung with the wrong spirit. Despite their images in the movies, these sailors were not the cartoon characters we often like to imagine them as having been. Even the "roughest" sailor would often shed a tear when someone sang "Home, Deary, Home" or "A Sailor's Grave." These were people too. What I love most about these songs is the way they helped these men (and yes, sometimes even women!!) to endure adversities that you and I would not even consider facing.

A typical sailor was usually faced with great uncertainty of his survival, extreme cruelty from his superiors, a total lack of reliable medical help or proper nutrition, and usually didn't even have adequate clothing or protection from the elements. (Look closely at some of those old photos; you'll see men climbing the rigging in street shoes and tattered slacks.)

Somehow, these songs empowered sailors with an acceptance of these conditions, great pride and bravado in his ability to face them, and most of all, a way to use humor to look at his situation. For me, that spirit reaches me through the music. And it even arms me with the spirit to endure my own hardships, however less dramatic.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Wotcha
Date: 27 Feb 99 - 07:35 PM

Matthew, glad to see that you have already weighed in (pun intended) on sea chanteys in the short week on Mudcat.

To discuss lack of tradition in the navy, I submit that chanteys may never have been a strong tradition since in the Royal Navy, at least, they were known as the "silent service" (not to be confused with the current US Naval reference to its submariners). Bad operational security to start belting out a chantey when chasing down some elusive man o'war. Of course, colonial and other national practices may have differed ...

Hope to see more threads from you. And hope to back in NYC for some more Brooklyn Brown Ale and chanteys in a few months,

Cheers, Brian


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 27 Feb 99 - 09:33 PM

Takeo:

You are right. Paul Clayton (Worthington) was originally from New Bedford, Massachusetts, a great old whaling center at the heel of Cape Cod. He did graduate work in Folklore at the University of Virginia, working under A. K. Davis, respected author of a couple of books on the traditional ballads of that state. After completing his Master's degree, Paul got himself a small cabin near Brown's Cove, Virginia. which he used as his home base. Unfortunately, for all of us, he took his own life in the manner described in an earlier posting to this thread. Almost a formal self-execution. A tragic ending for a brilliant and extremely creative individual.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: SeanM
Date: 27 Feb 99 - 10:23 PM

Speaking of the traditions...

Several sources (Hugill being the one most in mind, but several historic ones as well) cite the various naval fleets as not singing. That 'burden' fell to the Merchant Marines of the various times and nations. As far as I can tell, it took the final replacement of sail by the various steam & etc. ships to silence the use of shanties... although I do hear some people say they still know of merchants singing their own modern shanties, mostly of the foc's'le variety for their entertaiment.

M


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Subject: Lyr Add: THE OLD RED DUSTER (John Archbold)
From: Wotcha
Date: 28 Feb 99 - 12:51 AM

And speaking of a merchant marine chantey (I am supposing this is one), let's ADD this to the database -- I collected it at a sing in Maryland, so have no idea of its origin:

THE OLD RED DUSTER

I remember the day that I climbed the gangway,
My new coat and jacket, so clean--
No bacon and eggs till I got my sea legs--
My first trip. My God, I was green!

CHORUS: It's the old red duster for me,
And a tramp or a liner.
There'll be no {brass hat???) navy for me.
You can keep your salutes
And your spit-polished boots.
It's the old red duster for me.

On many's the ship, I've made many's the trip
On oceans and seas, far and wide--
Many ports, near and far, been thrown from the bar.
There's many the young girl beguiled.

I sailed in the war like my uncle before,
From Britain, right down to Bombay.
My little convoy bag, I sailed for the flag,
The glory, the medals, and the pay.

I was pulled from the pool. I was nobody's fool.
There was a jaunt up to Murmansk for me,
But the union said, "No, there's a fault. You can't go."
It's the union forever for me.

The sturdy old tramp's got a foc'sl that stamps.
Her splights are half sprung and they leak.
The food's always bad, and the master's gone mad,
And the owner's a bastard, and cheap.

I've sweated and slaved. at this engine I've raged,
Nursing this cripple along.
For her joints, they're a-creaking, and her glands they are a-leaking.
At six knots, she's racing along.

I've been in the hold in the heat and the cold
All day and all night as well,
And when my time's near, I'll go without beer,
For I've been where it's hotter than hell.

So now you all know why the good sailors go,
Merchant seamen to be.
If you want any more, like what come before,
You can bloody well sing it to me.

HTML line breaks added. --JoeClone, 30-Nov-02.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Barry Finn
Date: 28 Feb 99 - 04:46 AM

Hi Matthew, just to add to Susan's comment on Mystic in early June, you'd be hard pressed to find better or even an equal anywhere. Get a mudcat Tee-shirt, they're usually a few of us there.

As to "Chanty" coming from the the french to sing or chant, the debate will probably never stop. I'd say on guessing that there's a strong possiblily of it coming from the West Indian tradition. They've been singing to the moving of their shanties (houses) for a very long time & it's possible they've influenced the world of shantydom far greater & longer than most have in the past given them credit for.

Yo Ho Ho ..... was originally a 4 line song by Robert Louis Stevenson for Treasure Island called "Cap'n Billy Bones his Song". Young Ewing Allison worked this into a six verse song calling it "A Piratical Ballad" & later calling it "Derelict". The Dead Man's Chest refers to a Caribbean island reef. If you'd like the six verses let me know & I'll post them. (from S. Frank's 'The Book Of Pirate Songs'.

Besides the New York (South St Seaport) & San Francisco (Hyde St Pier) shanty sings there's another I believe in DC or Baltimore run by KC King.

Jets, I also read Wooden Boats 'Foc's'le' on shanties & replied, as of yet they haven't published my comments. Barry


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Ian Kirk (inactive)
Date: 28 Feb 99 - 06:22 AM

Welcome aboard Matthew. Let us all know when the book/record is ready I think you have a number of customers ready to buy as soon as the print is dry.

Following this thread I took another dip in to A.L..Lloyd's book Folk Songs in England originally published by Lawrence and Wishart Ltd, London 1967 he devotes a section to the history of the shanty. Unfortunately I do not know whether the book is still in print but if you can find a copy it is an excellent read.

His view is that the "practice of shanty singing as we know it best emerged during the American dominated packet ship days of roughly 1830-50 and it reached it's peak in the British dominated clipper ship era of 1855-70"

These vessels were commercial craft with tight sailing schedules. As a consequence of the Industrial Revolution in Britain and world wide demand for machine made goods Isaac Wright and Co's Black Ball Line for example, began their regular run between Liverpool and New York in 1816 sailing on the first of each month regardless of the weather or the amount of cargo on board.

Lloyd goes on to point out the importance of the shanty man. Competition between these packet ships and other such commercial craft meant that the shipowners would try anything that might help the fast and efficient working of their vessels. He says "men heaved and hauled better if they sang at work. 'A good shantyman's worth six more hands on the rope' was the saying. Some companies paid a bonus to the man who was a good leader of work songs, the man with a strong voice and a ready wit for spinning chants out of his head in a way that had his workmates toiling with a will."

I believe on war ships as opposed to merchant ships there was a rule requiring silence on deck which seems reasonable. If you were stealing up on the enemy fleet in the mist with a view to taking them by surprise a hearty rendering of Haul Away Joe by the lusty matelots wouldn't help.

Hmm I don't suppose in today's world Stealth aircraft crew are encouraged to sing "Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer" as they go about their business. Though it might give any ground tracking station something to puzzle about - "Er we can't see it but there seems to be some singing coming from somewhere - good chorus!"

Ian


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Margo
Date: 28 Feb 99 - 10:33 AM

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the other theory of where the word shanty came from. I have read in several chanty collections (including Colcord and Doerflinger) that it's thought that the word may have come from the negro sailors who generally lived in shantys when ashore. It does raise questions. Margarita


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Wotcha
Date: 28 Feb 99 - 10:51 AM

Barry:

You mentioned shanty sings in the DC/Baltimore area. The first Tuesday of the month, a group known as the Ships Company Chanteymen lead a sing in Wheaton, Maryland at the Royal Mile Pub. Starting in March, they may also meet in Old Town Alexandria on the Third Tuesday of the month.

The Ships Company Chanteymen are a part of a larger nonprofit reenactment group. They are going to be doing some battle in Baltimore's Inner Harbor (as part of a promotion apparently for the A&E version of Horatio Hornblower) on 27 March along with Pyrates Royale -- a rather interesting group of bohemians who could be categorized as a troupe, groupe, or something else ... Both organizations have a web site and are doing lots to preserve a valuable tradition in the DC area.

I recently visited the NYC sing. The singers are quite distinguished and accomplished -- the atmostphere is different too (essential a community Church Hall vice a pub) but the net effect is still wonderful.

Hopefully this is a tradition that will revive elsewhere. In fact, one of the Ships Company is trying to get something going in New Orleans through a former Boarding Party member who lives there. I believe that Richmond, VA also has a sing. I intend to bring this tradition to the Middle East and maybe come back with some Arabic Chantey about Dhows and persian rugs ....

Cheers, Brian


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: SeanM
Date: 28 Feb 99 - 12:46 PM

As to the origin of the word 'shanty':

Margarita brings up a good point. There is a very strong influence from the various 'slave ports' that ships would do business at. A fair amount of evidence points to some owners selling their slaves to ship's captains as deck seamen so that the owners wouldn't need to support their 'charges' during the off season. The slaves definitely influenced shanties on board, as they brought the plantation and other songs of their past with them.

One of the things that fascinates me about shanties is the incredible diversity in music sources that can be traced. Since the captains were in the habit of picking up crews anywhere they could, the result is a body of tradition where musical influences can be seen from almost every nation in the world.

*Steps down off of soapbox*

The original point of this (yes there was one) was to point out that the word 'shanty' probably owes less to the slave culture than to other regions that the sailors hailed from. I may be off on the timeframe, but I believe that the word 'shanty' was being used at some point in the 1820-1830 range, and from regions that wouldn't have had as much contact from the slave labor. But as has been said, linguists and etymologists have been debating the origin of the word for as long as it's been a recognized word... I doubt that I'm going to solve anything.

M


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: John Mayberry
Date: 28 Feb 99 - 12:51 PM

"The Old Red Duster" is by John Archbold, of Toronto. I know Alistair Brown has it on his latest CD- I seem to remember Tom Lewis recording it as well. John's original words include "pusser Navy" (instead of "brass-hat Navy") in the chorus. "Pusser", as in "purser" (see the famous rum), was apparently an expression of disdain for the rank- and rule-bound Royal Navy by the merchant seamen. The verse about the trip to Murmansk, John has explained to me, concerns the fact that a company wanted to send his uncle on the dangerous trip, only paying him as a "fourth" (class seaman ?), but the union intervened and said they couldn't do that. "The union said 'No, as a fourth he can't go.'"

In the original, "Her plates (not splights) are half sprung and they leak."

John Archbold (who has written a number of other excellent songs) is a founding member of The Toronto Morris Men (aka The Wall of Sound), who can be blamed for the odd shanty session (sometimes featured and advertised, more often in a pub or a kitchen) up here in Toronto.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Barry Finn
Date: 28 Feb 99 - 05:22 PM

Hi Wotcha, thanks for the straighting out on those sessions. I've yet to hit the NYC sessions but have sung in various places with a good bit of those that are regulars & I've been mightly impressed. It's been 20 yrs since I've frequented the San Francisco sessions & would die for any excuse to hit that one or the others that you've mentioned.

Hugill leans to the word Shanty as coming from the southern ports & the Afro American influence. I'd venture to take this a good bit further. The Eastern seaboard, from New England to the West Indies, prior to the Civil War & going back to the Revolution, was governed if not ruled by Black Watermen. In the North, Captain A.B.Boston, a contempory of Chrispuis Adioux (Sp?), was an Afro American captain of the whaling schooner 'Industry' & she was manned by an all black crew. This was not anymore uncommon than finding white sailors working the seaports. The best a black man could hope for at the time would be to work the water (later came the RR), weither it was on a plantation owned vessel or a foreign owned ship with a checkerboard crew. The slave & the freeman sailed the Alantic rim for near 100 years singing work songs, the shanties from their tradition lasted far into the 19th century on the smaller vessels while the shanties of their white counterparts died out. Would it not then be very likely that the shanty may have been in use in these areas a good many years before the rise of the so called mid 18th century golden age of shanties, only not collected or documented until it's near demise. Abrahams collected in the 1960's throughout the Caribbean, Lomax along the Georgia Sae Islands from the 40's to the 60's & we have the living legacy of the Manhaden Chanteymen & the Northern Neck Chanteymen that sang up until the 50's in the Manhaden fishing industry. I think that the Afro American influence on shanties is still greatly underestimated. Any input &/or comments would be a great value to me if anyone would care to make on this subject. Barry


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: SeanM
Date: 28 Feb 99 - 06:09 PM

To continue with the last note...

I don't think that it's so much a matter of the Afro-American influence being understated, more than the influences of all the nations together being understated. I have friends majoring in music theory (Look for them either teaching or on a corner begging soon) who love to pick apart traditional shanties for the sheer joy of trying to figure out where they came from. Their general consensus seems to be that the three major influences of the shanties were the Irish emigrant wave (post-coffin ships), the African and Afro-American (as more left whatever they were doing ashore and joined aboard ships) and the European base (Drastically oversimplified... every one of the ocean-going nations contributed something to the mix)

It's problematic to try and lay claim for any one particular influence as being the one that shaped shanties for all time. If you read Dana's 'Two Years Before the Mast', he several times refers to the songs that were sung aboard his ships, and also those of the other crews (including a Kanaka crew singing entirely in their own language).

Perhaps shanties should be considered one of the true 'international' forms of singing?

M


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Ferrara
Date: 28 Feb 99 - 08:48 PM

Any hope of getting a tune here for The Old Red Duster? I love it. [This request for a tune brought to you by a person who has struggled unsuccessfully with miditxt for the last 24 hours re another thread....]

We live near the Royal Mile in Wheaton and I've been hoping to get there soon. Guess I need a mudcat t-shirt. They're getting to be a necessity as we all wander around the country. A nice necessity.

Barry Finn -- Crispus Attucks is one spelling I've seen.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Pete M
Date: 28 Feb 99 - 11:40 PM

John, the "jaunt up to Murmansk" I think goes a bit deeper than that. The pool system of crewing ships was used during the war and Murmansk was the destination of the artic convoys to supply Russia. The PQ convoys were and are generally acknowledged to be the most dangerous regular convoy run of the war. "Fourth" would have been fourth mate. "Pusser" is the Navy term for purser, and was in common use as a descriptive for the Andrew by men of the merchant marine. Just in case its not obvious to anyone, the Red duster is the Red Ensign worn by British Merchantmen.

Just as an aside it is not generally appreciated that the most dangerous service in the second world war in terms of percentage of men killed and wounded was the Merchant Marine.

Pete M


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: rich r
Date: 28 Feb 99 - 11:40 PM

An interesting book that covers some territory usually ignored by most books containing songs of the sea is: The Music Of The Waters by Laura A Smith. It was written in 1888 and republished in 1969. The book includes a body of information about sea songs from non-English speaking countries (Hugill also has a number of northern European songs). The sub-title on the title page says: "A collection of the sailors' chanties or working songs of the sea, of all maritime nations. Boatmen's, Fishermen's, and rowing songs, and water legends." Not including the first 4 chapters of British Isles/North American songs the following chapters are found:

French sailor's & boatmen's songs
Italian sailors', Neopolitan fishermen's & Venetian gondoliers' songs
Scandinavian sea songs
German sailors' songs
Dutch sailors' and herring-fishers' songs
Russian sailors' songs
Greek songs
Japanese sailors' songs
Nile boatmen's songs
Indian water songs
From China to Peru .

As can be inferred from the chapter titles, many of the songs are not necessarily work songs.

rich r


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Wotcha
Date: 01 Mar 99 - 09:17 PM

Ferrara:

Come to the Royal Mile this week! 2 March, then you'll get the tune ... Since you are in Maryland bring a Linda Tripp recording device ...!

Cheers, Brian


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Big Mick
Date: 01 Mar 99 - 10:06 PM

I have wanted to take a look at this thread for a while, but as you know, I have been a bit incommunicado. But it was worth the wait. Matthew, welcome to our town, and please pace yourself so you don't get tired and leave. You are a welcome addition, and with Barry Finn and Dan Milner around, you will not be for wont of informed discussion of your genre. This is an area that I have wanted to do more with, and thanks to this thread (long may it wave) I have a good start. Good work, lad.

All the best,

Big Mick Lane


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: takeo
Date: 01 Mar 99 - 10:18 PM

mattew, i wrote you a mail directly to mattgb1. if you cannot receive, tell me directly to t215@geocities.com. and sandy, thanks for your message now i know paul is from cape breton. and thanks everybody for further discussion, i enjoy this forum very much. -takeo


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: takeo
Date: 01 Mar 99 - 10:52 PM

correction: not cape breton but cape cod. where's cape breton? in ireland? -takeo


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Barry Finn
Date: 01 Mar 99 - 11:04 PM

Hi takeo, Cape Breton is roughly 600 mile northeast of Cape Cod. Barry


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Gerry Stensgaard
Date: 02 Mar 99 - 12:38 PM

Cape Breton (Island)is part of Nova Scotia, Canada. Famous for Celtic music in general, fiddlers in particular, e.g. Asley MacIsaac, Natalie McMaster.


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Subject: RE: sea shanties
From: Martin _Ryan
Date: 02 Mar 99 - 01:21 PM

On the death of shanties: I have a tape somewhere of The Shanty Crew (of Bristol?) singing "The Last Shanty" which starts:

Moden ships they got mighty funny gear
And away, get away you shanty man
I ain't seen a halyard for many's the year!
And they got no work for a shantyman!.

I might have it on disc somewhere - if so I'll post it later.
On "dead man's chest": I have a vague memory of Hugill implying it might refer to a "deadman's face" - a swivel for two anchors? Any evidence for the reef connection, Barry?

Several posts above discuss the problem of "over-tidy" shanties i.e. with the rough edges (musically and content-wise!) taken off. Its a delicate business. The trick is to maintain some trace, at least, of the spirit involved in worksongs. As an example: I very much enjoy the one CD I have of Paul Clayton (Songs of Whaling and Sailing Ships, or similar). He had a fine voice and a folklorist's feel for the sets of words he used. BUT he was no great shanty-singer! His versions appeal because they are very musical. They need to appeal despite being musical! Of course, the reverse is not true - a shanty isn't great just because its bawled out toneless!

I'm beginning to understand why I kept away from this thread for so long. Think I'll just go out to Glasson tomorrow night and sing a few shanties!

Regards

p.s. Many years ago, I ran a shanty-session in Athlone - which is as far away from the sea as you can get in Ireland!


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