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Looking For A Good Sea Shanty


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#1 Stephen Mills

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Posted 29 January 2004 - 10:06 AM

I read once a year to my daughters' grade school classes. This year, I thought I'd read a brief, highly illustrated version of Treasure Island. A good shanty on solo concertina might add some nice color.

I see from some of your Interest entries that at least a couple of you play some of these. (New folks, please consider entering at least a little information for those of us nosy about our cohorts.) Any recommendations?

I should say that I won't play Blow the Man Down or Sailor's Hornpipe, simply because I can't stand them. Drunken Sailor has just about the right atmosphere, but I'm afraid I'd get looked at askance because of the lyrics. Anyone know some that fairly reek of sea salt, even Hollywood's version of a shanty? (I probably will add a few bars of that grand old shanty, Gilligan's Island, for the teachers' benefit.)

#2 dbowers

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Posted 29 January 2004 - 10:18 AM

My first choice would be "Sixteen Men on a Dead Man's Chest".

If you want something livelier, "The Maid of Amsterdam" works nicely on 'tina.

"Way, Haul Away!" is also good and you should be able to find a few non-objectionable verses.

#3 shipcmo

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Posted 29 January 2004 - 10:30 AM

Hi,
You didn't say whether you would be using an Anglo, or English, but if it is an Anglo;
"Leave Her, Johnny" is a good pumping shanty to use to close the presentation.
Cheers,
Geo

#4 JimLucas

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Posted 29 January 2004 - 04:24 PM

This year, I thought I'd read a brief, highly illustrated version of Treasure Island. A good shanty on solo concertina might add some nice color.

You repeatedly say "play", but you also mention appropriateness of lyrics. I hope you're planning to sing, yes? Shanties are songs, first and foremost. Without the words, there's nothing especially nautical about them.

How old are the kids in the class? Do you think you'll be able to get them to sing along on a simple chorus? As Geo said, "Leave Her, Johnny" is a good one for winding down at the end. To build excitement earlier on, I would suggest "South Australia". The pace is good (in fact, you can vary it to suit yourself), the chorus is very simple, and there are not only many different verses to choose from, but many different kinds of verses. E.g., forget

As you go wallopin' round Cape Horn
You'll wish to Christ you'd never been born.

But the kids should love

Our shipboard cats ain't got no tails;
They've all blown away in the heavy gales.

Another couple of lively ones are "Boney" and "Reuben Ranzo". "Maid of Amsterdam" is brisk, but the words are sexually suggestive. From what you say, "Whiskey, Johnny" wouldn't be a good idea, and maybe not even "Haul Away, Joe", with verses like

First I got me a Spanish girl, but she was fat and lazy,
So then I got me a Danish tart, and she damn near drove me crazy.

but what about "Hangin' Johnny"? For some reason violence seems more acceptable than either sex or booze, especially if treated with tongue in cheek.

They says I hangs for money;
They think they're so bloomin' funny.

And the verses in "Blow, Boys, Blow" about dubious meals, e.g.,

What do you thnk we had for dinner?
A monkey's head and a donkey's liver.

might not interest first graders, but older kids would think them funny.

"Yea Ho, Little Fish" isn't too fast, since it's a lullaby, as well as a shanty. There are plenty of songs that mention pirates, but they're generally complex ballads that probably won't go over with the kids if they need a simplified version of Treasure Island. The only shanty I know of that mentions piracy is "Captain Kidd". "Shenandoah" is one that would sound familiar at least to the teachers. Do they still teach that to kids in school?

More forebitters than shanties ("shanties" are work songs; "forebitters" are for relaxation) actually mention the sea, e.g., "Strike the Bell" or "Rolling Down to Old Maui", but their choruses also tend to be more complex.

If you want to play a hornpipe, you might consider "Fisher's Hornpipe". (After all, what these days is commonly called "The Sailor's Hornpipe" was originally "College Hornpipe", but there are a couple of other tunes also known as "Sailor's Hornpipe".)

With your mention of Gilligan's Island I tried to think of other commercial (as opposed to traditional) songs, but that's not my forte. The only one I could think of was "Whale of a Tale" from Disney's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea", and once again, that's about sailors and women.

Good luck in your search. Feel free to ask more questions, on or off line.

P.S. Which kind of concertina do you play?

#5 Stephen Mills

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Posted 29 January 2004 - 04:54 PM

Thanks for the suggestions. I play 30 key Anglo, but sing far worse than I play. Nevertheless, I could handle a tune like Drunken Sailor vocally, but nothing too demanding. The two classes are predominantly 8 and 10 years old. They will sing, if I have anything to do with it. I scan the reading material and artwork and project them with a PowerPoint projector, so they will have the words in front of them. With the right song, I intend to bribe them further to sing with cheap, free pirate hats for those who will join in.

I've been scrambling to find versions of the suggested tunes, although I haven't had a go at Jim's yet. I've found some of the tunes, and I've found some others as I searched that sound appropriately maritime for a few non-vocal moments, particularly "Aweigh Santy Ano" and "Fish of the Sea". The lyrics you cite look promising, Jim, and I'll try to track those down for the one sing-a-long.

I really appreciate all of your help.

Edited by Stephen Mills, 29 January 2004 - 04:55 PM.


#6 Helen

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Posted 30 January 2004 - 07:44 AM

Jim gave you a lot of good hints.

There is a Sea Shanty type festival in New England, perhaps New Hampshire or Mass. I am trying to find it. Someone who goes to that or organizes it might have some ideas. Oh, I forgot, I have a video of Sea Shanties or Shantys or whatever that I have not looked at. Maybe it has some too. Unfortunately, the VCR is on the blink.

Helen

#7 JimLucas

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Posted 30 January 2004 - 09:14 AM

Sea Shanty type festival in New England, perhaps New Hampshire or Mass.

More than one. The one I'm familiar with is in Mystic, CT. But I believe some of the posters here went to one in New Hampshire this past year. (Should be easy to find; the NH seacoast is pretty limited. :))

There may be others.

#8 raymy

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 06:44 AM

Stephen
One of my jokey busking songs that never fails to raise a smile is Popeye The Sailor Man. Dont know if it's a bona fide shanty or what category it comes under,but it's dead easy and i play it on a 30b G/D anglo. There's a download version on the net to re-familiarise yourself with the tune - nice G,C,D A minor stuff with a decent hook( the guys that wrote these kids tunes were invariably clever and talented musicians). Here's a verse to get you going...
I'm Popeye the sailor man (repeated)
I'm strong to the finich, cos i eats me spinach
I'm Popeye the sailor man.

PS; smoke a pipe and wear a sailor cap for added authenticity!!

#9 raymy

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 06:45 AM

Stephen
One of my jokey busking songs that never fails to raise a smile is Popeye The Sailor Man. Dont know if it's a bona fide shanty or what category it comes under,but it's dead easy and i play it on a 30b G/D anglo. There's a download version on the net to re-familiarise yourself with the tune - nice G,C,D A minor stuff with a decent hook( the guys that wrote these kids tunes were invariably clever and talented musicians). Here's a verse to get you going...
I'm Popeye the sailor man (repeated)
I'm strong to the finich, cos i eats me spinach
I'm Popeye the sailor man.

PS; smoke a pipe and wear a sailor cap for added authenticity!!

#10 JimLucas

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 08:07 AM

...Popeye The Sailor Man. Dont know if it's a bona fide shanty...

Definitely not "a bona fide shanty", but I don't think Stephen is intending an academic lecture. Treasure Island is fiction, after all.

Perhaps a more relevant question (to which I don't know the answer) is whether today's kids would recognize it. Do Popeye cartoons still run on TV? Maybe Popeye, like Gilligan's Island, would be nostalgic for the teachers, but without association for the kids.

#11 raymy

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 11:33 AM

Was there not a fairly recent remake of Popeye with Robin Williams taking the lead? I even seem to remember some kind of Popeye pilgrimage site for kids being built in Cyprus or Malta or somewhere. Most of the old cartoons are rerun on cable(i'm still a big fan of Wacky Races i'm ashamed to say) but you're prob right: Popeye would be too obscure for most 8-10 year olds.

#12 dbowers

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 11:49 AM

The movie "Popeye" with Robin Williams was made over 20 years ago. My, don't time fly!

#13 Helen

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 06:59 PM

Well, even if the kids don't know who Popeye is, they might like the song. It is catchy, easy to learn and probably fun to sing. (I can't sing, but kids can!) And hey, we don't know the history of a lot of tunes we play. Just because WE know who Popeye is or represents, doesn't mean the kids won't like the tune if they don't.

Just some thoughts.

Helen

#14 John Wild

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Posted 07 February 2004 - 01:41 PM

I read once a year to my daughters' grade school classes.  This year, I thought I'd read a brief, highly illustrated version of Treasure Island. 

There has been a musical version of treasure Island, I believe originally produced by Bernard Miles at the Mermaid theatre in London. I have some of the musical notation but not the words. I can scan and email this if you are interested.

- John Wild

#15 Jack Zuraw

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Posted 07 February 2004 - 06:34 PM

Maybe not true Chanteys, but any of these should catch the immagination of 8-10 year olds without having to 'clean up' the lyrics: http://revels.bizlan.../product12.html! Let us know how it turns out.
Jack

#16 Ken_Coles

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 07:51 AM

Maybe not true Chanteys, but any of these should catch the immagination of 8-10 year olds without having to 'clean up' the lyrics: (Revels CD)!

Yes, a good album. Revels is good about documenting the time and area of each number in the liner notes. I've used this one on my radio show a number of times.

Jack, how are you doing? (Topic for another thread, oops!) ;)

#17 Guernsey Pete

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 08:43 AM

Lots of good suggestions already. Here's mine;

Sixteen men on a ...strictly RL Stevenson, I'm afraid, not authentic, no original tune...but what's wrong with that, to 8 - 10 yo's ? Bernard Miles "Treasure Island" production at the Mermaid Theatre used some authentic songs, including the melody from "A boy to me was bound apprentice, Because his parents they were poor, I took him from St. James's workhouse, All for to sail on a foreign shore" ( what IS the name of that song ? ) as the theme tune, a lovely mournful minor melody. These productions were 35+ years ago....
I believe that the "Popeye" sets were left intact on Malta, at least for some time after the end of the production, for people to visit.
Stan Hugills various books on shanties might be a profitable source too, as one extra help.
I always think of pirates as very much pre the shanty era, more the Elizabethan to Stuart period, big wigs, heavy coats, romantic shirts....think Captain Hook/Johnny Depp. And not at all cute if you had to endure them, but well.....

GP

#18 Mark M

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Posted 08 February 2004 - 11:54 PM

A great source for sea tunes and other folk songs is contemplator.com . For ideas, inspiration and listening enjoyment pick up recordings by John Roberts and Tony Barrand, Tom and Chris Kastle, Video cassette(anglo instruction) and recordings by John Townley. All feature some anglo concertina.




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