Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Aquarussell

Going Sailing, What Should I Learn To Play?

Recommended Posts

Hello,

 

I am to be sailing on a wind powered replica of a 19th century ship the California this coming Saturday (November 9 2013) to watch the Star of India (originally launched as the Euterpe from the Isle of Man in 1863) sail for her 150th birthday.

 

http://www.sdmaritime.org/

 

I only know a few sea tunes;

 

Blow the Man Down,

Donkey Riding,

South Australia,

Dreadnaught,

 

and trying to learn the Sailor's Hornpipe.

 

Is Rambling Sailor a sea tune?

 

Is there anything else I should be learning? What is considered essential?

 

Thank you,

Russell Hedges

Aquarussell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How about "Faithless Nancy Dawson"?

 

Edited to reflect that I am green with envy.

Edited by Mike Franch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I bet you know Shenandoa. That counts. And across the western ocean is another nice wistful one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Russell

 

You could also try the Trumpet Hornpipe (Captain Pugwash), Off to California would be appropriate (if a little cheesy), perhaps the Lucknow Polka (for the Star of India connection), The Indian Queen (similar reasons), The Bonny Ship the Diamond would be appropriate (if only it was a whaler).

 

A few more shanties :

Haul on the Bowline

Poor Old Horse

What Shall we do with the Drunken Sailor

Hey Ho Little Fishes

 

Having played on ships before, nothing can be regarded as "essential" - playing anything at all will be well regarded

 

Good luck!

 

Alex West

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I should learn to play another instrument and leave expensive and valuable concertina at home, as far away as possible from damp sea air, salt & brine, and ozone.

Just my 2c

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Spoiler alert!

 

Work shanties are for revivalist landlubbers posing as nautical concertinists. :) Concertinas were not used for playing work shanties, according to the historical record. And when concertina was at its peak (last three decades of the 19th century), shanty singing was on the decline anyway. Assisted sail vessels and later, steam vessels were taking over.

 

What you can find in the 19th century record are three types of music played on concertinas at sea:

 

1) By far the most common recorded useage was for so-called ballroom dance music, in the form of polkas, schottisches, quadrilles and the like. Typically NOT Irish reels and jigs, despite the proliferation of 'nautical' CDs with authentic Chieftainesque 'mariners' playing the Rocky Road to Dublin in between versions of work shanties. Dances were chick magnets when the ship was docked (and on passenger sailing ships at sea), and the rock and roll of the day was a downmarket version of ballroom dance. For example, on the HMS Immortalite, in 1890 when the ship was opened to public inspection at Victoria Wharf near Dublin:

 

In the afternoon an impromptu dance was got up by the men of the Immortalite on the upper deck,evidently meant for the pleasure of the visitors, the music being supplied by a concertina skillfully played by one of the crew. For a considerable time the sailors engaged in waltzes, polkas, schottisches, and other dances of that kind, acquitting themselves in a finished manner, and many of them exhibiting great proficiency in that accomplishment.The fun was immensely enjoyed by the ladies and gentlemen on board, and several of the officers looked approvingly on.

 

Another very popular form of dance music played by sailors was taken from the blackface minstrels. That music, played on concertinas, banjos, and harmonicas, was used for regular social dances but also for stereotypical sand dances. I don't suggest you try that in the California of today. :rolleyes:

 

As for the Sailor's hornpipe, it was popular in Cook's day for aerobic dances on board cramped vessels, but that era was pre-concertina, and the fiddle would have been used for it. I don't recall reading of anyone in the concertina era playing it for dancing sailors.

 

2) Forebitters....basically, any sort of song the sailors wished to sing, when they were off duty. I would guess that any late nineteenth popular song or comic song would be fair game. And I don't think they particularly concentrated on "nautical" songs, from what I have seen...they seemed to have sung whatever was popular at port.

 

3) Hymns. Lots of instances in the historical record where they played hymns during trying times at sea, for comfort.

Documentation for all of this can be found in Chapter 4 of The Anglo-German Concertina: A Social History. You can read it online here.

Have fun, whatever you do. Its probably more fun to play what people expect, not what is historically accurate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Going along with the theme of "popular tunes of the day", there's a song that was a chart-topping hit as sheet music in 1868, which is also nautical in nature: Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still.

 

I have sailed a falling sky

And I've charted hazard's path

I have seen the storm arise

Like a giant in his wrath

Every danger I have known

That a reckless life can fill

Though her presence is now flown

Her bright smile haunts me still

Here are one of the versions of the lyrics, with written melody line: http://sniff.numachi.com/pages/tiBRTSMILE;ttBRTSMILE.html

 

So between that and listening to a few variants on YouTube you should be able to either figure out chordal backing if you want to sing it, or just do it as an instrumental.

 

This is one of those songs that people put in the "folk" category and know from old traditional singers up in Appalachia. But when you get to the actual origin of it, it's just as much "popular music" or "Top 40" as Justin Bieber or Rihanna are today. With no particular irony, I've been working up a few current popular R&B songs as concertina arrangements, since I've found several that just sound good that way.

 

 

Dan brings in some great reality check about true history vs. popular anachronism, but I submit my song choice fits both themes.

Edited by MatthewVanitas

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

- Farewell to Carlingford

- The Bonny Ship the Diamond

- Three Score and Ten

- Leave Her, Johnny

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some nice tune/song advice but.... if I were you I would be very wary of playing your nice concertina on an open decked ship especially if it has Steel reeds... the salty air can very quickly cause deep rust to form on the reed tongues.

 

In another thread I told the story of a lady who spent some time Busking at the Cliffs of Moher with her Jeffries.... when she came to me with note problems and I examined the reeds I was shocked at the state of them... the only word that comes to mind is RUINED!!!!

 

So, be aware of misty/salty air....

 

Hope you have a great time.

Geoff.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you everyone for you tune advice, I am taking it.

 

I got started with the Concertina because it seemed such a nineteenth-century instrument. I was already dancing the nineteenth-century dances, mazurka, schottische, hopsvalse, redowa, etc, and still do. I will take the dance music advice to heart, while still playing the expected sea tunes as well.

 

Perhaps I should take the Jackie for this trip? I have waded in the surf and played it, years ago, and still no rust today. Are the Jackie's Chinese reeds just more corrosion resistant than the old nineteenth-century steel of my Lachanal?

 

Are brass reeds more resistant to sea air than steel ones?

 

To everyone who posted to this thread, you have been most helpful and kind.

 

Thank you,

Aquarussell

Russell Hedges

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, brass reeds are commonly regarded as being more resistent; instruments for the Salvation Army had been "tropicalised" by the use of brass reeds if destined for countries with strong humidity.

 

As to the Jackie, it might not be more resistant but make it easier for you to get over a damage... :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am to be sailing on a wind powered replica of a 19th century ship the California this coming Saturday (November 9 2013) to watch the Star of India (originally launched as the Euterpe from the Isle of Man in 1863) sail for her 150th birthday.

 

http://www.sdmaritime.org/

 

I only know a few sea tunes;

 

Blow the Man Down,

Donkey Riding,

South Australia,

Dreadnaught,

 

and trying to learn the Sailor's Hornpipe.

 

Is Rambling Sailor a sea tune?

 

Is there anything else I should be learning?

Plenty of information and advice already from others. I'll try what I think is a different approach: What role will you be playing on the California?

 

I'm guessing you'll be "ship's entertainer" rather than "working sailor with concertina". To be sure, if you're going to be hauling lines, you won't want the concertina in your hands. That would not be beneficial to either the sails or the concertina. Besides, "off watch sailor with concertina" is really just a character played by an entertainer, no?

 

So unless you plan to be lecturing folks on what sailors really sang in their spare time, or even about what sorts of music were popular on board ships in the Star of India's heydey, then you should give to your contemporary passengers what they want/expect, which is exactly what the original entertainers did. That, for better or worse, is music that they will associate with sailors and sailing ships, and that seems to be the sort of thing you were asking about . So here are some thoughts/recommendations based on my own experience.

 

First of all, you used the word "tunes", not "songs". That greatly limits what the "naive" public will associate with "the sea". Many shanties, forebitters, and songs about the sea will satisfy them even if they haven't heard them before, because the words mention sailors, ships, etc., but without the words, the tunes will not evoke the sea. So you need tunes to songs that they are likely to have heard before in a nautical connection.

 

In my experience, the best known tunes (songs) in this connection are

  • Drunken Sailor
  • Blow the Man Down
  • New York Girls
  • Maid of Amsterdam
  • Shenandoah
  • Haul Away, Joe

In a category of song melodies less common but still fairly widely known among folks whose exposure to sea songs is incidental -- e.g., from listening to "Irish" groups -- I would include

  • South Australia
  • Donkey Riding (aka Hieland Laddie)
  • Leaving of Liverpool
  • Fiddler's Green
  • Leave Her, Johnny
  • John Kanaka

A third-level group might include

  • Boston Come All Ye (" 'Tis Advertised in Boston...")
  • Bonny Ship the Diamond
  • Three Score and Ten

Rambling Sailor is a great song, but without the words, I doubt that very many folks would associate the tune with the sea. Similarly with The Dreadnaught; I don't think many folks would know it as a sea song unless they're already "into" such songs.

 

As for wordless tunes, I think Sailor's Hornpipe (originally College Hornpipe) is the only one that is widely associated with the sea. (Thanks to Popeye and maybe some earlier stage performances.) Other tunes generally have maritime association only through their names, and few people know those names.

 

On the other hand, if you dress yourself in stereotypical (not to be confused with historically accurate) sailor garb, you can probably play anything you like on the concertina (well maybe not Hey, Jude, though Yellow Submarine still might get a laugh) and the majority of folks will consider it "salty".

 

What is considered essential?

"Essential" is in the ear of the beholder, so I don't think you should worry about it. Most likely someone will want Wild Rover or even Whiskey in the Jar, but I think you'll be much better off doing a good job of what you know than an uncertain job of what someone else wants at the moment.

Edited by JimLucas

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Perhaps I should take the Jackie for this trip? I have waded in the surf and played it, years ago, and still no rust today. Are the Jackie's Chinese reeds just more corrosion resistant than the old nineteenth-century steel of my Lachanal?

 

I'm not sure about wading in the surf, but there's a great difference between the air above the deck of a large ship on a calm day and the air above pounding waves at the Cliffs of Moher. The latter will almost certainly be full of tiny droplets of sea water, while the former can be both relatively dry and salt-free. Still, I wouldn't make a habit of playing my good Wheatstone on shipboard, especially in rough weather.

 

As for the steel in reeds, it could vary in several respects, depending on the maker, the particular model, and the era in which the instruments were made. Could resistance to corrosion have been one of those parameters, perhaps incidental, in which the reeds varied? I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me.

 

Are brass reeds more resistant to sea air than steel ones?

 

Yes, brass reeds are commonly regarded as being more resistent; instruments for the Salvation Army had been "tropicalised" by the use of brass reeds if destined for countries with strong humidity.

 

My understanding is that the brass used for reeds in those "tropicalised" concertinas was of a much higher quality than that in the "cheap" brass-reeded ones. If nothing else, I believe it was/is more resistant to work hardening, the bane of many brass reeds. Different resistance to corrosion, as well? I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me. I believe I've noticed differences in the brass even among different non-"tropicalised" concertinas I've worked on, with that in higher quality ones (e.g., rosewood Englishes) being different in color from that in lower quality ones (e.g., mahogany, 20 button anglos). I don't know that anyone has done actual tests of differential corrosion in vintage instruments, though.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If there will be kids on board (or parents of kids), two songs they'll think of as nautical are Dingle Regatta and Oyster Girl. Both those tunes are used on the cartoon show Spongebob Squarepants, and the kids all seem to know them.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaMqyQQIQHQ

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3bTi4BrjZM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If there will be kids on board (or parents of kids), two songs they'll think of as nautical are Dingle Regatta and Oyster Girl. Both those tunes are used on the cartoon show Spongebob Squarepants, and the kids all seem to know them.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaMqyQQIQHQ

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3bTi4BrjZM

 

Good call. I missed those because I no longer live in the US and I have neither a TV nor kids of the age that would be watching those cartoons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, so Sponge Bob Square Pants tunes, played because kids think they are nautical, finally put me over my limit. Might as well go buy a pirate costume so they can see some really cool nautical concertina playing. Heave ho, me johnnies! Avast! and Yo Ho Ho.

 

Presumably, Russell has asked for advice because he is aware that the California (actually, the Californian) is a historical replica and the State Tall Ship of California, charged to help students and the general public "to develop an appreciation for the maritime heritage and coastal resources of the state." So here's the big choice.....use this as a teachable moment, or just grin and play to the low information masses? Time to dig out some information on the California and its former activity.

 

It turns out that the Californian is an attempted recreation of the C H Lawrence, a revenue cutter named for a Customs collector in the port of New York. Its life was from 1848 until running aground in 1851 -- so pretty much before all known historical references to the concertina at sea. But no matter that little historical anachronism...lets go back to Russell's question of what he should be learning? Could this be both fun AND a teachable moment?

 

The ship was built in Washington DC in 1848 to replace some cutters lost in the Mexican American War, which was raging at the time. First tip: some of those tunes and songs from that war would be appropriate (after all, that war ultimately led to the acquisition of California, for better or worse). :) Here is a link to some.

 

The ship was then assigned to patrol the California coast; it sailed there via Cape Horn in late 1848. Second tip: some of the songs used by sailors in the Cape Horn trade, although I suppose this wasn't actually a trading voyage. Stan Hugill's book is a good resource there; he sailed on the last of the Cape Horners.

 

Entering California, the vessel landed in San Francisco in 1849, in the midst of the gold rush. Most of its crew and even its officers, political appointees all, abandoned the ship to go find wealth in the California gold fields, leaving the ship crewless and stranded. Third tip...all the songs of the California gold rush. Certainly Clementine, and some Stephen Foster music. In fact, try Oh California, written as a parody of then-poular Oh, Susannah (1848). The California version was written on board a bark sailing for California along the same route as the Lawrence, the same year, 1849. It pokes fun at the miners and all their too-high expectations. I can think of no more appropriate a song for you than that, on several levels, and you already know the melody! Here is a link to it and some other great choices.

 

In 1850 the ship was finally fitted with a crew and sailed down coast to San Diego, charting the coast as it went. It then sailed to Hawaii, calling at Hilo. After that, it returned to Frisco Bay, and ran aground. Fourth tip: Even though shanties are not appropriate to the concertina, since your concertina is an anachronism anyway, why not try Johnny's Gone to Hilo to remember that event? It is in Stan Hugill's book and numerous YouTubes.

 

There is plenty of great and historically appropriate material there for you to try out, if you are so inclined. But then, since this is southern California after all, you could just strap on a Disney pirate costume or a Sponge Bob suit, and play to the crowd. ;)

 

Have fun....it was a good question!

 

ps: here is a link to more info on the Lawrence.

 

pps. Edited to add a footnote on whether the concertina would be anachronistic.

 

There was a concertina on board the sailing ship Allen Gardiner in 1854, England to Tierra del Fuego...so around the right time and place. Leaving aside the more patrician English concertina, the second documented occurrence of the German concertina in the US was as dry goods (with accordeons and flutinas, and toys, probably all German) on board a clipper that landed in San Francisco in 1855. And the first indication of the German concertina in the US was from a tutor published for it in 1846, by Elias Howe in Boston. So...you are (just barely) historically accurate for the period of your ship. I'm sure all here on the Forum are mightily relieved! :rolleyes:

Edited by Dan Worrall

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...