Mystic Seaport Hosts Sea Chanty Blast This Saturday

Jan 10, 2014

Mystic Seaport hosts its annual Sea Chanty Blast and Pub Sing this Saturday. The event brings together some of the best chanty singers and groups from the northeast.

Rhythmic chanting to accompany sailors as they performed their tasks can be traced as far back as the 15th century. The majority of sea chanties sung today come from the middle of the 19th century, when merchant shipping was at its peak.

"This is really a sail-based tradition," said Geoff Kaufman, a chanty singer at Mystic Seaport, and one of the organizers of Saturday's Sea Chanty Blast, "a tradition of songs being used to handle sail or to move a large vessel through the water, to an anchor, without an engine."

Kaufman said that as merchant vessels traversed the globe, sailors picked up musical influences from far-flung places, and incorporated them into their work songs. One example is a sea chanty called "Down Trinidad." 

"This song was collected by an American collector," Kaufman said, "James Madison Carpenter, from a singer in Wales. He had learned the song from a 1925 recording. These men being recorded remember this song from the 1870s, and remember hearing black singers throughout the Caribbean singing these songs." 

The Sea Chanty and Pub Sing runs from 1:00 to 5:00 pm Saturday at the German Club, across from the main entrance to Mystic Seaport. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted to support Mystic Seaport's 35th annual Sea Music Festival.