Sunday, February 17, 2013

Join Us March 7 - Song Circle and Sing-Along with Tugboat Bromberg

1613 Wood Carving

Will March be comin' in like a lion this year? Well, even if it does, don't let the wind and the weather keep you away from comin' out to our March 7 Sing Shanties Song Circle with Tugboat Bromberg. Warm up yer vocals with a hot cuppa tea or coffee, and get yer feet a stompin' to stave off the chill.
March Comes in Like a Lion

For more information about Tugboat, visit his website. We will meet in downtown Port Townsend at the Cotton Building next to Pope Marine Park. Please share this post and flyer with your family and friends, and email us at singshanties(at) with a request to be added to our email list for future gatherings and events.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sailors' Valentines

Sailors' Valentines are worthy of a long and lovely post... perhaps between today and next Valentine's Day I will have an opportunity to research this subject, even craft one meself... but, it's near day's end and I have my own Valentine to attend to... so here's what we know thanks to Wikipedia along with images your can peruse with a quick Google image search and a visit to the website of Bill Jordan and Traditional Fine Arts Organization's Resource Library. Enjoy. And wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day, mateys! 

Wikipedia: "A sailor's valentine is a form of shellcraft, a type of mostly antique souvenir, or sentimental gift made using large numbers of small seashells. These were originally made between 1830 and 1890 and they were designed to be brought home from a sailor's voyage at sea and given to the sailor's loved one or loved ones.[1] Sailor valentines are typically octagonal, glass fronted, hinged wooden boxes ranging from 8" to 15" in width, displaying intricate symmetrical designs composed entirely of small sea shells of various colors glued onto a backing. Patterns often feature a centerpiece such as a compass rose or a heart design, hence the name, and in some cases the small shells are used to spell out a sentimental message.
Although the name seems to suggest that the sailors themselves made these objects, a large number of them originated in the island of Barbados, which was an important seaport during this period. Historians believe that the women there made the valentines using local shells, or in some cases using shells imported from Indonesia, and then the finished products were sold to the sailors.[1] 
In his book Sailors' Valentines, John Fondas concludes that the primary source for sailors' valentines was the New Curiosity Shop, located in McGregor Street, Bridgetown, Barbados, and a popular shop where sailors would purchase souvenirs. The shop was owned by the English brothers B.H. and George Belgrave.[2] Fondas' research tells of a sailors' valentine reconstruction, during which the reconstructing artist found pieces of a Barbados newspaper inside the backing. 
Today, antique sailors' valentines are collectibles, valued for their beauty and unusual qualities. Collector interest has sparked a resurgence in sailors' valentines as an art form, and shell kits and patterns are now sold at craft shops.[3] Many sailors' valentines, both new and old, can be found on Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Google Search: Sailors' Valentines

Valentine's Day at Sea

I once shipped with an all-male crew, and during that tedious voyage learned a stern lesson: NEVER again. Machismo is magnified exponentially when estrogen is not there to balance the equation.

Joe Boruchow
Co-ed crews were not the norm in our sailing past - in fact they were unheard of among the average deck hand - and as a consequence the long lonely months at sea resulted in some of the worlds most heart-wrenching songs. Shanties were not immune to the influence of the lovesick men who sang them. Some became ballads of loss, others anchors of hope. Many warned of the dangers of a pretty face and soft voice speaking false promises. Like everything else a young man tells, a few became fish stories that grew with every retelling. Similar to the parallel stories the loggers spun ashore of Paul Bunion and Babe, it was a matter of style and no small pride to constantly one-up each other with every increasingly-improbable verse.

When Al Hoffman and Norman Gimbel were ask to revive the shanty style and write a piece for Kirk Douglas, who was to play master harpooner Ned Land, singing the catchy tune to his doomed crew shortly before their ship’s destruction in Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the pair followed the fish story model and penned Whale of a Tale - a true toe-tapping masterpiece.

Mr. Douglas did a phenomenal job in performing the forebitter, (but didn’t actually play the guitar on set), and does a great drunk duet refrain with a seal, later in the movie. His is a hard act to follow, but we had to try, so Mike, Val, Lee, and I belted it out for the Sage Club and again when the whole group learned Al and Norman’s movie version during February’s Shanty Circle.

In honor of Valentine's Day we are taking it a step further and asking you all to add your own verse to the song, telling the story of your current (or past) love(s). Remember this is a fish story and is meant to be a fun tongue-in-cheek exercise - and (of course) there will be a prize awarded to that lucky random person, drawn from the list of those that had the gumption to post a verse; prize to be awarded when we meet at our next Circle on March 7, when we will sing all the newly created verses.

Here is the amazing Kirk Douglas as Ned Land to remind us of the tune and meter:

And here are the lyrics:

(Please keep in mind that Disney Studios holds copyright on the song and treat the following with that consideration.)

A Whale of a Tale

By Al Hoffman and Norman Gimbel

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads,
A whale of a tale or two,
'Bout the flapping fish and girls I've loved,
On nights like this with the moon above,
A whale of a tale and it's all true,
I swear by my tattoo.

There was Mermaid Minnie,
Met her down in Madagascar,
She would kiss me,
Anytime that I would ask her,
Then one evening,
Her flame of love blew out,
Blow me down and pick me up,
She swapped me for a trout!

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads,
A whale of a tale or two,
'Bout the flapping fish and girls I've loved,
On nights like this with the moon above,
A whale of a tale and it's all true,
I swear by my tattoo.

There was Typhoon Tessie,
Met her on the coast of Java,
When we kissed I,
Bubbled up like molten lava,
Then she gave me,
The scare of my young life,
Blow me down, and pick me up,
She was the captain's wife!

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads,
A whale of a tale or two,
'Bout the flapping fish and girls I've loved,
On nights like this with the moon above,
A whale of a tale and it's all true,
I swear by my tattoo.

Then there was Harpoon Hannah,
Had a face that made you shudder,
Lips like fishhooks,
And a nose just like a rudder,
If I kissed her, and held her tenderly
There’s no sea monster big enough,
To ever frighten me!

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads,
A whale of a tale or two,
'Bout the flapping fish and girls I've loved,
On nights like this with the moon above,
A whale of a tale and it's all true,
I swear by my tattoo.

Post your verse(s) below in the comment field, and/or email them to singshanties(at)gmail(dot)com.

Post by Mark Olson

Friday, February 8, 2013

'Bout Adventuress, sing shanties (shanties)!

February 7, 2013 - What a great night we had! Folks trickled in, but before you knew it, fifty-six of us shanty enthusiasts were singing 'round the song circle. Wayne Palsson of Northwest Seaport in Seattle led the evening, drawing from his impressive repertoire on maritime songs he has committed to memory over the years. We gathered at the Uptown Community Center in Port Townsend. New songs were introduced and songs were sung from our songbook that some of us have never heard before. 

Wonderful to see new faces among the familiar; members of the Sage Club, a couple from Sequim... we got started with a small band of first-comers, but within a half hour the room was filled with people and the robust sound of singing. I love the camaraderie, the sense of community. Congratulations to Cindi Dinan, who won this month's gift certificate from Courtyard Cafe. Anybody know who that young boy was who belted out the last line of Eddy Stone Light? Thank you to Mark Olson, for teaching us the chorus to "Whale of a Tale" (check the next blog post about the contest to write some of your own lyrics). Mike James, strumming his guitar, serenaded us with the most beautiful love song; it brought tears to me eyes. I don't recall it's name. Thank you for your beautiful song, Jean. And thank you Helen Gilbert for teaching us the words to "Red Rose Cafe".Thank you to those who treated us with sweet treats. What a delightful and eclectic community of shanty enthusiasts!

About a third of the way around the circle, someone requested Paddy Lay Back. This song just happens to be both a forebitter and capstan shanty, which was selected to sing at the Flash Shanty to celebrate the Schooner Adventuress' 100th Birthday. It was our intention to record our group singing Paddy Lay Back as a tribute to the Adventuress 100 year celebration... so we did!  This song is a crowd pleaser, because there's a lot of energy and rhythm as end-words in the chorus lines are repeated back, adding a unique cadence to the song. According to Stan Hugill, this song was "sung by Liverpool seamen engaged in the West Coast Guano Trade." Paddy Lay Back is also known as the "Mainsail Haul", "The Liverpool Song" or "Valparaiso Round the Horn." 

Here is our Sing Shanties Song Circle singing Paddy Lay Back with Wayne Palsson leading out with  a number of the nineteen or more verses that are known of this song (some are not "family-friendly", but there were no children about to cover their ears). At the very end of the video, Wayne is asked about the phrase "heave a pawl".

Happy Birthday, Adventuress!

Paddy Lay Back

Lyrics from Shanties from the Seven Seas, by Stan Hugill

'Twas a cold an' dreary mornin' in December, (December)
An' all of me money it was spent (it was spent),
Where it went to Lord I can't remember (remember),
So down to the shippin' office went, (went, went),

Paddy, lay back (Paddy, lay back)!
Take in yer slack (take in yer slack)!
Take a turn around the capstan - heave a pawl - heave a pawl!
'Bout ship, stations, boys, be handy (be handy)!
Raise tacks, sheets, an' mains'l haul!

Alternative final line of chorus:
For we're bound for Valaparaiser 'round the Horn!

That day there wuz a great demand for sailors (for sailors),
For the Colonies and for 'Frisco and for France (an' for France),
So I shipped aboard a Limey barque the Hotspur (the Hotspur),
An' got paralytic drunk on my advance ('vance, 'vance),

Paddy, lay back (Paddy, lay back)!
Take in yer slack (take in yer slack)!
Take a turn around the capstan-heave a pawl - heave a pawl!
'Bout ship, stations, boys, be handy (be handy)!
Raise tacks, sheets, an' mains'l haul!

Now I joined her on a cold December mornin',
A-frappin' o' me flippers to keep me warm.
With the south cone a-hoisted as a warnin',
To stand by the comin' 0' a storm.

Now some of our fellers had bin drinkin',
An' I meself wuz heavy on the booze;
An' I wuz on me ol' sea-chest a-thinkin'
I'd turn into me bunk an' have a snooze.

I woke up in the mornin' sick an' sore,
An' knew I wuz outward bound again;
When I heard a voice a-bawlin' at the door,
'Lay aft, men, an' answer to yer names!'

'Twas on the quarterdeck where first I saw 'em,
Such an ugly bunch I'd niver seen afore;
For there wuz a bum an' stiff from every quarter,
An' it made me poor ol' heart feel sick an' sore.

There wuz Spaniards an' Dutchmen an' Rooshians,
An' Johnny Crapoos jist acrosst from France;
An' most o' 'em couldn't speak a word o' English,
But answered to the name of 'Month's Advance'.

I wisht I wuz in the 'Jolly Sailor',
Along with Irish Kate a-drinkin' beer;
An' then I thought what jolly chaps were sailors,
An' with me flipper I wiped away a tear.

I knew that in me box I had a bottle,
By the boardin'-master 'twas put there;
An' I wanted something for to wet me throttle,
Somethin' for to drive away dull care.

So down upon me knees I went like thunder,
Put me hand into the bottom o' the box,
An' what wuz me great surprise an' wonder,
Found only a bottle o' medicine for the pox.

I felt that I should skip an' join another,
'Twas plain that I had joined a lousy bitch;
But the chances wuz that I might join a worser,
An' we might git through the voyage without a hitch.

I axed the mate a-which a-watch wuz mine-O,
Sez he, 'I'II soon pick out a-which is which';
An' he blowed me down an' kicked me hard a-stern-O,
Callin' me a lousy, dirty son-o'-a-bitch.

Now we singled up an' got the tugs alongside,
They towed us through the locks an' out to sea;
With half the crew a-pukin' o'er the ship's side,
An' the bloody fun that started sickened me.

Although me poor ol' head wuz all a-jumpin',
We had to loose her rags the followin' morn;
I dreamt the boardin'-master I wuz thumpin',
When I found out he'd sent me around the Horn.

I swore I would become a beachie-comber,
An' niver go to sea no ruddy more;
For niver did I want to be a roamer ,
I'd shanghai the boardin'-master an' stay ashore.

But when we got to bully ol' Vallaparaiser,
In the Bay we dropped our mud hook far from shore;
The ol' Man he refused ter let us raise 'er,
An' he stopped the boardin'-masters comin' aboard.

I quickly made me mind up that I'd jump 'er,
I'd leave the beggar an' git a job ashore;
I swum across the Bay an' went an' left 'er,
An' in the English Bar I found a whore.

But Jimmy the Wop he knew a thing or two, sir,
An' soon he'd shipped me outward bound again;
On a Limey to the Chinchas for guanner, boys,
An' soon was I a-roarin' this refrain.

So there wuz I once more again at sea, boys,
The same ol' ruddy business over again;
Oh, stamp the caps'n round an' make some noise, boys,
An' sing again this dear ol' sweet refrain.

Wayne Palsson, song leader

Jean Geiger

Mike James

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

High on the sounds... and happy faces

How wonderful to receive this beautiful card enclosing a handwritten note from Barbara Miles, on behalf of the Sage Club and the Quimper Unitarian Universalist  Fellowship Cares & Concerns Committee, with such appreciation and thoughtful words. Thank you!

It was a genuine pleasure for the four of us from our Sing Shanties Song Circle, Mike and Val James, Mark Olson and Lee Erickson, to be their guests at their monthly luncheon of the Sage Club on February 1, 2013. Following lunch, the four of us engaged those who were able to stay for entertainment in a rousing round of sea shanties. We thank them for their kindness, hospitality and participation in song.

For more about this gathering with photos and a video, click here.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

For the Adventuress! - Paddy Lay Back

On February 1, 2013, while 150 or more friends gathered at the Schooner Adventuress' stern at Haven Boatworks with the crew and the team of Sound Experience in Port Townsend, to participate in the "World's first Flash Shanty", in celebration of the Schooner Adventuress' 100 years of life... heartily singing the sea shanty "Paddy Lay Back"... "and wishing the Adventuress a happy historic "splash" day"... four members of the Sing Shanties Song Circle, Mike and Val James, Lee Erickson and Mark Olson led the members of the Sage Club in singing shanties, starting off with "Paddy Lay Back". Mark Olson, retired port captain, explains what a sea shanty is and why rhythm is so important to the task at hand. Happy Birthday, Adventuress!

Best viewed if you change quality to 360p (gear icon on bottom task bar)

Mike, Val and Mark

Mike, Val, Lee and Mark

Saturday, February 2, 2013

World's First Flash Shanty

In Celebration of the Adventuress' 100th year of Life, folks gathered at her stern to sing "Paddy Lay Back".

"World's first Flash Shanty a huge success! Thank you to the more than 150 friends who showed up to sing heartily and wish Adventuress a happy historic "splash" day. Thank you to Wabenjerry for serving up sundaes to all who attended. A delicious and festive treat for a special lady on her special day." — at Haven Boatworks, LLC. - Sound Experience aboard the Schooner Adventuress