Because the days of Sail are mostly long gone except for re-enactment vessels and small private vessels such as yachts, a great tradition is being lost to the winds of time: The Sea Shanty. Shanties were songs sung by sailors; they were sung not only for the entertainment factor, but the rhythms kept the crews in time as they hauled in anchors, drew up sails, tightened ropes, scrubbed the deck, and any number of other duties aboard their ship. Specific shanties were used for the short haul, the Halyard, Windlass, Capstan, or the Foresheet, because those shanties had the best rhythm to get a particular job done. Musicians try to keep the songs alive today, but they are a ghost of what they once were, and what they once meant and represented; they were the life blood of any Ship of the Line.
For sheet music, check out The Shanty Book, Part I, Sailor Shanties, by Richard Runiciman Terry.
For an interesting article on shanties, including various video clips with live performances to hear the rhythms and flavour of the shanties, please click here. Take a few moments to enjoy the songs! Some of the videos are the songs sung to a series of historical images to do with sailing, so they’re a two fer!
Originally posted on History Undusted, 20 September 2015