Here at Cambridge Singing for Breathing we are very fond of singing sea shanties. Like most work songs they are designed to co-ordinate both effort and breathing. Just as in our exercises, the out breath is all important! In a sea-going situation the folk hauling on the ropes wouldn’t sing but rather make rhythmic ‘hoo!’ or ‘huh!’ sounds while others sang. Adding these sounds gives the shanty an authentic flavour. There are other ballad-like shanties of course, which tell stories. These would be sung by the chantey man as he sat on the capstan and the sailors gathered round. Hence they are called ‘capstan songs’.
We were very excited when we heard that the Port Isaac Fishermans Friends were coming to Cambridge on 8 November this year. As they would be in town on a Thursday we did our best to persuade them to visit us and sing a song or two with us in exchange for tea and cake. Sadly their schedule did not permit, but they did offer us six free tickets to their evening concert. Those that went had a fabulous time and particularly enjoyed the audience participation aspect of the concert. Afterwards we added ‘The Corncrake’ and ‘Being a pirate’ to our repertoire which we can now sing along with favourites such as South Australia, Sloop John B, A Drop of Nelson’s Blood, and Pay Me My Money Down.
So many thanks to the Fishermans Friends for their fabulous singing and their generosity to our group. They are doing a great job keeping the shanties alive for all to enjoy.