15 December 2011

#64 Hurrah, Sing Fare Ye Well

One more to bridge the gap over to the popular "Goodbye, Fare You Well" series...

This is a halyard chanty with a single pull per each refrain. Hugill got his version from a Liverpool seaman.

Before that, the chanty is rarely mentioned. The 1868 article "On Shanties" from Once a Week may have been referencing this with the song title, "Nancy Bell," but there's no way to know for sure. It's Capt. Whall who first mentions it definitively. In the 1920 4th edition of his collection, he added this item, which he said was "a favourite in London ships":

O fare you well, my bonny young girls
     Hurrah! sing fare you well!
O fare you well! I wish you well
     Hurrah! sing fare you well!

O fare you well, we're bound away;
We're bound away this very day.

In the melody that Whall gives, the "-rah" of "hurrah!" is held out on a pitch.

R.R. Terry collected this chanty as well, from John Short, and published it in his Shanty Book, Part II. The tune was like Whall's. Being that this is found in the manuscripts of chanties collected from John Short, the recent Short Sharp Shanties recording project (vol. 1) includes a rendition, by Keith Kendrick. That rendition, put out by Wild Goose Studios, can be sampled here.

(Evidently Sampson [1927] also gave a version, but I don't have that at my disposal right now. My experience has been that most of Sampson's chanties were culled from elsewhere, so I'm not sure what to say about it at the moment.)

Hugill's melody is almost identical to Whall's, except it does not hold out the second syllable of "hurrah." Both versions seem to "work" fine, in my opinion, and it is hard to say which, if either, was more correct or whether something funny happened at the documentation stage. (If there was an error, and not simply a variation in oral tradition, my money is on Hugill's text as the one containing a notational error, given his poor track record for notation errors as compared to the musicologist Terry.)

These two nearly identical versions of the tune can make for some confusion in the revival context! At one of the evening chanty-sings at Mystic Seaport a couple years back, I remember someone led this chanty (I believe it might have been Peter Kasin). He was singing the version after Hugill. Not many in the gathering, I think, were actually familiar with this under-performed chanty, but evidently some people that are familiar with it know the Whall/Terry-style tune. We were all joining in on the chorus (with those that didn't know it following as best they could). I was singing along rather loudly (as I tend to do, ha), but at least one other participant was also singing along loudly—the Whall/Terry-style chorus! It went on and on, each of us choristers staying firm in our stance that what we were singing was right! There was a sort of hocketing effect.

This is a typical chanty in which improvisation and personalization was the thing, so I followed Hugill's cue and extended or tinkered with the verses, playing on the "Callao" or "South American port "theme in my lyrics.

(Hopefully I didn't sound like a "pirate" there. That's what someone told me after I sang a sea song at an open mic coffee house gathering tonight. Ironic, perhaps, because the song I sang emphasized how wicked and inglorious piracy was.)

Hasta la próxima vista,

Ranzo :{

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