27 July 2012

16 July 2012

#122 Goodnight, Ladies

Appearing only in the unabridged version of Stan Hugill’s Shanties from the Seven Seas, this song is one of those marginal little bits thrown in due to Hugill’s extreme inclusiveness and, perhaps, his willingness to look at songs popular right up to his day. I’ve not seen “Goodnight, Ladies” attested as a chanty elsewhere, though Hugill's presentation appear to be authentic.

It works fine as a capstan chanty, functioning like the recently discussed “The Arabella” and “The Saucy Rosabella” in that each verse simply consists of a line sung three times, followed by a common refrain and a grand chorus. It takes little imagination and even less memorization to sing. I call it the “hokey pokey” style of chanty.

“Goodnight, Ladies” originated as a popular song that, at some point, seems to have gotten associated with seamen.

The popular song itself  seems to have developed from different sources. E.P. Christy’s minstrel genre composition of 1847, “Farewell Ladies” is the origin of the chorus of “Goodnight Ladies.”

As far as anyone has been able to determine, the “merrily we roll along” part turns up by 1867, in a Yale University songbook—with reference to the yacht club. Was it part of an earlier folk ditty? Though it shares a melody with “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” the understanding is that “Lamb” was patterned on this, not the reverse.

The work lyrics at the beginning are not contained in the college glee version. This leaves open the question of whether they had been a part of the “Merrily” song or whether sailors added them. Sailors would have also changed the Yale version’s “…o’er the dark blue sea” to what we have here, “…on the good ship XYZ.”

In this case, it's the good ship Hulton Clint.

Merrily rowing and rolling along,

Ranzo :{

09 July 2012

Report: Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival 2012

Another year, another Sea Music Festival. I'll warn you that this "report" is rather self-centered. Not really telling about the Festival, but some of the stuff I did there that might have relevance to this blog of mine.

It was great to see old friends and acquaintances. These included the veteran sea music scholar and interpreter Prof. Revell Carr. Rev was one reason for my rekindled interest in chanties in 2006, when we were colleagues at UC Santa Barbara. He presented the paper, “‘He boatsteerer no hoi au no luna o Reindeer” (‘I am the boatsteerer aboard the Reindeer’): Songs and Ballads of Hawaiian Whalers in the Nineteenth Century,” at the Sea Music Symposium. I also met up with John Minear of Virginia, whom I owe for helping inspire me to get deeper into the historical study of chanties.

I was honored to participate in the academic symposium this year (June 8-9), where I presented the paper, “Twentieth-Century Editors and the Re-envisioning of Chanties: A Case Study of ‘Lowlands [Away]’”. (I've made the paper available here.) The paper actually grew out of a rough song history I had sketched on this blog. And I'm happy to say that there was a large audience and the presentation provoked a lot of discussion. 

In order to put my money where my mouth is, I guess—or rather to offer a realization of the vision of "Lowlands" that I presented in my paper, I thought it proper to sing it, in one of the evening open sessions. That I did, on Saturday night of the festival, but since I don't believe anyone recorded it, I did it afterwards, here:

There are two general highlights, for me, of the Mystic festivals. The first is the nighttime sessions, after the official evening concerts, which are held across the street from the Seaport in what they call the German Club. It's perhaps one of the biggest chanty "sings" one could find anywhere. Individuals simply begin a chanty when they like, and, if it is known enough, get the support of dozens of voices on the chorus. I skipped out on Thursday night's session, in order to rest for Friday morning's symposium (which was in Groton this time). But I was there for the entirety of Friday and Saturday (and dropped by for the after-hours session at Seaport, too). 

Friday I sang "Hooraw for the Blackball Line," with some original/personal verses—something I always aim to do at Mystic. Then I sang the rather "plaintive" "Roll and Go," thinking that most would not have heard it. The German Club sessions are also historically one of the places to "introduce" "new" or little-known songs. New friends Rachel and Jeff (visitors from Key West) captured my performance.

Saturday night at the German Club I sang my "Lowlands," along with this "shout out" chanty early in the night.

The second thing I am really drawn to at the festivals are the "Chanteys at Work" demos. This time, as before, I tried to participate in as manny as possible. Saturday had David Littlefield and Bob Walser as chantymen on the Joseph Conrad. One of the young Chanteens led the halyard haulers with "Serafina"—a bit shocking! In addition to the capstan and halyard demos, they did a cargo hoisting one this time, to such songs as "Lindy Lowe" and "Sun Down Below." I felt honored that the squad let me lead a halyard demo, for which I sang "Stormalong, lads, Stormy." On the L.A. Dunton later, Nicole Singer and Don Sineti led chanties as I volunteered helping heave the anchor with the windlass. 

On Sunday, during a "round robin" on the Joseph Conrad, I sang "Shiny O" with ad libbed lyrics. The working demo that day was on the Conrad with Denise Cannella, David Iler, and Rev Carr. Rev sang the Hawaiian song "Honolulu Hula Hula Heigh" at the halyards, and "Paddy Lay Back" at the capstan.

I enjoyed the gracious hospitality of Rev and his mom in the nearby Stonington Borough, and felt welcomed by the wonderfully brave and talented Mystic squad, including an invite to their cozy squad BBQ.

Being a "participant" of sorts, I was shuffled into the stage area for the ritual closing chanties of the final concert (Sunday afternoon), "Old Maui" and "Leave Her, Johnny." Though locals might not care to admit it, the Mystic culture is rather "closed," relatively speaking. After this third festival visit, I felt like maybe I was starting to break in.

Until next year...hopefully,

Ranzo :{

Update: Less Blogging, More Chanty-learning

I have not made many entries here lately, though the project does continue. I have just been too overwhelmed with writing—writing other things. I have had three articles (on non-chanty related things) accepted and needing to be put in their final forms this Spring/Summer, which will appear in academic journals. That's the never-ending editing process. I had a conference paper to write for Summer, and I will have another I need to get working on for a Fall conference. I submitted yet another article to a journal, and I have another I am currently working on to submit. Then by the Fall I want to get started on writing a short book. So it has been too much of a writing overload and I don't have as much time or inclination to write entries on the chanties here.

I have, however, been learning lots of new songs. I had finished doing all the chanties in the core of this project, Hugill's Shanties from the Seven Seas. After that, I was revisiting them as I gave weekly local performances of one or two in Long Beach—my temporary port of 9 month. I'm now back in the Hartford, CT area, and with no performing outlet I have gone back to learning more chanties. Hugill got the great majority of them, but there were other sources of information that he did not see and which contain other chanties. I have haphazardly been digging into Harlow's Chanteying Aboard American Ships and also Beck's Folklore and the Sea. I eventually intend to go to some of the older, non-collection-style sources.

I've been filing all these "other" songs into a playlist.

Other Chanties and Sailor Songs

The YouTube descriptions of the songs have been, in a way, similar to the posts I make here. So that's where I've been at!

Ranzo :{