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South Street Seaport Museum New Webinar Series Sea Songs and Sea Lives Sing in Rhyme, Work in Time: Sea Chanteys & Workers’ Voices
February 18, 2021 @ 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
South Street Seaport Museum expands its virtual sea chantey programming with the first installment of the Sea Songs and Sea Lives webinar series Sing in Rhyme, Work in Time: Sea Chanteys and Workers’ Voices, hosted by Bonnie Milner, Deirdre Murtha and other special guests on Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 7pm ET. Register for the free event at https://southstreetseaportmuseum.org/rhyme.
Join the Seaport Museum and special guests for a musical exploration of sea chanteys, including their role in the work of sailing tall ships, their varied origins, and the difference between chanteys and other maritime songs. Attendees will hear examples of many types of chanteys and will be invited to sing along. A short Q&A will follow, along with resources for building repertoire and finding opportunities to sing.
The Sea Songs and Sea Lives webinar series will explore the lives of diverse groups of sailors today and in history through conversations with singers, sailors, historians, and more. During the Age of Sail, ships were made up of crew members from all over the world, and sailors’ songs have reflected that diversity. Among the stories included will be sailors of African descent who played a key role in the Underground Railroad, women sailors who still face barriers in their trade, and queer sailors whose lives have only recently been treated respectfully in musical compositions. Each webinar will tackle traditional repertoire while considering the challenges of both song origin and presentation in modern times. Information about the series is available here: https://southstreetseaportmuseum.org/sealives
Seaport Museum’s monthly sea-music event Sea Chanteys and Maritime Music – the original NYC chantey sing, now made popular on TikTok – continues virtually on Sunday, March 7, 2021 at 2pm ET. From our living rooms and kitchens, join a round-robin of shared songs featuring members of The New York Packet and friends. Listen in, lead a song, and belt out the choruses for your neighbors to hear on the first Sunday of every month. The event is FREE. Sign up here to receive the Zoom link 24 hours prior: southstreetseaportmuseum.org/chanteysing/.
The next virtual Chantey Sings will take place on:
– Sunday, March 7, 2021 at 2pm ET, hosted by Bonnie Milner – RSVP at bit.ly/ChanteyMar7.
– Sunday, April 4, 2021 at 2pm ET, hosted by Bonnie Milner – RSVP at bit.ly/ChanteyApr4.
After years of meeting in person on the historic tall ship Wavertree, the event moved online in April 2020. Now in its second year of virtual incarnation, South Street Seaport Museum’s Virtual Chantey Sing has evolved into the preeminent virtual chantey sing in the world, featuring professionals and amateurs, old salts and new initiates, from across the street, across the country, and across the pond. South Street Seaport Museum actively recruits and supports new and diverse singers for each sing.
“A fine mix of familiar songs and some new ones that should be better known. The fact that performers came from all over, from the Netherlands, the UK, Canada, and across the US, gave a wonderful feeling of this special musical community we all share,” wrote one participant.
“This venue draws some excellent, knowledgeable singers and I always learn. Today I came away with four songs I wanted to learn,” wrote another participant. “Joy!”
Old-time sailors on long voyages spent months living together in close quarters with no outside entertainment, no new people to interact with, a monotonous diet, and each day pretty much just like the day before. How did they keep their spirits up? Singing together! Work songs and fun songs, story songs and nonsense songs, songs of nostalgia and songs of up-to-the-moment news – all were part of the repertoire onboard. At South Street Seaport Museum, the Chantey tradition lives on.
“Sea chanteys fit in beautifully with the New York tradition,” said Laura Norwitz, SSSM’s Senior Director of Program and Education. “Sailing ships were a melting pot of languages and cultures, and chanteys and forecastle songs, along with hard work and shared challenges, helped sailors merge into one community. When we sing these songs today – some old, and some updated with up-to-the-moment lyrics – we celebrate our connection with our maritime heritage and also with the community we create enjoying home-made music together.”
Each month the Chantey Sing will include a virtual visit to the Museum, showcasing links from the song selections to artifacts in the South Street Seaport Museum Collection.
The Johnson Girls have been a force on the folk and maritime music scene for over two decades as the leading all-woman, a cappella maritime group in the world. Believing that sea chanteys and songs of the sea were the first real “World Music”, Joy Bennett, Alison Kelley, Bonnie Milner, and Deirdre Murtha each bring a special influence to the group. Whether performing at packed international folk festivals, intimate venues, workshops, or presenting school or library programs, The Johnson Girls remain true to their mission of keeping chantey singing and its history alive, bringing women’s voices to the fore, and encouraging everyone to join in the revelry. Widely acclaimed for their powerhouse performances of rousing work songs, sensitive renderings of haunting ballads and laments, and hair-raising harmonies, they sweep their audiences along in a tidal fervor. “The Johnson Girls, chantey singers from America, took the place by storm… Those who thought a chantey singer had to be male, bearded, and with a beer gut, needed to think again.” – Cornwall Guardian (UK)
Born at the highest point of navigation on the 410-mile-long Connecticut River, Bonnie Milner has been singing all her life, most notably as a founding member of the all-woman a cappella maritime group, The Johnson Girls (www.thejohnsongirls.com), and as part of South Street Seaport’s New York Packet. Her curiosity in maritime songs was sparked by hearing chanteys sung at South Street Seaport and Mystic Seaport Museums, and carried further by her acquaintance with the last working chanteyman, Stan Hugill, one of her important mentors. He exhorted her to “keep these ditties alive” and ever since, she has brought her skills and passion for the genre by teaching, performing and delivering presentations on maritime music to audiences of all ages throughout North America and Europe.
Deirdre Murtha grew up with Irish traditional music, but found her way to chanteys in her 20’s after singing in NYC Irish sessions for five years and participating in the NY Revels for two years. A fellow Reveler told her about the monthly Chantey Sings at South Street and Deirdre fell in love with the robust choruses and harmonies, history, and the NY Community. She has been a member of both The NY Packet and The Johnson Girls (www.thejohnsongirls.com) for 25 years and has led a monthly Chantey Sing in Rowayton, CT for 11 years.
The New York Packet was established over 30 years ago as the official maritime singing group of South Street Seaport Museum. First singing on the iconic vessel Peking, they have endeavored ever since to keep chantey singing alive in lower Manhattan. Even when the Seaport encountered “heavy weather” during and after hurricane Sandy, the Packet found places to fill with sound while awaiting a return to their beloved ships at the Seaport. In May of 2019, the moment came when the Packet could return and sing aboard Wavertree. It was a magical and welcome moment.
About the South Street Seaport Museum
The South Street Seaport Museum, located in the heart of the historic seaport district in New York City, preserves and interprets the history of New York as a great port city. Founded in 1967, the Museum houses an extensive collection of works of art and artifacts, a maritime reference library, exhibition galleries and education spaces, working nineteenth century print shops, and an active fleet of historic vessels that all work to tell the story of “Where New York Begins.”
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