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South Street Seaport Museum Webinar Series Sea Songs and Sea Lives This Is Women’s Work: Maritime Lives

April 22, 2021

South Street Seaport Museum expands its virtual sea chantey programming with the third installment of the Sea Songs and Sea Lives webinar series This Is Women’s Work: Maritime Lives, featuring a conversation between Capt. Ann Loeding, Ashley Cruz, and Bonnie Milner, moderated by Laura Norwitz, on Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 7pm ET. Register for the free event at seaportmuseum.org/womenswork.

In April, join tugboat Capt. Ann Loeding and New York Harbor School graduate/SUNY Maritime student Ashley Cruz, along with chantey singer Bonnie Milner of the Johnson Girls, to discuss the roles of women in modern maritime careers and the role of women in singing sea chanteys. The conversation will include the function of music and traditional culture on board, yesterday and today, illustrated with live song performances and with images from the Seaport Museum’s collection. Lyrics will be provided so guests can sing along from home, and a brief Q&A will follow the presentation.

“Working on tugs I learned what it means to try my hardest at something,” said Capt. Ann Loeding. “Being the only woman on the crew never bothered me — it made for some very funny situations — and, in the end, what mattered most to the guys was that I was doing my job.”

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://seaportmuseum.org/sealives

“Though the Great Age of Sail is past, women have come forth and broken the glass overhead by breathing new life into these historic maritime work songs,” said Bonnie Milner.

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, April 4, 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: seaportmuseum.org/chanteysing/.

The next virtual Chantey Sings will take place on:
– Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 2pm ET – RSVP at bit.ly/ChanteyMay2
– Sunday, June 6, 2021 at 2pm ET – RSVP at bit.ly/ChanteyJun6

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.

Capt. Ann Loeding is a hawsepiper who has worked on tugs in New York Harbor and Hudson River, on the Great Lakes, along the East Coast, and in Alaska. She was the tugboat captain for the GlassBarge on the Erie Canal for South Street Seaport Museum’s partnership with Corning Glass Works in 2018.
Ashley Cruz is a freshman at SUNY Maritime, majoring in marine operations with a deck license. She is a graduate of New York Harbor School and former intern at South Street Seaport Museum. Her first time on a schooner was in 2016, aboard Lettie G. Howard, and she fell in love with sailing. She spends part of every summer sailing tall ships. 

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.

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.” www.southstreetseaportmuseum.org

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April 22, 2021