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Issue Date:- 23 July 2008

Shanties at Tall Ships Visit, Liverpool 08

THE sounds of melodious singing voices, along with foot-tapping music swirled in the air in the Liverpool pubs (The Lion, Baltic Fleet, Pig and Whistle, and Rigbys), on board the Walk the Plank Ship, and in the open air at the Wellington, Sandon and Albert Docks (Salthouse Dock, Anchor courtyard) and strong amplifiers easily defeated the gale force winds. At times, hardy landlubbers defied the blusters and occasional rain to listen, and applaud deservedly, the gallant maritime artists.

On Friday, 18 July 2008’s evening at the Baltic Fleet Pub, from eight till late, the festival guests regaled the pub’s customers with shanties in fine traditional compositions. The ale, and other drinks including the tasty barbecue were well patronised. The crowded evening was greatly enjoyed by all.

On Saturday, 19 July 2008, in the afternoon, at the Floating Stage in Salthouse Dock, a crowd listening to the Monkey’s Orphan. They are a fine singing shanty group led by Derek Gifford and Geoff Higginbottom. They performed from the floating stage well away from the crowds moving along the road in front of the Albert Dock buildings, yet they held many transfixed to the chains, which stopped us from falling into the dock. They often said they could see us clapping and waving to them. They were followed by Liverpool Tradition. This group, who are always very popular and entertaining, are led by Kevin Bargen. In comparison to most shanty groups, they are quite large. Their harmonisation is well blended. They too, like the previous acts, caused the visitors to stop and listen to the music and words so skilfully delivered.

In the Anchor Courtyard, I managed to catch up with Scolds Bride. These two very accomplished Fleetwood ladies told:- “We have been singing together for 32 years”. During our chat, at the end of their performance, I learnt that the loved ones, left behind by the ships crews, did not have shanties, but special songs about their situations as they awaited their men’s return. They have their own special show entitled ‘Women Left On The Shore’.

One often finds at these gigs that one knows the tune, but the words seemed different from the last time one heard it. Not a problem, for some shanties which have words concerning the situation at the time of composition. That knowledge made listening to Jacqueline McDonald’s performance in the ship theatre, ‘Walk The Plank’ more relevant. Like many of the Shanty Crews, she has a great sense of humour and really encourages her audience to join in with her. She showed in her performance that she was very deservedly billed as Liverpool’s first lady of song!

Another very important point about shantymen is that they have a fine sense of rhythm and very clear diction. That was the case whilst listening to ‘Four and Aft’, on Sunday afternoon, 20 July 2008, by the Floating Stage. They really had to struggle against the wind, which was thundering straight into them; rather like being on board ship during a storm! Yet the difficulty was not at all noticeable! Well done indeed, Andy Kenna and team.

The Boat Band is a very lively group, as are most shanty groups. They are a smashing group to listen to. They had the audience in ‘Walk The Plank’ Theatre eating out of their hands. It was a foot tapping, hand clapping group with a talented, multi instrumental playing lady.

Good reports about the many other groups of shantymen were heard, especially some very complimentary words about ‘La Moresca Antica’ and ‘Les Souilles de Fond de Cale’. It was a mecca for the devotees of shanties. To all those who performed, well done and thank you.

A big thank you also to the stewards who did a fine job in keeping the excellently planned one way circuit moving freely. The organisers did an excellent job too in providing such a gigantic crowd with an excellent three days entertainment. I hope that the crews, who everyone were so pleased with and proud of, enjoyed their visit to Liverpool, 2008 City of Culture; have a safe and excitingly good race.

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