19th Century Sea Shanties Concert
Forget Johnny Depp and his Hollywood pirates. Forget yo-heave-ho! Come along to the Brick
Store Museum in Kennebunk, Maine at six bells (7 p.m.) on June 14 to hear Bob Webb sing
authentic songs of the sea and working shanties as they were sung by mariners who crossed
the the world’s oceans more than a century ago!
Webb, now of Phippsburg, Maine is well-known for his performances of traditional music of
the sea. He is hailed across Europe as “King of the Shanty.” He learned his craft under the
informal mentorship of Stan Hugill of Aberdovey, Wales (1906-92), the last true “shantyman”
from the days of “Iron Men and Wooden Ships.” Hugill rounded Cape Horn in the squarerigger
Gustav, and sailed the Seven Seas in many a craft beginning in the 1920s.
Webb’s program will include shipboard work-songs (“shanties”) as well as “main-hatch” songs
popular among 19th-century sailors during the “second dog watch” (6-8 p.m.), two hours
usually reserved as their personal time. Bob sings shanties unaccompanied, and expertly
accompanies other songs with banjo, guitar, or the unusual MacCann-system duet-concertina.
“It’s hard to imagine that sailors sang to make their ships go, but it’s true,” Webb explained
recently. “Shanties gave rhythm and pace to the laborious jobs of hoisting sail, heaving-up the
anchor, or pumping ship. The shantyman’s lyrics, sometimes improvised, created a story-line
that relieved the monotony of the work.”
Webb is an author as well as a singer and musician. His books include On the Northwest, a
history of whaling in the North Pacific Ocean; and Sailor-Painter, a book-length biography of
the marine artist Charles Robert Patterson (1878-1958). He has recorded several CDs of
traditional maritime music. and is a former Curator of Maritime History for the Kendall
Whaling Museum and Curator of the Maine Maritime Museum.
The program begins at 7 p.m. at the Brick Store Museum, 117 Main Street, Kennebunk, Maine
04043. Bring your voices, good, bad or indifferent! For more information, please call (207)
985-4802 or visit www.brickstoremuseum.org.