Shanties are work songs, sung by a work force to help co-ordinate the work and make it tolerable, for example when hauling on a rope, heaving at the bars (of the capstan), working at the pumps or loading bales of cotton. People have sung in this way for millennia.
We will learn about the shanties as we go, discussing their purpose and history as well as singing them. We will include other work songs such as those used for loading cargo, or for packing down or “screwing” cotton, and sing the occasional popular sea-song whose use for working is dubious. You will be surprised how many songs have been used as shanties.
Shanties were not necessarily sung in tune – there were no singing auditions for sailors – but there may have been some natural harmonies. You do not need to be able to read music or even sing in tune, but reasonably good hearing is desirable.
You may be relieved to know that we do not plan to go to sea, to carry out any hard manual labour or to give any concerts.
There is no requirement to be able to read music or sing in tune.