Most of what Before the Mast sings are traditional sea shanties. They are sung in much the same manner as they would have been sung on board sailing ships during the Age of Sail except for some rather unique harmonies and tempos.
Shanties were shipboard work songs with calls and responses between a shantyman and his fellow sailors sung to create and maintain a rhythm so that many hands could work together on board ship, whether it was heaving on a capstan bar, hauling on a halyard, furling a sail or manning a pump. In the afterhours, when work was done, sailors would often sing songs for entertainment and solace. Before the Mast has an extensive repertoire of sea shanties, forebitters and other songs of the sea.
Here are four examples, recently recorded by Before the Mast at a concert in Saint John, New Brunswick:
This is Before the Mast's version of an old Newfoundland song.
" Shenandoah, the most beautiful of all sea songs in English, probably began as a voyageur song on the rivers west of the Mississippi, taking its title from the Indians for whom the great valley of Virginia is named."- Alan Lomax, The Folk Songs of North America
This is our blending of two versions of a shanty, one in French and the other in English.
This is a shanty we learned from a group in England called Monkey's Fist.
Before the Mast's
Rolling Down and Hand Over Hand
are usually available at:
1.The New Brunswick Museum Gift Shop, Market Square in Saint John
2. Saltwater Sounds, Water Street in Miramichi
3. Serendipin'Art, Water Street in St. Andrews
4. Westminster Books, King Street in Fredericton
5. Backstreet Records, Germain Street in Saint John
6. Fundy Guild Nature Boutique, Fundy National Park
7. Quaco Museum and Library in St. Martins
These CD recordings capture the enthusiasm and energy of the group's live performances where audiences become active participants. They also highlight the compelling harmonies created by the voices of a group of men who love to sing together.
From a review of Hand Over Hand....
"There's nothing quite as stirring as the sea. So it makes sense that the traditional music of the old ships should be just as stirring. The a cappella sea shanties of Before The Mast lift the spirit and take you back to a thrilling part of New Brunswick's history. Saint John was one of the busiest ports in the world during the time of the tall ships, and this was the rock and roll of the day, sung by the rough and vulgar sailing hands. It also had its own beauty as well, and Before The Mast deliver on all sides."
-Bob Mersereau, East Coast Music
Hand Over hand is also available on CDBaby
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