Age Of Sail And Song With New England Sea Shanties

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The Nantucket (Courtesy U.S. Lightship Museum)
The Nantucket (Courtesy U.S. Lightship Museum)

Imagine being aboard a New Bedford whaling ship. Or a great Boston schooner, bound for Europe or South America. There's adventure on the high seas, possibly even a white whale or two.

But more often, there's the endless work and drudgery of the day-to-day life of a lowly sailor. Nets to mend. Anchors to haul. Thousands of feet of line to pull.

How do you make the work go faster? Aye, by singing, of course.

Sea shanties are the work songs from the great age of sail. Men sang tunes whose syncopated rhythm helped to time when they would pull, push or drag lines across decks together. The songs also captured maritime history, war stories and legends from ports around the world, including Boston.

The Revels, a Massachusetts music group, keeps the New England sea shanty tradition vibrant and alive with summer time sails and song in Boston Harbor. We went along for a journey into Massachusetts musical maritime history.


This program aired on August 9, 2010.


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