“We be three poor mariners
Newly come from the seas
We spend our lives in jeopardy
While others live at ease
Shall we go dance the round around around
Shall we go dance the round around around”
- English Mariner Song
Harkening back to older times, the New Bedford Sea Chantey Chorus serenades audiences with songs about the work life of merchant sailors and whalers on the high seas.
On April 29 at 2:00 pm, the chorus will perform at the Mattapoisett Museum and Carriage House – treating audiences to traditional chantey music (like “We be three poor mariners” above), including songs representative of the maritime heritage of New Bedford and Mattapoisett. In addition to chanteys, the singing group will perform ballads, choral music and folk songs like “Shenandoah.”
“They book up fast, so we are glad to have them,” said Seth Mendell of the Mattapoisett Historical Society. “They are in great demand.”
Maureen McCarthy, a long-time singer of the 12-year old group, said in addition to bringing a little history to audiences, the chantey chorus wants to deliver a good time.
“It’s a motley group of anyone from 20 to 30 people, a lot of good voices… Instead of it being formal, it’s very much informal. It gets the audience involved, and they sing and they move,” said McCarthy.
Various instruments, including guitars and even an old Washtub Bass, often accompany the singing.
The New Bedford Chaney Group is considered “the voice” of the Schooner Ernestina, McCarthy said, which is retired at the New Bedford harbor. The schooner was built in 1984 in Gloucester, traveled 600 miles of the North Pole, and later brought immigrants to the United States. The Ernestina was returned to the United States in 1982 as a gift from the Cape Verdean people.
Interestingly, the chantey group’s connection to the Ernestina was recognized when a captain in Brigus, Newfoundland invited to group to perform at a festival in 2008. Before it was called the Ernestina, it was called Effie M. Morrissey – the schooner of Newfoundland’s famous native son and mariner Robert Bartlett.
“Since the Ernestina could not make its way up, it invited the group up,” McCarthy said. “We went for a couple of days, and had a wonderful time. Even the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland was there ”
Now the group is gearing up for a performance in Mattapoisett, which McCarthy described as “family friendly” with some songs to appeal to children.
“It’s foot-stomping stuff. It’s a lot of fun. You can join in and have a good time with it.”
By Laura Fedak Pedulli