(An American Maritime Adventure)
By Bill Schustik
In the world of sail, there was a time, a short, but golden time, when America ruled the waves. Like great careening sea birds, our clipper ships flew from New York to Liverpool and then on to Canton. The men who manned these vessels sang. They had to, in order haul the heavy loads they had to heave together. These work songs were called shanties and they carried the spirit of the 19th century American sailor in their lively melodies. Old World harbors echoed with songs of the Missouri River, as anchors were raised and courses set for the far side of the world; the Orient and the golden Coast of California. ("O Shenandoah, I long to hear you.... ") ("There's plenty of gold so I've been told, on the banks of the Sacramento!")
Our homely whale ships meandered over "the watery world" and reaped their harvest from the "uncivilized seas". 7heir men sang of mortal battle with the great leviathan, and of beautiful brown skinned maidens who are "modest and kind" and of "virtuous mind". The prose and poetry are right out of Melville. Passion and humor (both earthy and ethereal) resonate through shanty doggerel. The effect is thrilling as Bill heads out on a musical voyage "around the Horn". Using the magic of song and story, he carries you with him.
You'll be captivated by visions of frozen worlds (Lady Franklin's Lament), spectral lovers (Lowlands), and a merman. ("... the great big tail that he sat on went a wigglin' in the sea...")
The plaintive cry of a concertina evocates ancient legend and, in time, we are touched by a beautiful sea witch who lives inside a whale. (The mystical- song poem Ichabod Paddock)
"Up tight and out of sight"..."Sock it to me!", these were phrases of clipper ship captains and harpooners. You'll hear about their hornpipes, their romantic problems, and their dreams. They'll be speaking to you through Bill's mastery of song and story.