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About the songs on the CD:
We did our utmost to record a great variety of songs of the sea. Not all the songs of this selection are traditional shanties. We have some well-known work songs like Blow the Man Down, The Pump Shanty, Drunken sailor and Whisky Johnny
and a lovely forebitter, the American Venezuela. We also have a Royal Navy song, Spanish Ladies and suggestive songs like A’ rovin’ and the naughty Bell-Bottomed Trousers, a plaintive Leave her, Johnny and the beautiful social lament The Shoals of Herring. The latter is not a shanty but written by the legendary Scottish balladeer Ewan McColl, and often sung by other folksingers.
An example of a relatively modern song of the sea is the famous Mingulay Boat Song written in Glasgow by Sir Hugh S. Roberton in 1938 as a choral work using a traditional Gaelic tune.The island of Mingulay in the Outer Hebrides had, by then, been uninhabited for twenty-six years.
The hilarious Ogilvie’s Boat is not a real shanty but a song from the end of the 19th century set in Aberdeen. It is a music hall piece written by Thomas Stott and his son Billy Stott.
The Dutch Medley has been included on this CD. As a British Shanty group, singing in Dutch was very popular with the audiences at the International Shanty Festival in Rotterdam, and indeed we all love the challenge of singing these numbers. A brief translation:
- All men who want to go to Iceland (‘Ieseland’ in old Dutch) to catch the cod won’t tire, not even after 33 trips…
- All men who want to become pirates have to grow beards. John, Peter, Jack and Cornel do have beards and they will surely sail. All men who want to become whalers have to grow beards. John, Peter, Jack and Cornel do have beards and they will surely sail…
- Once there was a girl who wanted to become a sailor. She had to climb the rigging and set the sails, but when in a storm the sails came down, it was clear that she had not done her job properly. She was ordered into the captain’s cabin to be punished. She said to the captain: ‘Please don’t beat me because I could be your sweetheart.’ And indeed, even before the ship was back in harbour, a junior seaman was born…
The Diamond is a Scottish whaling song, and no-one will be surprised that we have recorded three Shetland songs. Da Sang o da Papa Men is a poem by the famous Shetland poet Vagaland, set to music by T.M.Y.Manson, about the fishermen from the isle of Papa Stour. They rowed out to fish as far as 30-40 miles to the north-west of Foula. Much of Foula disappeared below the horizon. When there was fog, men smelled the flowers of their island and found their way back by following their noses. Singing in dialect was not easy, as most of the group do not come from Shetland. We had, however, a good advisor. Retired teacher, Andy Gear taught us line by line how the words should be pronounced in the song, in which he is the soloist. The other two Shetland songs are from our own island, Yell. Both are farewell songs, but very cheerful. In Gyaain ta da Far Haaf a fisherman asks his wife to bring all his requirements for a couple of days at sea, fishing. He will bring back a lot of fish to put ashore (‘lay upo da ayre’). In another song Farewell ta Yell a sailor is going around the village to visit family and neighbours to say farewell because he is leaving for three years as crewman on a voyage to the southern hemisphere.
The lyrics of our title song, Silver Darlings, were written by Peter Blanker, originally in Dutch, set to music by musician and composer Izak Boom. In Dutch the song is called Nieuwe Haring about the ‘new’ or fresh herring fished for centuries by the Dutch in the waters around Shetland. Brian Gregson adapted the lyrics into correct English.