On Nov. 10, Larry’s Privateers had their last show of the term about what shanty tunes are best known for: crappy jobs. The group performed nine songs revolving around this theme, whether it was coal mining, railroad working, whaling or just being Scottish. The crew includes sophomores “Captain” Nick Mayerson, “First Mate” Matt Rynkiewicz, “Quartermaster” Roland Eckhart, “Boatswain” Rei Coman, “Resident Diva Bard” Sesha Bell, “Powder Monkey” David Womack, senior “Sailing Master” Jesse Grace and freshman “Chirurgeon” Madeleine Meade.
The energy from the group was revitalizing, contrasting many of Lawrence’s formal concerts. It was a welcoming environment that was well-matched to the liveliness of the performance. Each song featured at least one soloist from the group if not more and was often kept alive with the clapping, stomping and spirited cheers from members as they performed. Never was there a more jolly bunch, brimming with life as they sang, surprising considering this specific show’s content, but it worked very well.
After every song, there was a short but informative introduction to the next song. Not only do the Privateers sing with great vigor, but they also know what they are singing about, which adds to their performance. They ended the show with a beautiful performance of “Northwest Passage” by Stan Rogers.
The Privateers were formed at the beginning of last year. Initially it was a very small group with only a few members, but they all shared an interest in shanty songs and folk music. As they developed, the Privateers began to gain more interest from other students who had no idea what shanty music was all about. That is when the group realized how important it was to bring their music to others on campus and share the traditions that came with work songs. President Nick Mayerson said, “We aim to continue this time-honored, aural tradition into the modern age and bring people together as these songs did many years ago.”
The shanty music the Privateers sing is an assortment of folk music usually with a call and response format. Most of the songs date back to the 17th through the 19th centuries when sailing was a more popular, if not necessary, occupation. This history is ingrained into the very heart of the music. Shanties keep a steady beat throughout the song, a beat that comes from the rhythm that sailors worked at. This driving beat occurred in other occupations as well, like coal mining and railroad working. Eventually this style of music made its way into the favorite hobby of these workers: drinking.
From their small group of singers, Larry’s Privateers have slowly grown into a larger collection, forming two different groups. One is larger group that gathers together once a week to sing in a casual, no-pressure environment, and the other is a smaller group, the actual Privateers, which is oriented towards sharing shanty music with the greater Lawrence community.
“The interest in sea shanties for me, personally, is the community aspect,” Mayerson said. “They are often very simple so almost anyone, no matter the singing experience, can enjoy them and sing along. I’m not a trained singer, I’m a government major, and yet I get to enjoy singing these often exciting and fun songs with a whole group of like-minded individuals.”
To those interested in joining the group, their communal singing time is at 4 p.m. on Sundays in Shattuck 163.