Chanteys and Me

This past Saturday was Family and Friends Day, and it was a great opportunity for everyone to relax and reminisce over everything we’ve accomplished in the past twelve (!) weeks. Every student here at Williams-Mystic participates in a maritime skill and Saturday was their chance to show off what they’ve been doing. My roommate Caiti took me sailing on her dory and I practiced my yoga flexibility while she did the actual work and skillfully sailed us around the estuary. From watching Grace and Tat blacksmith to watching Sunny and Libby reenact a Breeches Buoy Lifesaving Demonstration, Family and Friends Day revealed the hidden talents of S12.

But from my unbiased perspective, I’d like to focus on the best skill, my own skill: chanteys.  Bianca, Zoe, Nicole, Ariel, Lara, and I have been spending the past weeks learning the art of belting your heart out. Chanteys are work songs sailors performed to make the burden of labor easier; as our instructor Don Sineti told us, “A good chantey is like ten extra men on the line.” When we were picking our maritime skills –Don Sineti and Marc Bernier, expert chanteymen and all-around cool dudes– gave a demonstration of a chantey and as soon as I heard them bellow, I was sold. As the girl that loves singing but can’t carry a tune, chanteys offer the perfect way for me to express myself. Chanteys don’t ask that you sing well, as long as you can sing loud.

A chanteyman had a song for every occasion, and for authenticity’s sake, the World-Class Super Chantey Chicks decided to each lead a chantey for our concert, just like sailors on a ship would. With catchy phrases like, Cheer up me lively boys, We’ll all get drunk together!, Zoe and Marc showed the audience a foc’s’le song that sailors would sing on their downtime. Meanwhile, Bianca demonstrated a capstan chantey, Nicole did the classic “South Australia,” Lara wooed the crowd with “Mingulay,” and Ariel wowed us all with her good grunting to “John Cherokee.” With cool choreography and snazzy costumes, we closed our concert with “The Titanic,” a ballad that may be the happiest sad song about The Titanic you’ll ever hear.

As for me, my fears of flubbing the opening song were unfounded. Every time I made eye contact with an audience member, their smiling faces would anchor me in the present and buoy my spirits –I couldn’t stop grinning the entire performance! Turns out: the only thing that can conquer years of performance anxiety? Belting out joy.

After the performance, we thanked and hugged our burly instructors who had turned us into World-Class Super Chantey Chicks, and got bestowed an honor I won’t ever forget –as the best chantey performers they’ve ever had! But without the countless hours behind the scenes from Don, Marc, and the rest of my wonderful chantey crew, we could’ve never pulled off such a showstopper. They taught me how to sing from my gut. This post is dedicated to them.

Fair Winds,