Sea Shanties & Sea Songs

Richard Adrianowiczstraw hat photo1

Music Two 4:00-5:00

Sea Shanties are work songs. All work songs have a chorus and were only sung when work was being done. Their purpose is to either coordinate the work or to make it easier to do, that is, help to pass the time for backbreaking, time-consuming labor. There are two basic forms of work. A hauling song involves pulling and a heaving song involves pushing. For hauling up a sail the work is coordinated by pulls on a line at certain part of the chorus. This makes the work more efficient. For a heaving song there is no coordinated pushing. An example would be bringing up the anchor. This was calling "weighing" anchor. This was done by means of a mechanical device called a capstan. The capstan was like an upright barrel with slots in it. Wooden poles called "capstan bars" were inserted in the slots and the men would push the bars going around the capstan in a circular motion, bringing up the anchor by means of chains. At the bottom of the capstan were metal arms called "pawls" that would drop into slots as the capstan turned, preventing it from spinning backwards. It took several hours to bring up up the anchor and the work songs helped to pass the time, often using humor to help keep spirits up. Sea Songs were sung when the men were resting. This singing was recreational and the songs might have nothing to do with the sea. Men would sing songs they heard onshore, songs from music halls or from pubs. Any traditional song might have been heard aboard ship.

Richard Adrianowicz’s interest in traditional music began in the early 70's when he moved to California. He was part of several folk groups in the San Francisco Bay Area. Richard is one of the resident shanty singers at Hyde Street Pier’s monthly shanty sings in San Francisco, held aboard one of the historic sailing ships moored there. In 2002 he released Time Ashore is Over, a recording of sea shanties and sea songs featuring a chorus of singers from Hyde Street Pier. Raised in Chicago, Illinois, Richard also has a keen interest in songs of the Great Lakes sailors. In addition to being a vocalist, Richard also plays the guitar, tin whistle and fiddle.