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Sea Music Festival

Mystic Seaport is proud to host its 36th annual Sea Music Festival, one of the world’s premier sea music events. Fans of traditional sea music gather each year to hear national and international performers, along with the Museum’s chantey staff, perform music from the golden Age of Sail through the best of contemporary compositions. The 2015 roster includes music from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and Canada, along with singers from across the United States.

The weekend’s festivities include daytime and evening concerts, special performances for children, instructional workshops, a unique opportunity to witness sea music at work aboard historic vessels, and the Music of the Sea Symposium. This two-day collaborative program explores the interaction between sea, music, and song and features subjects from history and folklore, to literature, ethnomusicology, and other related topics.

Sea Music Festival 2015 Performers

MARA (Brigitte Kloareg, Katell Kloareg and Yuna Léon), Maurice Leyden & Jane Cassidy, Alan Reid with Rob van Sante, Ian Bell, Pressgang Mutiny, Cathy Barton & Dave Para, Judy Cook, Jackson Gillman, Sara Grey & Keiron Means, Meridian (Olivia Gale & Colin de la Barre), Mystic Seaport Chantey Staff (Craig Edwards, Jesse Edwards, David Iler, Geoff Kaufman, Barry Keenan, Denise Kegler, David Littlefield, Don Sineti, and Chris Koldewey), Northern Neck Chanteymen, Jordan Shapiro’s Shanty Shakedown, Jeff Warner, George Ward, and Charlie Zahm.

Performer Bios

Cathy Barton and Dave ParaCathy Barton and Dave Para give dynamic performances acclaimed for their variety and expertise in both vocal and instrumental styles. Their repertoire and informal audience rapport are marked by a special affection for traditional music. Their more than 35 years of playing together have taken them to festivals, clubs, concert halls, schools, and recording and media studios across the United States and five European tours, with audiences as diverse as their repertoire. A versatile duo, Cathy and Dave perform and conduct workshops with hammered and fretted dulcimers, banjo, guitars, and Autoharp, as well as “found” instruments like bones, spoons, mouthbow, and leaf. Their music ranges from driving string band music to contemplative ballads and airs. Cathy and Dave have a knack for finding unusual, rarely heard songs from traditional and contemporary sources in their home region, but also from elsewhere in the US and Europe. They have conducted many topical workshops on songs from the Carter family, the Civil War, river lore, gospel, children’s songs, Christmas music and Ozark ballads.

Ian BellIan Bell has performed across Canada and in the United States since the late 1970s.  On his own and with a number of groups, he has appeared at folk festivals across Canada and abroad, and for many years was a regular musical contributor to The Vinyl Café, Fresh Air and other CBC radio programs. Accompanying himself on guitar, concertina, banjo and button accordion, Ian performs both Canadian traditional music and his own songs and instrumental compositions. Ian’s original songs have been performed and recorded by: Anne Lederman, Ian Robb, Bobby Watt, Allison Lupton, Lee Murdock, and others. He’s also well known as a great storyteller. Following the release of three CDs of original material, Ian has returned with two recordings of traditional songs and tunes – My Pious Friends & Drunken Companions and his latest, Forget Me Not When Far Away – a collection of songs of the Great Lakes.

Judy CookJudy Cook has been actively touring throughout both Britain and the US for more than 15 years. She is recognized for her depth of understanding and storytelling ability in ballad form and for her dedication to the music and research. In Judy’s programs of traditional song, powerful narratives dovetail effortlessly with sentimental Victorian tales and sprinklings of whimsical pieces. Her presentation and delivery are a great example to any singer, and combine with her joy of singing to delight all listeners. In her historically themed programs, Judy interleaves songs with spoken word pieces, and accompanies them with projected images. Judy has one book and four CDs. The two most recent CDs are: Tenting Tonight: Songs of the Civil War and Lincoln’s America. Her first book, A Quiet Corner of the War, presents the Civil War letters of her great-great grandparents with extensive notes and research; published by the University of Wisconsin Press (2013).

Jackson GillmanJackson Gillman is so adept at changing into a wide variety of colorful characters, that he is called the “Stand-Up Chameleon.”  He might be a salty lobsterman one moment, and then one of the various creatures he comes across while fishing. Jackson has been entertaining and educating people of all ages through his many talents as songsmith, comic, mime, and storyteller since 1978, and performs weekly at the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park.  His many interactive nature programs reflect his ecology background from the College of the Atlantic and include: Nature in Action, Story & Song; Once Upon a Tide; Songs & Stories for a Small Planet; and An Evening of Maine Humor. Jackson will be drawing from his fishy repertoire of dramatic ballads and songs from the briny deep.

Sara Grey and Kieron MeansSara Grey and Kieron Means: Sara is a fine American singer, banjo player and song collector and is immersed in the traditions of both sides of the Atlantic.  She has performed throughout the UK, Europe, North America, and Australia.

Sara’s son, Kieron, was born in the United States and grew up in Britain with the music of both traditions. He is a fine performer of traditional and contemporary songs and has toured in the States, UK, and often performs with his mother. Together their repertoire encompasses a broad range of styles including old-time songs and ballads from the Appalachians, Ozarks, New England and the West, blues and gospel, as well as songs that have traveled from Great Britain and Ireland to America.

Maurice Leyden and Jane CassidyMaurice Leyden and Jane Cassidy is a husband and wife team of folk singers and song collectors from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who have been performing their native Ulster folk songs for more than 30 years. Maurice has published two collections of traditional songs; Belfast, City of Song 1989, Brandon Press and Boys and Girls Come Out to Play 1993, Appletree Press and his latest, a social history of the Ulster Linen Industry through folk song, will be published in the coming year. During the 1980s, Jane toured extensively in Europe and has released two solo albums on the Claddagh Record label Waves of Time 1982 and The Empty Road 1985, as well as an album with Maurice telling the story of Mary Ann McCracken 1770-1866 through words and folk songs.  Maurice and Jane presented a weekly folk and traditional program for Downtown Radio in Northern Ireland for many years. They offer workshops in schools teaching traditional singing games. Maurice teaches traditional singing and gives ‘singing lectures’, one of which was on the songs of the Handloom Weavers presented in the Library of Congress, Washington, DC in 2010.

MARAMARA brings together three performers from Brittany. Yuna Léon on fiddle plays tunes from both Breton and Irish traditions. Mother and daughter, Brigitte and Katell Kloareg, have sung together for 20 years around the Celtic countries. They share a large repertoire of Breton, French, English, Welsh, and Irish music. Brigitte and Yuna met in 2014 for a performance of sea songs from and around Concarneau, a well-known harbor on the south coast of Brittany, as well as Brigitte’s hometown and Katell’s place of birth. As fate would have it, Katell and Yuna had met at university.  It just seemed right to bring the three ladies together for this festival.

MeridianMeridian: Having met at a chantey sing in Gloucester, MA in 2010, Olivia Gale and Colin de la Barre have been singing and performing together ever since. Colin grew up with a fascination and love for the traditional music that surrounded him. His great reverence for harmony singing led to performing with Three Sheets to the Wind, Knockabout, and now with Olivia in Meridian.  Olivia was the only musically inclined member of her immediate family and showed a passion for singing from a very early age. She plays guitar and autoharp, has sung in choirs, musical theatre, and was trained in opera, but folk music remains her one true love. Meridian specializes in beautifully blended harmonies of both traditional and contemporary folk music, and is thrilled to be performing at this year’s festival.

Mystic Seaport chantey staffMystic Seaport Chantey Staff: The current crew is Craig Edwards, Jesse Edwards, David Iler, Geoff Kaufman, Barry Keenan, Denise Kegler, David Littlefield, and Don Sineti, with Chris Koldewey on call. There are also some chantey folk in training (Bror Okerblom and Brien Bradley). These are the folks who carry on the daily duties of presenting music in shipboard demonstrations and themed-public performances as part of the historic interpretation of Mystic Seaport, as well as presenting on grounds and special outreach programming.

Northern Neck ChanteymenThe Northern Neck Chantey Singers specialize in the work songs used in the menhaden fishing trade. This African-American tradition evolved to coordinate the backbreaking task of hauling in a purse seine, a net like a lady’s drawstring purse, weighted down, and filled with thousands of pounds of fish. They have helped to preserve a unique part of our maritime heritage that is exclusive to only two centers of this part of the fishing industry: Reedville, Virginia and Beaufort, North Carolina. The members of the group all came up through this culture in the Northern Neck region of Virginia, between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers, and worked in the menhaden fishery over a 50-year period beginning in the 1930s. Now in their 70s and 80s, they are keeping alive an uncommon legacy of African-American work songs sung on the water.

Pressgang MutinyPressgang Mutiny is Toronto’s new generation of chanteymen. Since 2013, their rich baritone harmonies and raucous live shows have attracted an enthusiastic following in their hometown, with audiences roaring along to an ever-expanding repertoire of songs from the sea. They first began chanteying in the backseat of a van while touring across Europe with The Lemon Bucket Orkestra. What began as camaraderie on the road soon became an all-consuming passion, as they would sing everywhere they went. In September 2014, they toured the Canadian maritimes, visiting and singing with the Yarmouth Shantymen and Saint John’s Before The Mast. Group member are: John David Williams, James McKie, Richard Kott, Stefan Read, Chris Weatherstone, each accomplished singers, dancers, and instrumentalists in their own right. Pressgang Mutiny is currently touring the East Coast once again, exploring the rich maritime history and learning from the masters of sea music everywhere they go.

Alan Reid and Rob Van SanteAlan Reid and Rob van Sante present a lively show featuring Alan’s compositions and traditional material, rooted largely in the music of the Scottish landscape, its cities, countryside, and its coastline. From achingly beautiful ballads (like “The Riccarton Tollman’s Daughter” and “The Pleasure will be Mine”) to an entire musical cycle centered on the life and times of Scottish native John Paul Jones, Alan has long fostered a reputation for his songs that have been lauded for their strong melodies and historical content. Born in Holland, but growing up in the north of England, Rob’s life was steeped in music, with the guitar as his first love. Alan and Rob formed their duo in 2000 and performed occasionally while still working with Battlefield Band until 2010 when they both departed the band. Since then they have regularly toured the UK, North America. Europe. Australia and New Zealand. They have released four critically acclaimed albums, the latest of which is entitled Rough Diamonds (2014). The duo offers a heady blend of seamless harmonies underpinned by sensitive arrangements on piano, guitars, and accordion and topped by an engaging delivery peppered with dry humor and pithy anecdotes.

Jordan ShapiroShapiro’s Shanty Shakedown is a 7-piece band made up of NYC’s finest musicians in folk, jazz, and classical music. Jordan Shapiro leads the group that brings us a new twist on traditional sea music repertoire, performing high energy arrangements that include funky New Orleans rhythms, solemn brass chorales, old-time banjo breakdowns, Cajun fiddle and accordion duets, and lonesome ballads with brass quartet, accordion, fiddle, banjo and drums.  Group members are: Jordan Shapiro (vocals/accordion), Alex Kramer (vocals/fiddle/banjo), Kyra Simms (vocals/French horn), Ben Syverson (trumpet), Ric Becker (trombone), Joe Exley (tuba), and Phil Kester (drums).

S.S. ChanteensThe S.S. Chanteens was formed in 2002 following weeklong sail training aboard the Victory Chimes in the Gulf of Maine, where students from the Sound School Regional Aquaculture Center, on New Haven Harbor, CT were crew members. They learned the history of various chanteys while raising sails and performing other sea duties, and learned about life at sea during the Age of Sail through their work and the singing of fo’c’sle songs that speak of the trials and tribulations of the sailors. These students’ incredible passion for sea music quickly spread through the school, resulting in an afterschool music program consisting of many members of the rowing and sailing teams and advised by Paula Daddio, formerly of the trio Shipping News. The group performs at schools, festivals, museums, and on sailing vessels. Although the members change every few years, they all have a genuine love of history and perform with great enthusiasm.

George WardGeorge Ward – Widely known as a performer, presenter, and regional folklorist specializing in the musical traditions of rural New York and the Northeast, George is also an award-winning songwriter and composer whose work often looks to those same musical roots for inspiration.  He grew up on salt water, on and around boats, and his grandfather and great grandfather were ships’ chandlers. Though his father and uncles did not follow in the family business, poems, songs and stories about boats of all kinds was a large part of George’s life. George is best known as the Balladeer of the Erie Canal with albums Oh! That Low Bridge! and All Our Brave Tars: The Age of Fighting Sail.

Jeff WarnerJeff Warner is among the nation’s foremost performer/interpreters of traditional music. His songs from the lumber camps, fishing villages, and mountaintops of America connect 21st-century audiences with the everyday lives and artistry of 19th-century Americans. Jeff grew up listening to the songs and stories of his father Frank Warner and the traditional singers his parents met during their folksong collecting trips through rural America. He accompanied his parents on their later field trips and is the editor of his mother’s book, Traditional American Folk Songs: From the Anne and Frank Warner Collection. He is producer of the two-CD set, Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still, the Warners’ recordings of rural singers, many of them born in Victorian times. Jeff has performed widely, from large festivals in the UK, to clubs, festivals, and schools across America, toured nationally for the Smithsonian Institution, taught at Pinewoods, Ashokan, Augusta and Swannanoa summer music programs and recorded for Flying Fish/Rounder, WildGoose (UK) and other labels. His 1995 recording Two Little Boys received a Parents’ Choice Award. He plays concertina, banjo, guitar and several “pocket” instruments, including bones and spoons.

Charlie ZahmCharlie Zahm, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and Mid-Atlantic acoustic musical favorite for the last 25 years, has always been taken by the senses of time, place, and social consciousness preserved in traditional music, and through years of dedication and a wide variety of studies and travels he has earned a reputation of truly being committed to his craft. His love for this art is especially evident in the powerful compositions of this seasoned songwriter. One of his favorite places in the world giving influence to his original maritime music is Nova Scotia. The most beautiful of all the Canadian Maritime Provinces, and the one in which Charlie has familial roots, Nova Scotia has lent imagery and romantic drama to many of Charlie’s compositions. At Mystic Seaport, Charlie will be accompanied by his fiddler friend of 15 years, Tad Marks. Hailing from Baltimore, Tad has performed across the world in concerts, in festivals, and in studio sessions too numerous to count.

Schedule of Events

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fitting Out Concert at the Boat Shed, 7 p.m. — Our first evening concert will get us “fitted out” for the weekend voyage. We will be celebrating the 36th anniversary of the Sea Music Festival with solo guests from New York and Ohio and special bands from New York City and Canada. Featuring: Bonnie and Dan Milner (MCs), Mystic Seaport chantey staff (Craig Edwards, David Iler, Geoff Kaufman, Denise Kegler, Barry Keenan, Chris Koldewey, David Littlefield, and Don Sineti), Judy Cook, Pressgang Mutiny, Shapiro’s Shanty Shakedown, and George Ward.

Concert tickets: Adult member $25, Student/Youth member $16, Adult non-member $32, Student/Youth non-member $24

Friday, June 12, 2015

Music of the Sea Symposium, Part 1, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. — Hosted at Connecticut College’s Olin Science Center and moderated by Craig Edwards. Admission is free.

Unmooring Concert at the Boat Shed, 7 p.m. — As we get “under weigh” for the rest of the weekend you will be treated to an exciting mix of acts from our stellar roster of performers from near and far. Featuring: Geoff Kaufman (MC), Ian Bell, Jackson Gillman, Sara Grey and Kieron Means, Maurice Leyden and Jane Cassidy, Meridian (Olivia Gale and Colin de la Barre), and Charlie Zahm.

Concert tickets: Adult member $25, Student/Youth member $16, Adult non-member $32, Student/Youth non-member $24

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Music of the Sea Symposium, Part 2, 9:30 a.m. — Hosted at Mystic Seaport’s Greenmanville Church and moderated by Craig Edwards. Museum admission is required (members admitted for free).

Concerts, Workshops, and Demonstrations, 12-5 p.m. — Hosted throughout Museum grounds and included in Mystic Seaport admission.

Sea Music Contra Dance, 3-6 p.m. — Kick up your heels and enjoy live music and contra dancing at Frohsinn Hall, located at 54 Greenmanville Avenue in Mystic, directly across the street from Mystic Seaport’s main entrance. Admission is $8 and is included in the festival’s All-Access Pass.

Full Sail Concert at the Boat Shed, 7 p.m. — Get ready for an amazing night from great performers. Featuring: John Roberts (MC), Cathy Barton and Dave Para, MARA (Brigitte Kloareg, Katell Kloareg, and Yuna Léon), Northern Neck Chanteymen, Pressgang Mutiny, Alan Reid and Rob van Sante, and Jeff Warner.

Concert tickets: Adult member $25, Student/Youth member $16, Adult non-member $32, Student/Youth non-member $24

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Concerts, Workshops, and Demonstrations, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. — Hosted throughout Museum grounds and included in Mystic Seaport admission.

Final Concert at the Boat Shed, 3-6 p.m. — Featuring all performers.

Weekend Performance Schedule

(Click on the performance schedules to enlarge the images.)