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Sea Music Festival

June 8 - June 11

Mystic Seaport is proud to host its 38th annual Sea Music Festival, one of the world’s premier sea music events. Thousands gather each year to hear an amazing array of performers from across the world perform maritime music ranging from the golden age of sail to the  best of contemporary compositions. This year’s roster of performers includes musicians from Australia, England, France, across the U.S. from Tennessee to Michigan and the Northeast. The weekend’s festivities include concerts, special performances for children, instructional workshops, and a unique opportunity to witness sea music at work aboard our historic vessels.

As part of the Sea Music Festival, Mystic Seaport will also host the Music of the Sea Symposium. The Music of the Sea Symposium explores the interaction between sea, music, and song. As an integral part of the annual Sea Music Festival, this two-day symposium, co-sponsored by Mystic Seaport, Williams College, the Williams-Mystic Program, and the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, explores subjects from history and folklore, to literature and ethnomusicology, along with many other related topics.

This year both days of the symposium – Friday, June 9, and Saturday, June 10 – will be held in the Greenmanville Church on the Museum grounds. The Sea Music Festival All-Access Pass gives entry to Mystic Seaport, the Symposium, and all other Sea Music Festival events Thursday night through Sunday. Attendance for the Friday Symposium session is only FREE with special entry through the Museum’s Thompson Building, the North End Entrance. To attend Saturday’s Symposium session, admission to the Museum is required. Tickets can be bought at the door.

The Music of the Sea Symposium is sponsored by Mystic Seaport, Williams College, the Williams-Mystic Program, and the University of Connecticut at Avery Point.

Daytime concerts and workshops are open to all Museum visitors. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening concerts require separate tickets.

2017 Lineup

Martin & Shan Graebe – England: They sing traditional songs, mostly from the south of England and, mostly, unaccompanied and in harmony. Many come from the Devonshire collector, Sabine Baring-Gould, on whose work Martin is an authority. Martin’s book on Baring-Gould and his song collection will be published in the autumn of 2017.


Tom Lewis – England: As an ex-submariner, Tom knows the sea – from the bottom up! His repertoire — from traditional chanteys to songs fashioned out of his own seafaring background — recruits the audience for a voyage by turns reflective, dramatic and humorous. Born in Northern Ireland, Tom’s Celtic heritage is obvious in his clear, strong voice, evoking quiet sorrow for a fisherman lost to the sea just as honestly as it powers out a chantey “to be heard above the gales.” The connecting stories are as entertaining as the songs themselves. Tom accompanies himself on button accordion and ukulele — but it’s that powerful vocal style and infectious humor that keeps audiences coming back.

Nordet – France: Nordet was formed in the early ’90s, when three sailors created the group. This one evolved to arrive at the ideal crew marrying traditional songs “a cappella” – working songs from diverse horizons – without forgetting the masterful traditional or contemporary compositions. They use their voices with virtuosity and they play traditional instruments with great panache. The group has represented France several times, notably during the international chantey festival.


The Roaring Forties – Australia: This Sydney-based group is renowned since 1988 for the powerful impact they make singing unaccompanied folk songs. Their Australian maritime repertoire includes shanties and songs collected from the oral tradition, songs embedded in ships’ logs, and some fascinating home-grown contemporary sea songs. Members include: Don Brian (authority on whaling in the southern oceans and Norfolk Island history and singer of traditional Australian songs); Margaret Walters (harmony singer par excellence, valued for her organizational skills and lack of a beard); Tom Hanson (prodigious collector of sea songs from far flung places – bass voice to die for); Chris Maltby (harmonies with a phenomenal memory and social conscience) and Robin Connaughton (founding member, proponent of traditional Irish-style shanties and composer of fine songs including “We Made the Steel” with John Warner. 

Atwater/Donnelly – Rhode Island: This award-winning, internationally acclaimed duo, Aubrey Atwater and Elwood Donnelly, present delightful programs of traditional American and Celtic folk songs and percussive dance. Elwood and Aubrey blend gorgeous harmonies and play an astonishing array of instruments including guitar, Appalachian mountain dulcimer, mandolin, tin whistle, harmonica, banjo, and limberjacks. Their show includes a thrilling interpretation of freestyle Appalachian clog dancing. Their performance is appealing to all ages, and with humor, audience participation, and a relaxed stage presence, Aubrey and Elwood explain song origins to give more relevance to the material. Married since 1989, Aubrey and Elwood perform widely in the United States and abroad and their 13 recordings receive international airplay.

Jerry Bryant – MassachusettsThis singer and independent folk scholar focuses on curating great songs from the past 500 years of American, Irish and British traditions. His repertoire includes hundreds of traditional and contemporary folk songs, with a special emphasis on the musical artifacts of maritime culture. Accompanying himself on concertina, guitar, banjo, ukulele and other instruments, he presents songs that open a window on the human experience. By researching the music he is able to add historical insights to his performances. Jerry has released two CDs: ‘The Ballad of Harbo and Samuelsen’, and ‘Roast Beef of Old England’, a collection of traditional songs from the man-of-war days of the Royal Navy, and is a companion to the seafaring novels of Patrick O’Brian. He also created the concertina soundtrack for the audiobook of Nathaniel Philbrick’s ‘In the Heart of the Sea’. 

The Johnson Girls – New York & ConnecticutA force on the folk and maritime music scene for more than two decades as the leading all-woman, a cappella maritime group in the world, Joy Bennett, Alison Kelley, Bonnie Milner, and Deirdre Murtha each bring a special influence to the group. Whether performing at packed international folk festivals, intimate venues, or presenting school and library programs, The Johnson Girls remain true to their mission of keeping chantey singing alive, bringing women’s voices to the fore, and encouraging everyone to join in the revelry. They are widely acclaimed for their powerhouse performances of rousing work songs, sensitive renderings of haunting ballads and laments, and hair-raising harmonies.

Larry Kaplan – ConnecticutThis is Larry’s fourth Mystic appearance. His songs are widely known by audiences and musicians throughout the world including “Song for the Bowdoin,” The Wreck of the Bayrupert,” and many others. A multi-intrumentalist, he draws inspiration from the folk and maritime traditions. The late Sandy Paton referred to Larry as “one of the best song-makers in the American folk song revival.” Kaplan’s original songs are stories in song, best known for themes of the sea and rivers and of the people who make these their home. The charm of Kaplan is the beauty and humor he sees in the ordinary and he gives a voice to those who are often not heard. 

Mustard’s Retreat – MichiganMichael Hough and David Tamulevich met as short order cooks in Ann Arbor, MI in 1974. They soon discovered they shared two mutual goals: to become professional performers/singer-songwriters, and to get out of the restaurant business. They accomplished both within the next 18 months. Both Michael and David have roots in both traditional music and in the singer/songwriter world of the 1960s. They are widely respected as songwriters, recording artists, as well as performers. David was raised in Branford, CT. In high school he volunteered at the local student run coffeehouse (named Bubbet, which today is the Branford Folk Music Society). Their songs run the gamut from personal to goofy, to tales of the Great Lakes, and local notables Captain Kidd & Benedict Arnold. This is their third appearance at the festival.

Dave Ruch & Jeff Davis – Connecticut and New York: They were here in 2013 as “The New Boys of Old New York” with, not surprisingly, a repertoire of mostly NY-related fare. There will be plenty of Long Island tunes and Erie Canal songs again this time around (2017 being the bicentennial of the first “dig”), but they’ll also be free to explore many other nooks and crannies of American traditional music as related to the lives of sailors, canallers, boatmen, fiddlers, the lumber trade and more.  

Sparky and Rhonda Rucker – Tennessee: Sparky and Rhonda deliver an uplifting presentation of toe-tapping songs spiced with humor, history, and tall tales. Their music includes a variety of old-time blues, Appalachian music, slave songs, and spirituals as well as originals, and they accompany themselves with finger-style picking and bottleneck blues guitar, blues harmonica, old-time banjo, piano, spoons, and bones. The Ruckers have been featured tellers at the International Storytelling Center and Festival and have performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Their recording, “Treasures & Tears”, was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award, and their music is also included on the Grammy-nominated anthology, “Singing Through the Hard Times”.

Dick Swain – Maine: Dick sings and plays guitar, banjo, English concertina, button accordion and other instruments, and he loves learning and researching songs from the places where he has lived. His performances include materials gathered from conversations with traditional performers, field and commercial recordings, and research into the history and folklore of North America and the Anglo, Irish and Scottish traditions. He was Director of the Pinewoods Folk Music Week for four years. He has performed at the Lunenburg Folk Harbour, Kent State, Hiawatha, North Coast and other Folk Festivals. 

Vox Hunters – Rhode IslandArmand Aromin and Benedict Gagliardi are musically bound by a shared love of traditional Irish music, as well as an eclectic and ever-growing amalgam of songs both inside and far outside the realm of ‘folk music’. With fiddle in hand, a couple concertinas, banjo and a pair of complementary voices, The Vox Hunters present an exciting repertoire of driving dance tunes blended with an unorthodox collection of interesting songs and musical varia.  

Anayis Wright – Massachusetts: Anayis is a traditional folk musician with a special interest in sea music and shape note music. She performs as a solo vocalist, and plays cello and concertina. She came to sea music early, from listening to Stan Rogers and chantey compilations at a very young age, to her first sea music festival at age 14. More recently, she attended the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies program and took “chantey skills”– studying twice weekly with the Museum’s chanteymen. A.J. has performed at Tall Ships festivals in Fairport Ohio and Erie Pennsylvania, and worked and shantied aboard the U.S. Brig Niagara. She has appeared multiple times on WICN. 

The Chanteens: This group has been performing sea songs aboard sailing vessels, in rowing dories, at schools and museums and at the Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival for more than a decade. The program was started by advisor Paula Daddio years ago while on a sail training trip on the Victory Chimes in Maine. The group has been as large in number as 15 and as few as 6 but never lacking in knowledge, enthusiasm and undying passion for this tradition.