Sea Music Festival
June 6 - June 9
Join us for the 40th annual Sea Music Festival featuring four days filled with workshops, concerts, hands-on demonstrations, and a scholarly symposium – all celebrating the music of the sea! From songs of the golden age of sail to contemporary compositions, the Sea Music Festival includes a wide variety of sea music both modern and traditional, a children’s stage with special performances for families, and demonstrations of maritime work songs – or chanteys – aboard our historic vessels.
As one of the world’s premier sea music events, performers come from around the world and across the United States.
Daytime concerts, workshops, and the Symposium are included with Museum admission. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening concerts require the purchase of a separate ticket.
Between Two Thorns Hailing from the Northeast, Between Two Thorns is a father-son duo. Cole Thornton currently resides in the greater Boston area while Carl Thornton (former chanteyman at Mystic Seaport Museum) calls Huntington, Vermont, home. Pulling from a wide range of songs and tunes, Between Two Thorns channels their sound into an alt-folk style. Mixing both traditional and contemporary influences, Carl and Cole create an entertaining presentation billed as “Locally Sourced, Free Range Music.” It’s totally a thing!
Celeste Bernardo worked as an interpreter, educator, and manager for twenty-five years at maritime sites in New York, Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts. Along the way, she collected songs to interpret people’s relationship with the sea. Accompanying herself on the anglo concertina, guitar, or 5-string banjo, her repertoire includes sea chanteys and traditional songs of the sea. She holds a Master’s degree in history from Northeastern University and is a graduate of Mystic Seaport Museum’s Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies.
Marc Bernier is a professional chef, musician, and sailor with a diverse musical and professional background. No stranger to sea music audiences, he has been on staff at Mystic Seaport Museum for over 25 years, 5 as a chanteyman. He has worked as a musician and educator for the Clearwater program on the Hudson River and has sailed as cook, deckhand, and entertainer on numerous traditional sailing vessels from the coast of Maine to Chesapeake Bay. “A Man with a Big Voice” and multi-instrumental skills, he is equally at home with guitar, mandolin, and tenor banjo. Marc’s song repertoire comes mostly from Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the Northeastern U.S., with a significant focus on pub songs and drinking songs, developed through years of research in the field.
Jerry Bryant is a singer and independent folk scholar focused 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 old and new songs that open a window on the human experience. By researching the music, he is able to add historical insights to his performances. Featured on a number of recordings, Jerry has released two CDs of his own, one of which is a collection of traditional songs from the man-of-war days of the Royal Navy and serves as a companion to the seafaring novels of Patrick O’Brian.
Ellen Cohn was hired by Stuart M. Frank in 1975 to be an interpreter of sea music at Mystic Seaport Museum, becoming the first female chantey singer on staff. She held that position during the summers of 1975 and 1976 while a student at Wesleyan University. Fascinated by the collection of whalemen’s journals in the Museum’s library, she wrote her undergraduate thesis on the songs, poems, and essays they contained, expanding that study after graduation with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Ellen was a regular performer at the Sea Music Festival in its early decades, accompanying herself on anglo concertina, guitar, and mandolin, and performed at sea music festivals around the U.S. and abroad. Apart from solo work, she played in several Irish music bands and continues to play piano for contra dances.
John Conolly honed his songwriting on the docks of Grimsby, a once bustling fishing port perched at the mouth of England’s Humber River. As he watched the fishing fleet limp into oblivion with the demise of a once-thriving industry, he began to chronicle the stories of the men who worked on the boats and along the docks. “Fiddlers’ Green,” which he wrote in 1964, has become firmly entrenched in the canon of maritime music, along with a long list of his other seafaring songs. John performs with warmth, good humor, and lilting accompaniment on guitar and melodeon. In recent years, he has been joined on stage by Rob van Sante, whose precise guitar work and supporting vocals add a richness and depth to John’s performances.
Following a life-long desire to sing and perform, Debra Cowan left her job as a California middle school math teacher in 1997 and went to live in Edinburgh, Scotland, for six months. There she studied the art of un-accompanied singing and upon her return to the U.S. in 1998 began traveling all over New England performing at any open mike within 100 miles of her new home in Springfield, Massachusetts. Over twenty years later, she is a full-time performer who bridges the old and new with a refreshing stage presence. She has released five full-length recordings and tours extensively in the United Kingdom and in North America. Debra can also be seen on stage with her good friend, John Roberts.
Ron and Natalie Daise are writers, actors, and educators. They present storytelling, music, history, and lectures about Gullah heritage, faith, and creativity at museums, theaters, conferences, and educational institutions across the country. From 1994-1998, the husband-and-wife team starred in Nick Jr. TV’s award-winning “Gullah Gullah Island,” for which they also served as cultural consultants. The show was cited by TV Guide as one of the “10 best children’s shows” in 1996. They were nominees for two NAACP IMAGE Awards and a Daytime Emmy Award and served as charter members of the Sea Island Translation Team and Literacy Project, which began the work of the Gullah Bible. Ron and Natalie are recipients of the 1996 South Carolina Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest honor, and the 1997 State of South Carolina Folk Heritage Award, given for lifetime achievement and excellence in folk art that enriched the lives of people in their community and state.
Stuart M. Frank and Mary Malloy. Stuart was the first chanteyman at Mystic Seaport in 1972 and founded the Sea Music Festival and Symposium forty years ago. He is senior curator emeritus of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, director emeritus of the Kendall Whaling Museum, founding director of the Scrimshaw Forensics® Laboratory, a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and was inducted into the Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame for his research on shipboard songs. He was educated at Wesleyan University, Yale University, the Munson Institute, and Brown University, where his Ph.D. dissertation was Ballads and Songs of the Whale-Hunters. He served as research associate at Mystic Seaport, Artist and Scholar-in-Residence at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, president of the Council of American Maritime Museums, and taught maritime studies at Munson Institute, the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program, the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, and at Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Stuart is the author of numerous books, articles, chapters, and monographs about nautical art, history, literature, and music. Mary was the lead singer and fiddle-player in Morrigan, one of the two headliners at the opening concert of Mystic Seaport Museum’s first Sea Music Festival in 1980. She has a degree in Music from the University of Washington, an M.A. in American Studies from Boston College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Brown University. She was on staff at the Peabody Museum of Salem and the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University; she also taught maritime history and policy at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and at Stanford University and museum studies at Harvard University. She is a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Peabody Museum at Harvard and the author of numerous historical books and several novels.
Glenn M. Grasso was a member of the Mystic Seaport Museum chantey staff from 1993 to 2000. Glenn and fellow chanteyman Marc Bernier wrote Songs of the Sailor, and Glenn wrote the introduction to Mystic Seaport Museum’s reissue of Frederick Pease Harlow’s Chanteying Aboard American Ships. Glenn earned his Ph.D. at the University of New Hampshire in 2009. After a decade in academia, he now works as a historical consultant and rare book and document seller.
Cliff Haslam is a native of Warrington, Cheshire, in the United Kingdom, about 16 miles up the Mersey River from Liverpool. He is an exemplar of the British folk tradition. Cliff’s songs display a fine sense of humor and a bit of British bawdy along with great vocal artistry. Everyone should have the chance to hear him shake the walls as his booming bass baritone breathes new life into an old chantey and in the next moment renders a ballad so tender it would bring tears to the eyes of an executioner. A mainstay in the folk music scene in New England for many years, Cliff has inspired countless people to sing, learn songs, and join in the community of folk music.
Phil and Martin Hugill (sons of the late shantyman Stan Hugill) will be joined by fiddle player Kevin Mercer for this year’s Sea Music Festival. Until his death in 1992, their father “anchored” most of the early Sea Music Festivals at Mystic Seaport Museum with his songs from and tales of sailing on square-riggers between the world wars, along with having published some of the most significant volumes documenting the songs and lives of nineteenth-century sailors. Phil and Martin carry on the Hugill legacy. Phil performs with the Romsey-based band Cuckoo Pint, which plays an eclectic mix of folk songs and tunes to audiences in the Hampshire area. Martin and Kevin have been playing together for about 15 years in various ceilidh and concert bands and currently perform with the ceilidh band Canol. Kevin first joined Phil and Martin for the Festival of the Sea at Aberystwyth, Wales, just across the estuary from the Hugill’s birthplace at Aberdyfi.
Internationally acclaimed, The Johnson Girls have been a force on the folk and maritime music scene for over two decades as the leading all-women a cappella maritime group in the world. Believing that sea chanteys and sea songs were the first real “World Music,” Joy Bennett, Alison Kelley, Bonnie Milner, and Deirdre Murtha each bring a special influence to the group. Whether performing tender ballads or chanteys with hair-raising harmonies at packed international folk festivals, folk clubs, or intimate venues, 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.
Peter Kasin and Richard Adrianowicz Peter was raised in Berkeley, California, by parents who took Peter and his sister to folk music festivals and concerts. Peter’s interest turned to sea music after hearing the Ewan McColl and A.L. Lloyd LP Whaling Ballads in the late 1970s, and his interest further deepened after attending his first chantey sing in San Francisco in 1989. He has performed sea music in numerous festivals in the Northwest U.S. and Yorkshire, England. Richard’s interest in traditional music began in the late 1960s in Chicago when he met the Armstrong family who were involved in the noted Golden Ring Sessions recordings. He also plays the guitar, tin whistle, and fiddle. Peter and Richard have known each other since the late 1980s and formed a duet in 2002 after Peter appeared on Richard’s CD Time Ashore is Over, a recording of sea chanteys and songs. Almost two decades later, they are still going strong.
Janie Meneely & Rob van Sante Singer/songwriter Janie Meneely, born and raised on the Chesapeake Bay, brings her nautical perspective to the world of folk music, celebrating the maritime history, characters, and traditions of the Bay region, often from a woman’s perspective. Her music captures the raucous ruminations of ne’er-do-well charter captains as well as thoughtful ballads about real people who make a living “working” the water. Her recent partnership with guitarist/balladeer Rob van Sante, who lends his knack for melodies and flair for harmony to Janie’s compositions, has broadened her scope beyond the confines of the Bay. Rob draws deep from the well of traditional music, adding his virtuoso guitar as accompaniment or offering spellbinding vocals for Janie’s lyrics.
Lynz Morahn asked her parents for a violin when she was five years old, and music has been a love of her life ever since. In high school, she was honored to participate in regional and state choirs, and as an adult, she has turned her violin into a fiddle and found great joy in folk music and social singing communities. She is regularly found playing, singing, and teaching around campfires, in living rooms, and at festivals and camps such as Rustic Roots, Fiddle Hell, Fat Toad, TradMaD, and the Portsmouth Maritime and Mystic Seaport Museum Sea Music Festivals.
Dave Peloquin’s clear tenor voice, interpretive style, and expressive guitar accompaniment are well-known throughout the world of folk music. For over 35 years, he has been associated with Mystic Seaport Museum as chanteyman, historic interpreter, and festival performer. Dave is an author, illustrator, and independent Herman Melville scholar focused on symbolism in Moby-Dick and other works by Melville. He lectures on Melville, John Huston’s film “Moby Dick,” consciousness, mystical poetry, and meditation.
William Pint hails from Milwaukee, but found himself, and maritime music, while on sojourn in the Puget Sound area. There he met Felicia Dale, a sea captain’s daughter. In the ensuing three decades the couple has performed around the world, collecting songs from the British Isles, the coastal regions of France, and the Canadian Maritimes as well as the U.S. They deliver dynamic vocals and instrumental fireworks, ranging from traditional sea chanteys to contemporary songs, heart-wrenching to downright silly, with powerful harmonies and dramatic instrumental work on guitar, hurdy-gurdy, octave mandolin, penny whistles, and fiddle. Their material is well-researched, authentic, and from the heart.
The Rix Rick Nestler & Rik Palieri sang and sailed with Pete Seeger for over thirty years. Grammy winner Rick Nestler wrote “The River That Flows Both Ways,” the Clearwater anthem. Rik Palieri is a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, banjo, Native American flute, mouth bow, and ukulele. Their latest release is a nautical tribute to their mentor, Pete Seeger: Steering Pete’s Course—Maritime Songs from the Seeger Songbag.
John Roberts has been singing English folk songs since the early 1960s, when he joined a local folk club in his native Worcestershire, England. In the U.S. since 1968, he joined with Tony Barrand to form a duo which has lasted five decades. Singing in unaccompanied harmony, or with concertina or banjo, their entertaining style has delighted audiences. These days, he mostly performs solo, with Debra Cowan or with the Irish group Curragh. John presents a selection of maritime and other folk songs, some well-known to folk aficionados and others less so.
The Rum-Soaked Crooks Tom Goux, Dan Lanier, and Jacek Sulanowski, have been cruising the New England shoreline (and beyond) for the last three decades and inflicting much musical and poetic damage, with a pungent mix of sailors’ chanteys, ballads, and ditties. There is often irrefutable evidence left in their wake: victims leaving the scene with toes tapping and choruses ringing in their heads, as they happily hum and whistle all the way home. The Crooks have shared their songs and stories, both historical and contemporary, at festivals and maritime events across the country and in Europe. Their repertoire spans three centuries of seafaring melody and verse, featuring a sampling of Cape and Islands sea songs and poetry.
An accomplished singer, and instrumentalist on harmonica, 5-string banjo, and English concertina, Ken Sweeney has been performing at festivals and dances at home and abroad since the mid 1970s. Wide experience with varied lifestyles, occupations, and hard travel are the hallmark of his performances with an especial affinity for the songs of his native New England shores. Ken has been a farmhand and deckhand, logger and lecturer, motorcycle currier, railroad hobo, and “Visiting Professor of Harmonica and Banjo” at a Connecticut university, to name a few. Twice former chantey and demonstration squad staff at Mystic Seaport Museum since 1989, he has also crewed on tall ships and climbed to the main truck of the Charles W. Morgan!
The Swiss Mariner Chanteymen are nine singers and instrumentalists who are part of the Swiss Mariner Fife and Drum Corps from Basel, Switzerland, which was founded in 1970 and followed the example of the Ancient Mariners from Connecticut. Inspired by the Ancient Mariners, the Swiss Mariners soon started to sing chanteys for their own entertainment and then for audiences. With their music they follow the American-English chantey tradition and have made a name for themselves with their quite varied and lively interpretation of this traditional repertoire.
Bob Walser is a musician, scholar, and educator whose musical career spans decades and continents. In the early 1980s he made his living as a chanteyman here at Mystic Seaport Museum where he helped launch the Sea Music Festival. Since then he has presented folk music and dance programs as an artist-in-residence in schools across the U.S. and performed as a singer, dance leader, and dance musician from Maine to California and overseas. As a scholar, Bob earned his Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies.
Jeff Warner is among the nation’s foremost performer/interpreters of traditional music. His songs from the lumber camps, fishing villages, and mountain tops of America connect 21st-century audiences with the everyday lives—and artistry—of 19th-century Americans. “Providing more than just rich entertainment, Jeff will leave you with a deeper appreciation of the land you live in” (Caffé Lena, Saratoga, New York). His songs, rich in local history and a sense of place, bring us the latest news from the distant past.