‘Our’ Sound?


MRA and I watch those Gareth Malone programmes on BBC where he works with various groups of people to create or improve choirs. I’m not so taken with recent series where they’ve become knock-out competitions, but they can be interesting and certainly enriching for the participants.

The current series is regional. He selected from tapes then went around the country auditioning and picking best choirs. In Portsmouth we saw the Shanty Men performing on HMS Victory (where else?). I know those guys, I’ve performed with them and I like what they do. I’m always fond of anyone who keeps musical traditions alive – in my life for whatever reason it’s been rather more a matter of Mississippi than the Solent

Malone didn’t select them for the semi finals but he said of them:

“I am looking for people that represent the region and I feel like those guys absolutely represent this region. They’re from Portsmouth, they’ve got the right sound they are shanty men, they’ve been singing these shanties for 40 years”.

I’ve always thought that’s a really weird idea in the modern world. I’ve lived my whole life in Pompey, sung & played music throughout and have absolutely no feeling for sea shanties as being about my life. Do you?

Incidentally he chose the songs for the four choirs that went into the semi-final and they were:

Exeter; The Diana version of ‘Candle in the Wind’

Durham: Something by the Spice Girls

Leicester: Something by Bjork

Reading: Something by the Korgis

So maybe he wasn’t serious about anyone really ‘representing’ a region, any more than most Pompey footballers are from Buckland.


Author: pompeypop

University lecturer, longtime local musician and recently historian of popular music - especially in and around Portsmouth. My blog is entirely about that topic

3 thoughts on “‘Our’ Sound?

  1. This is a shanty (sort of…) that has more of a Pompey feel about it……

  2. It’s the 19th century. You’re a young man seeking adventure and a test of your manhood. You decide to sign up on a ship to see exotic foreign lands. You walk through Sallyport and down to Pompey dockyard admiring the ships. Finally, you spot one that you like. You walk on deck and a tall man dressed in black coat confronts you. It’s the captain.

    “What do you want lad?”

    “I want to sign on board sir,” you say.

    He looks you up and down, and says “Aye. But first I need to give you a test.”

    You’re not worried. You were expecting this and, in fact, hoping for it. You want to show the captain what you can do. After all, you were always the strongest out of all your friends. You could climb up any rock or tree since you learned how to walk. And you also knew a bit about navigation from your grandfather. You were eager to show what a great addition to the crew you’d make.

    “How well can you sing?” the captain asks………

  3. Well This brings to mind a fine album of sea shanteys called Songs for Vulgar Boatmen. Very Risqué for 1962.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhCYs6p3pRQ&list=RDzhCYs6p3pRQ#t=0

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