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CD97 -

Boarding Party - Tis Our Sailing Time

Come Down You Roses
Dead Horse
Truxton's Victory
Alabama, The
Bristol Channel Jamboree
Come Down, You Roses
Cruiser Baltimore, The
Dead Horse
Eternal Father
Farewell Shanty, The
Haul Awa'
Hogeye Man, The
Johnson Girls
Otho's Song
Sailor's Alphabet, The
Seaman's Hymn, The
Shallow Brown
Shanghaied Dredger, The
Solid Fas'
Truxton's Victory

'Tis Our Sailing Time

As you listen to Tis Our Sailing Time, the exuberance, enthusiasm, and love that The Boarding Party has for this music is quickly apparent. Each song has been thoroughly discussed and arranged, using the group's vast collective knowledge of the sea, ships, music and lore. What was not known was researched - be it slang terms, ship's parts, pronunciation of words, geographical locations or whatever. The harmonious blending of voices and vibrant delivery are the result of hundreds of hours of singing together.

An often sea-related term of "motley crew" is one I sometimes affectionately call this group of fine singers, for in its real meaning "motley", according to Webster, means: of many colors; of many different elements; heterogeneous - which aptly describes both the songs "The Boarding Party" sings and the group itself. Washington, D.C., based, the five members come from both sides of the Atlantic and bring an extensive background of music, performing, and nautical experience to this record.

Tom McHenry left his native West Virginia fifteen years ago and has been a Washington, D.C., area resident ever since. A financial manager with the Navy, he spends a great deal of his "spare time" as a chief medical corpsman in the Naval Reserve, with nearly twenty years of service. Toms musical background runs the gamut from jugbands and country-western to the harmony singing of "Rock Creek" (a group which can be heard on Folk-Legacy's Sharon Mountain Harmony - FSI-86) and sea shanties. He has owned and learned his way around on his own sailing vessel. Tom has an incredible repertoire of songs and is a storehouse of nautical and historical information.

K.C. King, with thirty years as a musician and sailor under his keel, adds a "fo'c's'le tenor" to "The Boarding Party" and provides banjo and concertina to the occasional instrumental numbers. As a data processing consultant, he has worked on five continents, using his music as a language and cultural barrier breaker. Offshore, he has skippered and crewed sailing craft, as well as served on the sloop Clearwater, thereby acquiring a wealth of nautical experience and lore. K.C. says "The Boarding Party" combines his love for sailing, good music, and good times all into one.

Bob Hitchcock came to the U.S. from Sussex, England, eight years ago - definitely the colonies' gain. He met up with the rest of the "The Boarding Party" when he moved to Washington, D.C., in 1978. A computer systems analyst/programmer, he has been playing the guitar for twenty of his thirty-two years (he prides himself in being the youngest member of the group). Descended from generations of officers in the Royal Navy, he has always loved ships and the sea. Bob is well rooted in traditional British music, versed in many other styles, and plays mandolin in addition to guitar.

Jonathan Eberhart has been involved in folk music since the late 1950's and has been singing shanties since the early '60's. He helped sail the Hudson River sloop Clearwater down the Adantic Coast on her maiden voyage, using shanties as the work songs they are. Jonathan is especially interested in the backgrounds and styles of the songs he sings, as well as in the people who lived and sang them, and researches constantly. A singer, guitarist, and songwriter, his recordings include an album of shanties with Louis Killen and his own album, Life's Trolley Ride (Folk-Legacy's FSI-82). Jonathan is the Space Sciences Editor of Science News magazine.

Dave Diamond is a Londoner who has lived for many years in the United States and is currently working as a data processing manager at the U.S. Embassy in London. The recording session cleverly coincided with his home leave. Dave has sung with both British and American shanty groups. Among this eclectic group one finds a total of over 100 years of singing traditional music!

Diverse, well researched, and presented with "The Boarding Party's" striking blend of voices, the songs on this album will absorb all who listen to the call of the sea.

Mia Gardiner


'Tis Our Sailing Time reflects the contributions of many people, some of them from before it was even contemplated, and all of us in "The Boarding Party" are grateful for their involvement. Several of these songs, for example, have appeared nowhere else on record (or even in books) to our knowledge, and our sincere thanks go to those friends and acquaintances, named elsewhere in these notes, through whom these rarities came to us.

Also, documenting such songs (as well as some of the better known ones), often from sketchy or conflicting information, was aided by the efforts of numerous "consultants", including but not limited to Gerry Parsons and Joe Hickerson at the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress and Eva Slezak of the Pratt Library in Baltimore. All of these people have helped with what we hope is not only a satisfying musical experience, but a meaningful addition to the music of the waters.

Thanks, too, to Bob Anderson, who took the striking cover photo as a generously self-imposed assignment during which we were pleased to see him find the setting as inspiring for photography as we do for singing. Sandy and Caroline Paton wove a comfortable environment around the actual recording of the songs, which surely shows in the results. Joanne Silberner crossed the acean and reunited us with a Fisherman's Friend, while Amy Shiver provided a mandolin in time of need. In the longer (and still on-going) run - or haul - Gail McHenry, Nancy King and Molly Diamond have our gratitude for putting up with the disruptions caused by "The Boarding Party's" sometimes crazed schedule. Another kind of appreciation goes to Nancy Brennan of the Constellation Foundation, for caring about that great ship in particular and about those who share that feeling.

(There is some music of the islands on this record, and we're thankful also for certain other island activities that played a parr, carried on by Pusser's Ltd. on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and by the Laphroaig Distillery on Islay in Scotland's Inner Hebrides.) Finally our special thanks to Mia Gardiner, for caring about this "motley crew" and helping in numerous ways with long hours and a sense of order that has contributed not only to this record but to "The Boarding Party" as a group.

Jonathan Eberhart

Led by Jonathan Eberhart

This fascinating song - or shanty -or mantra - was collected in the Bahamas in August of 1935 by Aim Lomax, Zora Neale Hurston and Mary Elizabeth Barnicle, and we're grateful to Bob Walser for a copy of the transcription he wrote out from listening to their original field recording. We don't know that it was a shanty, but it has that character, and if so, it's a remarkable one. Whereas most shanties and similar worksongs merely alternate between a line from the shantyman or leader and a response from the crew, this one offers... counterpoint!

As it was done by Henry Lundy and "Pappie", one of them would sing a line of a verse (actually, the verses are only one line long, or else the whole song is one continuous verse), and then continue on with the chorus, while the other joined in with an overlapping, but rhythmically different chorus part. We've separated it into three parts, with Jonathan taking the lead while Bob Hitchcock and K.C. sing what used to the leader's chorus part (leaving more room to stretch out the lead lines), as Tom and Dave handle another part of the chorus. As Jonathan sings it, the verses never come out the same way twice - in fact he gets downright carried away - but improvisation is very much a part of the tradition, particularly in the West Indies, though few if any other shanties, even there, offer such chances for having fun with the rhythm.

The source of the song poses the same old mystery. Sailing ships certainly picked up and dropped off crewmen in the islands, and there were enough shanties like "Come Down, You Bunch of Roses" and related "shore songs" to have at least suggested the phrase. But was there really a connection?

An editorial: If you are interested in sea shanties, but think they've all been found and published in books already, you're wrong! Bob Walser found this one, for example, by spending time in the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress in Washington, listening to their largely uncombed treasure-trove of field recordings, and there are songs on this album that resulted from looking in old trunks, talking to local residents and other kinds of exploration. Go hunting! The unearthing of this song is clear evidence of the musical riches just waiting for anyone with the diligence to seek them out. We'll all be the richer for it.

Low chorus:
Come down, come down you roses, come down. Come down, come down you roses, come down.

High chorus:
Come down, you bunch of roses.
Come down, you bunch of roses.

Lead voice:
Oh, come on, you roses
Oh, you rose in the garden
Come on, my sweet little roses
Come on, my little red roses
Oh come on, you bunch or roses
Oh come on, you little red roses,
Little white roses, little red roses
Oh come on, you rose in the garden, come down
Oh come on, my rose in the garden,
Sweet little roses, oh you roses
Oh come on, you little red roses, come down
Oh come on, you lovely roses
Oh, you bunch of little red roses
Oh come on, you sweet little roses
Roses, roses, Row, row, roses
Oh come on, you sweet little roses,
Little red roses, rose in the garden
Little black roses, oh my roses,
Come down, oh my roses
Come down, you sweet little roses, come down
Come down, you sweet little roses
Oh, little rose in the garden
Oh come on, you sweet little roses,
Little red roses, bunch of roses
Oh you roses, come down roses
Come down, you sweet little roses, come down
Oh, my rose in the garden
Oh come on, you sweet little roses,
Little red roses, little white roses
Oh you roses, a bunch of roses, come down
Come down, you sweet little roses, come down
Come down, you sweet little roses, come down
Come down, you bunch of roses, come down
Oh come down, you sweet little roses, come down
Come down, oh you roses, come down
Oh come down, you sweet little roses,
Little red roses, little blue roses
Oh you roses, big black roses
Come down, you sweet little roses,
Come down, come down you roses, come down.

Led by Bob Hitchcock

This shanty is one of the rare examples used by deep-water sailors for ceremonial purposes. In the days of sail, seamen joining merchant ships were often given an "advance note" equivalent to a month's wages for signing on. It was intended to be used for the purchase of warm clothing, foul-weather gear and the like, but with the willing help of boarding-house masters and others in port, the money usually went for alcohol and women of questionable morality. The result was that the first month at sea was spent, in a sense, working for no pay - "working for a dead horse". And at the end of that month, the ceremony of "paying off the dead horse" took place. On that occasion, as approximate effigy of a horse, made of sailcloth stuffed with straw and weights, would be shouldered or hauled down the deck by the crew to where the captain, or "Old Man," was waiting (sometimes passing out a ration of grog). "Old man, your horse will die", proclaims the shanty, and to its rhythm the horse would be attached to a line and hoisted up to the main yardarm, where a waiting crewman, knife in hand, would cut loose the effigy into the sea.

The shanty itself was also used at the halyards and sometimes the capstan on ships from both sides of the Atlantic, although Joanna Colcord, born at sea of a long line of New England seamen, wrote that she had never heard of the actual ceremony being performed aboard an American vessel. It was an impressive though jocular rite, however, and demonstrations of it can be observed regularly at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut. The version Bob sings here is adapted from Stan Hugill's Shanties From the Seven Seas.

A poor old man come a-riding by.
And we say so, and we hope so.
I says, "Old man, your horse will die."
Poor old horse.

And if he dies, we'll tan his hide,
And if he don't, we'll ride him again.

One month this rotten life we've led,
While you lays on your feather bed.

But now your month is up, old Turk.
Get up, ya swine, and look for work.

Get up ya swine, and look for graft,
While we lays on and yank you aft.

We'll yank you aft to the cabin door,
And hope to never see you more.

He's dead as a nail in the lamproom door;
He's dead as a nail, that son of a whore.

And we'll hoist him up to the main yardarm;
We'll hoist him up to the main yardarm.

And we'll drop him down in the bottom of the sea;
We'll drop him down in the bottom of the sea.


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Category : Just Folk-Legacy
Category : Songs of the Sea
Category : American Folk Music

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