Singing the Songs of the Sea

Mar 1, 2010

“I'll sing you a song, a good song of the sea,” begins one famous sea song. 

Over its 175 year history, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) has heard many sea songs … both good and troublous. Every month at SCI, an assembly sings some songs of seafaring’s past. Meeting at SCI’s Water Street headquarters, a group known as the Seaport Chanteysing offers a place for those with an interest in maritime music, including mariners, to raise their voices in these nautical memoirs.
Chanteysing brings together a mix of people, much like the global shipping world itself. The group’s organizers describe the participants. “Sailors, ex-navy, yachtsmen, seaport volunteers, folk singers, and musicians,” they say, “and those who just like to sing along with a good chorus.”  
Over the years, SCI hosted many mariners at its centers. The Institute hosted over 500 each night at its one-time hotel on South Street; and in the Twenty-First Century, the Institute welcomes thousands of mariners each year to centers in Port Newark, NJ and Oakland, CA. The partnership with Chanteysing extends SCI’s affiliation even further with those who (to quote a Biblical song) “go down to the sea in ships.”
Seafarers of yesteryear sang songs called chanteys to synchronize repetitive movements onboard a ship. Other songs entertained during long voyages at sea, building kinship among the crew. Today, groups like Chanteysing forge relationships by performing these songs, too. Their songs reverberate, mingling with the songs of seafaring men and women down the ages.
The gathering opens its monthly Saturday evening events to the public and charges no admission fee. To learn more about Chanteysing and join their mailing list, send email to Al Cuenin at