This is a 4 day lesson.
Expansion and Reform of the United States 1812-1860.
10th / 11th Grade Global and US History in conjunction with Language Arts reading of Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick.
Standards: Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
Author: Paul Freely (2013)
After the United States gained Independence, it started using the new found freedom of the seas to establish itself as a maritime nation. As the United States became a sea going nation, its sailors sang work songs known as “shanties” to develop a rhythm, camaraderie and teamwork on the long voyages far from home. Sea Shanties have a rich varied history going back to the English, French and Spanish Merchant sailors of the Early Age of Exploration. It is because of the various places the songs come from which show the beginning of the great “melting pot” that would become America. This lesson will be used in conjunction with the Language Arts reading assignment of Herman Melville’s classic sea tale, “Moby Dick.”
Shanty singing was a very important part of the seafaring life and a part of its special flavor as well as a practical necessity in the work that daily and hourly went forward, and in a folk sense, shanties are a perfect characterization of sailordom.
The song selections incorporated into this lesson illustrate different types of shanties used on a daily basis by the sailors at sea, and when in port enjoying time with friends. While work songs are not new, most students are not aware of the importance of the shanty. They also serve as a new way of thinking about the national events dryly explained in textbooks.
Objectives: After completing this lesson students will:
Resources / Materials: (all songbooks have full lyrics)
-The Burl Ives Song Book, Burl Ives, Ballantine Books, New York, 1953.
- The Book of Navy Songs, The Trident Society (Editor), US Naval Institute Press, 1985.
- Songs of the Sailor, Compiled and edited by Glenn Grasso, Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, CT, 1998.
-Shanties from the Seven Seas, Stan Hugill. Dover Publications, New York, 1987.
All shanties courtesy of Captain Rick Nestler’s CD Underway – What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor? – Paddy Lay Back- Paddy Doyle’s Boots- Dead Horse & Fiddler’s Green.
Roll the Old Chariot Along – Live performance from the 2011 Sloop Clearwater Celebration.
List of Discussion Questions and Vocabulary: shanty, capstan, halyard, poop deck.
Procedures (incorporate a song activity for each day)
Day 1 ("Drunken Sailor") – The class will start with an instrumental version of the song playing as the students come in the classroom. For this lesson we will be using the “Story Behind the Song Teaching Tools and Strategy. The class will listen to the song twice. The 1st time without a note sheet and students listening with their eyes closed. Students will then be given a note sheet with the following questions: What strikes you most about this song? What musical phrase is especially memorable? What makes it so memorable: melody, rhythm, lyrics? A combination? What voice(s) do you hear? What instruments do you hear? Who were the song’s “consumers”: performers, listeners, singers, accompanists? How was the song performed? How is it listened to? How was it accompanied?Who do you imagine singing this song? When and where do you picture this song being performed? What might you be feeling or thinking if you sang or heard this song in some of these situations? What physical movement can you picture going along with this song (marching, dancing, working, playing a game, etc.) The class will now listen to the song again and answer the questions on the sheet. (The song can be played as many times as the teacher feels is necessary for the students to more fully answer the questions.)
At the end of the period the completed note sheets will be the students exit ticket and will be collected for the next day assignment.
Day 2 ("Paddy Lay Back") – The class will be using the same strategies and questions as day 1. However the song “Paddy Lay Back” will be used and reviewed by the class. What strikes you most about this song? What musical phrase is especially memorable? What makes it so memorable: melody, rhythm, lyrics? A combination? What voice(s) do you hear? What instruments do you hear? Who were the song’s “consumers”: performers, listeners, singers, accompanists? How was the song performed? How is it listened to? How was it accompanied?Who do you imagine singing this song? When and where do you picture this song being performed? What might you be feeling or thinking if you sang or heard this song in some of these situations? What physical movement can you picture going along with this song (marching, dancing, working, playing a game, etc.)
Day 3 – In this class we will be taking the two note sheets and the students will be given an assignment to write their own shanty in the style of "Drunken Sailor" or "Paddy Lay Back". They must write the lyrics and decide what instruments they want to use. This will allow them an opportunity to let the “creative juices” flow. One idea is “What Do You Do With A Failing Student?”
Day 4 – ("Roll the Old Chariot Along" and "Fiddler’s Green") – The class will do a compare and contrast exercise by using the Song Comparison graphic organizer from the VAT with the two songs listed above. The Song Comparison graphic organizer is a comparison tree with differences listed on the outside columns and similarities listed in the inside column. It can be used to compare two verses within a song), but is especially helpful when comparing two songs. Even songs that are very different, from very different eras and styles, can be compared easily using this format. The class will listen to each song twice and then once completed will write a critical comparison essay. The essays are to compare the message and tone of each song looking at the message of each song, its voice, and accompaniment. The class will have the rest of the period to write the essay, and will finish it for homework if necessary.
Closure: As the class is working through these lessons, they will be reading “Moby Dick” in their English Language Arts class. They will have an opportunity to use the essay and song they have developed within their end of quarter project and work folder assessment.
Students can draw upon their activities, lyrics, and background information to write their essay. The essay must have an introduction, three paragraphs in the body, and a conclusion.
Reflection: These lessons are based upon the knowledge that my students are mixed between Special and Regular Education. Because of this fact I have left room for differentiation of the lessons. Some of the student’s products will be based upon their writing skills where others will be based upon their artistic skills. This will be on a case by case basis.
This is an example of a capstan shanty. It was a moderate tune sung to raising the anchor. In order to raise the anchor bars were inserted into the capstan and sailors would walk around it, turning the capstan to raise the anchor. Sailors would stamp on the deck on the words "Way Hay and Up She Rises."
"What do you do with a drunken sailor?"
Way, hay up she rises,
Put him in the scuppers with the hose pipe on him,
Put him in a boat and row him over,
Shave his belly with a rusty razor,
Put him bed with captain’s daughter,
You ain’t seen the captain’s daughter,
And that’s what you do with a drunken sailor.
(Other verses can be added as needed to finish raising the anchor.)
This is another example of a Capstan shanty. Longer than “Drunken Sailor,” it tells a story of a sailor’s journeys.
"Paddy Lay Back"
I was broke and out of a job in the city of London;
A ceremonial shanty
“A Dead Horse” was a ceremonial shanty sung at the end of a sailor's first month at sea. It was to celebrate the end of the sailor's debt to the ship - when he started working for himself.
The dead horse metaphor is from the practice of horse-trading. When a deal was made there was no going back, even if the horse died right after the deal was struck. So you could be paying for something that was never any use.
Sailors were traditionally paid a month in advance when they signed on. With the advance he could pay for boots, knives, weather gear, etc. However many agents took the advance money and shanghaied sailors aboard , other sailors spent the money on drink and women before sailing, and some were cheated out of it by merchants. So very often the sailor had nothing to show for a month's work. Hence, the "dead horse." To this day when a sailor in the US Navy takes an advance on their pay they are paying off “a dead horse.”
For the ceremony sailors fashioned horses of shipboard scrap to drag around the deck. They hoisted them aloft and threw them into the ocean.
"A Dead Horse"
A poor old man came riding by
Furling the Sails
This shanty was used specifically for "tossing the bunt," or furling the sail. Two or three verses were usually enough for the job. When doing this job a sailor was usually high up the mast spread in the sail or pulling it up (furling). The sailor’s rule was one hand for the ship to do the job and the other hand to hold on and protect himself.
"Paddy Doyle’s Boots"
Yes, aye, and we'll haul, aye,
A halyard shanty (stamp & go or walkaway)
The sailors lined up on the halyard with their backs to the falls and marched pulling on the line continuously until they could go no farther eventually dropping the line and running back to pick up the line and march again repeating this until the sail was raised. The shantyman sang the first line of each verse while the crew sang the rest of the song with him.
"Roll the Old Chariot Along"
And we'll roll the old chariot along, (3X)
And we'll all fall in behind.
Well now, a little bit of wind it wouldn't do us any harm, (3X)
And we'll all hang on behind.
Well now, a little tot of rum, it wouldn't do us any harm (3X)
Well now, a little bit of sun. . .,
Well now, a little understanding . . .,
Well now, a little bit of peace . . .,
Well now, a little bit of lovin’ . . .,
Chorus 2X end
The Non-Traditional Shanty
Sailors still write songs about the sea, and their life afterwards. I include this song as a story shanty and while not from the era, it is a modern telling of sailor’s heaven.
By John Connolly
As I went out walkin’ one evenin’ so rare
To view the calm seas and to take the salt air
I heard an old fisherman singin’ this song,
Oh take me away boys, me time is not long
Wrap me up in me oilskins and jumper
No more on the docks I'll be seen
Tell me old shipmates I'm takin’ a trip mates
And I'll see you someday in Fiddler's Green
Now Fiddler's Green is a place I've heard tell
Where fishermen go when they don't go to hell
The weather is fair and the dolphins do play
And the cold coast of Greenland is far, far away
The weather is fine and there's never a gale
The fish jump on board with a swish of their tails
You lie at your leisure - there's no work to do
The skipper's below brewin’ tea for the crew
When you’re in port and the voyage is through
There's pubs and there's clubs and there's lasses there too
The girls are all pretty, and the beer is all free
And there's bottles of rum hangin’ from every tree
Oh I don't want a harp, not a halo for me
Give me a deck and a good rollin’ sea
And I'll sing these old tunes as we sail along
With the wind in the riggin’ just singing this song
Interestingly enough, John Connolly wrote this song in the 1960s and it is not a traditional shanty. Pete Seeger brought it back after a tour of Ireland and apparently played it for the Clancy Brothers. It is unclear whether they got it from Pete or went straight to the source. However the song is sung at sailor / pirate-themed events today.
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