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Choirs gather to raise their voices in sea-salty song

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: June 15, 2012

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Batten down the hatches and splice the mainbrace, the might of many voices raised in sea-salty harmony will be taking over the port of Falmouth this weekend.

Visiting singers from all over the UK and across the oceans will join local Westcountry ensembles in a giant free maritime sing-song, set against the appropriate backdrop of one of the world's deepest natural harbours.

The ninth International Sea Shanty Festival, running from 6.30pm today until Sunday evening, is sponsored by Truro's Skinner's Brewery and all donations will boost the funds of the RNLI.

Among the 29 acts (and 305 performers) taking to stages through the Cornish town are a 40-strong shanty group from Norway and the now world famous ten-man shanty gang Fisherman's Friends from Port Isaac on the north coast.

Main performances are staged on Custom House Quay, Events Square and The Moor, with plenty more going on in pubs, restaurants and hotels along the waterfront, as well as the Watersports Centre, Trelissick Gardens, King Charles the Martyr Church, and on The Matthew sailing ship, both in dock at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall pontoon and on the water in Falmouth Harbour and the Carrick Roads.

Among the other performers leading the vocal assault are home team Falmouth Shout, Aberfal Oggymen, Alan Whitbread, Bosun's Call, Cadgwith Singers, Cape Cornwall Singers, Cape Horn Shanty Choir, Dutch Uncle, Hobson's Choice, La Bordee, Mariners Away, Naze Shanty Crew, Nordet, Rum and Shrub, Sheringham Shantymen, Stamp and Go, Tavy Tars, Thraw'd Together, The 5 Men Not called Matt, Tower Hamlets Ukulele Club, Treverva Male Voice Choir and Wareham Whalers.

The Pirates of St Piran – an 18th-century re-enactment company from St Austell – will be adding their customary theatrical presence to proceedings.

But the festival isn't just a place for watching and listening – there will be plenty of opportunities to raise your voice as well as your glass. Traditional songs on the menu include A Sailor Ain't a Sailor, All for Me Grog, Bully In The Alley, Drunken Sailor, Hanging Johnny, John Kanaka, Leave Her Johnny, A Drop of Nelson's Blood, New York Girls, Bound for the Rio Grande, Sammie's Gone Away, Sloop John B, South Australia, Spanish Ladies and, of course, the Cornish anthem Trelawney. The lyrics are all available in the festival's official programme (priced £4, with profits to the RNLI), so there's no excuse to keep quiet – unless you're tone deaf.

One of the organisers of the event is Falmouth Shout member John Warren, a member of the shanty group Falmouth Shout. He came up with the idea for the festival alongside former RNLI coxswain Alan Barnes and Phil Slater.

"I have yet to meet anyone who has failed to enjoy the atmosphere and I very much look forward to welcoming everyone back to Falmouth this year," he says.

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