FALMOUTH, England (Reuters) – Strolling down the Prince of Wales pier in Falmouth in southwest England, local sea shanty group Bryher’s Boys belt out a rendition of the traditional Cornish song “Lamorna” to the delight of onlookers.
The 11 men, aged in their mid-50s to mid-70s, specialise in the traditional seafaring songs, which surged in popularity after a Scottish postman posted a performance of one on social media that went viral during the coronavirus lockdown.
Bryher’s Boys were performing ahead of this weekend’s G7 summit, which is being held near Falmouth in the English county of Cornwall, and before the International Sea Shanty Festival on June 19 – virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Cornwall has a tradition of these sorts of songs,” said band leader Trevor Brookes.
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“The miners and the acoustics down in the mine helped choir singing, and that’s where the traditional Cornish singing came from. And then … we’re surrounded by the sea, so mariners, fishermen and all that, so it is a natural link for us to sing both those two genres.”
He said sea shanties were once sung to galvanize sailors as they went about daily chores like raising the anchor and hauling in the sails.
“You had to get the men in unison, so they would have a shanty singer, and that sort of inspired that group singing together, and people like that.”
Brookes sees the G7 meeting of leaders of major developed economies as an opportunity to showcase the culture and traditions of Cornwall.
U.S. President Joe Biden and his counterparts will gather from Friday in the picturesque seaside town of Carbis Bay, some 35 miles (56 km) from Falmouth, for face-to-face meetings where the pandemic and climate change are likely to be on the agenda.
“There are so many things that could capitalise on that,” Brookes said. “The businesses, the maritime industries, the hospitality. But also the entertainment and opportunity to plug into the culture of Cornwall.”
Sea shanties entered popular culture after postman Nathan Evans sang the 19th century “Wellerman” and posted the performance on TikTok last year.
A pop re-mix of his song reached number one in the UK music charts and he has reportedly been offered a record deal.
“Sea shanties as I say have been around Cornwall for some time, but it has given it a new impetus, and yeah we’re glad for that.”
The Bryher’s Boys’ performance at next week’s festival will be streamed online, and Brookes is also looking forward to a return to live performances.
“It’s a passion for all of us, we enjoy singing, we enjoy performing and putting smiles on people’s faces,” he said. “And … it’s a job for life, there’s no escape.”
(Editing by Mike Collett-White)
Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.