Music - Buccaneers' ballads

14th September 2012 at 01:00

What it's all about

"Hey Sir - these sea shanties are really cool!" Hip hop may capture the imaginations of young people, but so can a tradition hundreds of years old, writes Anthony Anderson.

When we think of Mr Smee, Hook and the other pirates from Disney's Peter Pan singing A Pirate's Life For Me, we are in the world of pastiche shanties. And we all know What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor? But there is a much richer side to sea shanties, of course.

They are part of a strong folk tradition and told tales of bravery and tragedy, some real, some imagined. They were also work songs, uniting ship crews after a day of back-breaking physical labour.

Gareth Malone's clips on sea shanties, on the BBC Class Clips website, are an excellent place to hear some examples. Thinking through some key features of sea shanties could be the next port of call. The music itself is often strophic, has clear refrains, uses call and response, has a simple accompaniment - if any - and is modal in its feel.

Class composition work is a good way to follow musical thinking with musical practice. What can pupils come up with? A good set of verses telling a story? An effective melody? A memorable refrain? All are good routes into composing in context.

What else?

Watch Gareth Malone's sea shanty BBC Class Clips videos on TES Resources, bit.lyQrB67Y. You can also help pupils to create their own shanty arrangement with a scheme of work from QCDA_Resources, bit.lyNGl5qG. To learn more about the world of sea shanties, check out Shanty UK, bit.lyQ6YxTR.

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