Sunday, September 6, 2009

You might not know it but I’m a manly man, very manly. Don’t let the teacup collection fool you. I like manly music about macho things, like the sea. Seafaring songs, that’s what I like.

When I first got the 1999 CD from Ely Cathedral Will Your Anchor Hold I had tepid feelings about it but after a few listens it grew on me until it became one of my favorite CD’s. Our friend, Kelsey, pointed out that there is a companion album titled They That Go Down To The Sea. The title is taken from Psalms 107.

This album came along two years later and is very different from the first one. The covers look similar, an old sepia photograph of a traditionally dressed fisherman, and they are both made to benefit the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, but the similarities stop there.

While the first CD focused on hymns, this one is more secular. There are some well-known names here, Ireland, Holst, Britten and others and the music varies from folk to opera.

Britten’s Golden Vanity is a one-act opera that, if I’m reading correctly, was written for the Vienna Boys Choir back in 1967. It “follows the operatic tradition of greed and betrayal and the ensuing guilt and introspection prompted by a tragic death“. All that in one act.

The Ships of Arcady, by Head, is really beautiful. Originally written for three women’s voices it’s performed here, of course, by boys.

Vaughn Williams has Five English Folk Songs that are easily likable. They are love songs except for the last one, Wassail Song, which is humorously about drinking.

George Dyson has Four Songs for Sailors. The music in these songs moves like the river and the sea, majestic and powerful.
There is a great line in one of them, A Wet Sheet and Flowing Sea, that says, “The world of waters is our home, and merry men are we. While the hollow oak our palace is, our heritage the sea.”

I’m glad I finally caught this one in my net.


  1. Ely Cathedral--that reminds me...

    I just bought all 23 volumes of the Complete New English Hymnal off iTunes--if you're particularly interested by cathedral choirs, hymnology, and/or Anglican Chant, you might have a look at some of these: Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and Newcastle Cathedral are both particularly noteworthy--Newcastle has a raucous, earthy, very spontaneous's marvellous.

  2. 23 volumes? That's huge. I'll bet I know what your guests will be listening to at your next party. Thanks for the tip.