"Shanties were the work-songs of the sailing ship man.... and would oft-times be raised to cheer the soul, curse the afterguard and owner, mark the beat, and lighten the labour."
-Stan Hugill, 'Shanties from the Seven Seas'
"Sailors, when heaving at a windlass, in order that they may heave together, always have one sing out, which is done in high and long-drawn tones, varying with the motion of the windlass. This requires a clear voice, strong lungs and much practice, to be done well."
"If you consider the hull as a ship's body and the sails her means of locomotion, the 'lines', as seamen called the ropes, were her nerves and tendons. The wind blowing on this intricate network of cordage made a deep humming noise in a fresh gale and high-pitched whistle in a storm; halyards slatting against the spars provided the woodwind; the sails spilling wind and then filling out with a hollow boom were the percussion instruments; and the rush of the great waters the organ accompaniment - a symphony of sound in the seaman's ear. Even in the lightest air there was music of sort from spars creaking and the reef points tap-tapping against the duck sails."- 'Sailor Historian – The Best of Samuel Eliot Morison', edited by Emily Morison Beck
- Richard Henry Dana, Jr., 'Two Years Before the Mast'
Involved with music since youth, Bob Burgess (Grand Bay, NB) started singing in university musicals. While living in Montreal, he sang popular and traditional Irish tunes with his band "Celtara" and lent his tenor voice to chorus and lead roles with the Montreal West Operatic Society (a Gilbert & Sullivan community theatre) for several years. Since returning to Saint John, he has performed Irish traditional songs with Comhaltas and popular standards with Men & Music. He is now happy to be "singing the notes no one else wants to sing" with Before The Mast.
Since high school, Gary Caines (Kingston, NB) has been a member of various folk bands which played traditional Irish and Newfoundland music. Being the son of a sea captain, his fondness for shanties and songs of the sea is also tied to his Newfoundland roots. Twenty years experience in the Naval Reserve has given him an added appreciation for the role of music on the brine.
Paul-Emile Chiasson (Rothesay, NB) has been in choirs since his childhood and has studied piano since his youth from the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. Growing up in Antigonish, NS, Paul-Emile was exposed at an early age to Celtic and traditional Acadian music. His love for this music has continued to develop, performing over the years in various concerts, festivals, etc … He brings a love of the sea and it’s music from his Acadian roots.
With roots in the fishing community of Dipper Harbour, Rick Clark’s (Saint John, NB) lifelong interest in songs of the sea, folk music, traditional Celtic music, and his developing interest in the bodhrán led him to join Comhaltas. For the first time in many years he had the opportunity to sing regularly with a group, and to sing and play at public performances. However, the main focus of Comhaltas is on traditional Irish tunes and Rick wanted to do more with voice, so when offered the opportunity to join Before the Mast and sing with the crew, he jumped at the chance.
Born in Trinidad, West Indies, Roland d'Abadie (Fredericton, NB) has a family history connecting him to early sailing ship builders in Europe, the battles for Fortress Louisbourg and competitive sailing in the West Indies. Roland started singing with school choirs in Trinidad then church choirs in Ontario. Since moving to New Brunswick he has sung with the Saint John Chorale, is a member Comhaltas and joined BTM in December 2008.
Greg Marquis (Quispamsis, NB) has been a folk and Celtic music fan since the 1970s when he belonged to the Saint John Folk Club. He often performs with Comhaltas and his knowledge of folk tunes is invaluable to Before the Mast. A professor at UNB Saint John, he is also researching the history of popular music in New Brunswick.
Bryce Neill (French Village, NB) has always enjoyed music and singing. Bryce was in the Air Force and then worked in the telecommunications industry. He has a particular interest in traditional and folk music and he is currently a member of Comhaltas as well as Before the Mast.
Bruce Noble (Fredericton, NB) works in Saint John during the week and we use his apartment for rehearsals. While sea shanties have become his passion, Bruce's first love was musical theatre. He shared the stage with his son in a number of productions put on by the Fredericton Gilbert & Sullivan Society. Bruce also sang with the Fredericton Choral Society and the Fredericton Men's Chorus.
When he was younger, Dale Peters (Saint John, NB) enjoyed singing in high school musicals and then in local operettas. He was also part of a folk group while attending university. After graduation he and his wife taught in a small outport community where he developed an appreciation for traditional Newfoundland music. When he returned to Saint John, he joined a number of choirs and for the past few years he has sung with both Men & Music and Before the Mast.