The Selsey Shantymen formed in 2019; the timing was perfect and caught the imagination of the public, eventually one person became 12 (although it took some time) and we ‘went out there’ taking Sea Shanties to all. We sadly lost one of our original ‘Shants’ (Pete Gosden) half way through 2019, that made our bond even stronger and we have managed to recruit and maintain numbers ever since. If we ever got together again in a proper group I am pleased to say we would be at full strength.
Before Covid-19 became a reality for all around March 23, the last time The Selsey Shantymen actually got together to sing ‘Shouty Songs’ in public, was at the Selsey Community Charity Christmas lunch in the town, sad to say as the lunch was so popular there was no room for us to perform so we retired to a local pub and sang songs with a beer or two, a quiet end to what had been an eventful year for all of us. Little did we know what was around the corner in 2021.
As expected January was a quiet month; soon the bookings started to come in; private parties, an appearance at Fordwater School, St Georges Day and VE Day celebrations, S.S. Shieldhall anniversary in Southhampton, Shanty Festivals in Port Isaac and Harwich, Selsey Lifeboat Weekend, Southdowns Folk Festival not to forget singing in local Care Homes and other Charity events.
Then came March 23, and all drifted away before our very eyes and the diary was blank again! It must have been as soon as the next week that someone threw us a lifebelt with ‘Zoom’ written on it and that has kept us afloat ever since.
“Can you hear me?” ‘You’re muted!’ and “Turn on original sound” are still phrases we use each week even after 16 weeks of regular use. All of a sudden members of our Shantyman group became animated portraits on a computer screen each one framed and spot-lit; shock horror all were now required to sing solo or not take part.
These guys all joined the group to sing together not sing solo’s; it was like starting all over again. Zoom is a voice conference application and it’s great for an on line meeting but singing together is not an option due to broadband lag. But slowly and surely everyone gained in confidence singing solos and now it is the norm for us.
I doubt whether that kind of exercise would ever have been done with any Choir for an extended period of time under normal circumstances. The ‘Shants’ rose to the challenge and got it done.
Our Zoom gatherings have taken place every Tuesday evening without fail and a few weeks ago we started to meet (in real life form) in the garden; maximum of six each week, with lots of social distancing (3mts+) and with regular cleansing of hands with alcohol gel. We are majoring on getting the harmonies right, so no singing ‘shouty songs’ for the time being. Who knows when we will be able to perform in front of ‘unscreened people’ in the open air again?
We will continue to alternate between Zoom and garden rehearsals until we hear anything that allows us to expand our numbers or even contract and like everyone else we shall wait to see what the future brings. We will be taking part in a photoshoot in the near future with one of the ‘ Little Ships of Dunkirk’ as our backdrop which we are all looking forward to.
The value of anyone being part of a social group should never be underestimated especially it seems for men and especially at this time. Phrases such as ‘life saver’ have been used by members when referring to our group. In the beginning I was amazed at how difficult is was to recruit men to sing in a group now we all appreciate the value of it and would recommend to all that you reach out to others and don’t think twice about it.
To know more about or to contact The Selsey Shantymen visit: theselseyshantymen.co.uk or find them on Facebook @theselseyshantymen