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A SAILOR’S LIFE by Tom Brown
Publication - September 23rd 2014.   pp. 165.   £11.99 Download order form from Umber Music

This book is the last part of project that, as the author has said, has been thirty-five years in the waiting and four years in the making.  The Short Sharp Shanties project has been all about one particular 19th Century merchant sailor and his world.  His name was John Short, and his local nickname was Yankee Jack – possibly because he had been sailing on North American ships during the American Civil War.  He was born in Watchet in Somerset in 1839 and died in 1933 in his ninety-fifth year.  He earned his living not just as sailor but as a shantyman.  In 1914 he was visited by the folk-song collector Cecil Sharp to whom he sang nearly sixty early versions of deep water shanties.

It was the national publication of his songs and John’s local celebrity, which resulted in various contemporary articles and these, together with the detailed records that the government insisted should be kept by the merchant service – ‘lest the wars should rise again’ - that gave the author the resources to trace his life story, ship by ship, voyage by voyage: guano from the Chincha Islands, sugar from Mauritius, emigrants to Australia, troops to and from India, copper ore, timber, and much more.

The book takes one deep into the actuality of a 19th Century merchant sailor’s life, quoting from ships’ log books, newspaper articles, details of the legislation (or lack of it) that affected conditions, etc. Apart from John Short’s life story - from Australia to Valparaiso, from coastal ketches to deep-sea clippers - the book includes the shanties he sang and the history of each of the ships he sailed in. Scattered throughout the text are verses of many traditional songs that fit the story, as well as several illustrative pictures.

Altogether, the book gives a rare and detailed window into the life of a merchant mariner from the great days of sail.

The Author: Tom Brown holds a Doctorate in Arts Policy and Management from City University, London.  He is a folklorist and researcher of English tradition, custom, story, song and lore.  He and his wife are performers of the vernacular arts – both sing, and Tom also plays a variety of instruments.  They live in Combe Martin, North Devon, but tour nationwide, specialising in material from the West Country and in particular of Exmoor.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
The Short Sharp Shanties Project uses a variety of media to examine the life and songs of John Short of Watchet
1 A series of three CDs encompassing the whole of John Short’s repertoire as collected.  S&A Projects brought together a crew of ten professional singers and musicians, from both sides of the Atlantic, to make contemporary recordings of these early deep-water shanties.  The result was a very diverse collection which was highly acclaimed by critics.:
What they said about these recordings:
“Top class singing and playing throughout”
“A massive variety of arrangement and delivery”
“The most significant recordings of shanties for the last four decades” 
“Sometimes reflective - sometimes more wild”
“As bracing as a force six out of Finisterre”
“Some of the best renditions I have heard”
“All three CDs are beautifully done.  Every performance is a delight”
2 Website pages describing the project and the performers, together with a detailed examination of the worldwide history, development, uses and variants of the shanties recorded from John Short.
3 A biography of John Short – A Sailor’s Life  - which details not only his personal life story, but the history through which he lived, and details of the ships on which he sailed both in the Home Trade and all round the world.
4 Performance work in the form of an entertaining 2-hour show presenting Short’s life story and shanties – the humour and the tragedy of 19th Century merchant  navy life.
5 Workshops, variously for both schools and adult groups.  These cover not only the background to shanties, but demonstrate the effectiveness of co-operative work songs.  The workshops also introduce creative writing, in traditional  forms, from participants’ own experience.

 S&A Projects
S&A Projects is a Not-For-Profit organization which supports and promotes vernacular culture, tradition and lore in England.  The initial fund derived from surplus income from a small weekend festival of folk singing, but also accepts contributions from a variety of sources.

Apart from the 4-year Short Sharp Shanties Project, S&A Projects has recorded and produced a CD from the repertoire of Northamptonshire farmer Jeff Wesley, supported the Doc Rowe Archive, and digitised various recordings of traditional performances from mid-20th Century Cornwall.  Current projects include work on song manuscripts from Brendon in the heart of Exmoor, and the editing of recordings of the remarkable singer Cyril Piggott.


Further information can be found at UmberMusic follow the menu links to A Sailor’s Life, Short Sharp Shanties and Jeff Wesley CD -  email - Telephone  01271 882366/07977 914736


Original Tunebook by Robin Andrews
The Castle on the Hill – New Music from the English Countryside part 1 - Original Tunebook by Robin Andrews
The Castle on the Hill – New Music from the English Countryside part 1 contains 28 original tunes which fall loosely into the folk/traditional style. The book is beautifully illustrated by Yolande Dewar. Go to website for more information


Mick Bramich Concertina Tutors
The Irish Concertina
1996 saw the publication of Mick Bramich's tutor for the Anglo Concertina. The Irish Concertina by Dave Mallison Publications. This book is an advanced manual for the instrument and has given Mick the opportunity to run workshops at many national festivals. The book is beginning to penetrate the U.S.A. and a workshop tour is envisaged.
£14.95 + £1.00 p&p in the UK - CD £10.99 + £1.00 p&p in the UK. Trade prices supplied on request.

Absolute Beginners Concertina

This manual follows on from Mick's first tutor - The Irish Concertina. The book explores the mine field which awaits the prospective Anglo player, and by using the same format tablature as in his previous book, opens up the little box of tricks to the willing learner. A range of easy to follow diagrams, tips on maintenance and buying concertinas plus a potted history of the makers all add up to a well designed and planned tutor with a set of exercises which both challenge and give instant results to the beginner. The method has been "road tested" on new students of the instrument and they attest to the value of the teaching system.
Price £6.95 plus £1 p&p in the UK

In-between Anglo A range of exercises for the improver on Anglo concertina. All the music in the book appears in both staff notation and tablature for the instrument. Suitable for the twenty key Anglo but aimed at the thirty key instrument. 40 pages of lessons and tunes. £8.95. Add £1.00 p&p in the UK.

Review: Bob Taberner The Folk Mag "This book aims to bridge the gap between Mick's other two books, 'Absolute Beginners' Concertina' and 'The Irish Concertina'. The Anglo concertina is a much-maligned member of the concertina family because the majority of players don't feel comfortable playing in keys other than those of the two main rows of buttons. For the majority of Anglos, this means the keys of C and G, where the G row is an octave higher than you'd like it to be. Hence the demand for Anglos in G and D to fit in with melodeons and fiddles. Mick's book demonstrates that it is possible to play in other keys - D major, A minor, E minor - on a 30 key C-G Anglo as well as tackling the key of G by picking out the majority of notes on the C row. The exercises are well thought out and the tunes are all interesting and well chosen. You don't need to be a music reader because all the tunes are presented in an easy form of tablature, while different time signatures are clearly explained. The book is very much aimed at the player of tunes. Maybe song accompaniment is a subject for a future book. One slight disappointment for me was that Mick sticks to single note playing and doesn't include a few harmonising notes. I found myself adding them, anyway. There are a surprising number of tunes in B flat in the English tradition and Mick's book shows you how to play in that key on a C-G Anglo. Which is certainly a lot cheaper than the alternative solution of buying a B flat - F box."

Order
To order any of these publications contact Mick Bramich at: 18 Heather Park, South Brent, TQ10 9PU, Devon. 01364 649339 eMail. Visit Mick's website More information about Mick Bramich on Flaxey Green