The birth of the Big Sings
The isolation precipitated by the covid-19 pandemic saw a proliferation of online gatherings (made possible by the Zoom software application) where folks would take turns sharing songs, even though they might be continents apart. And that is how Linn and Jim met.
Then, in one of those sessions, Jim sang a version of the shanty Santa Anna (from one of the books he'd haphazardly collected over the years), which was different from what Linn herself sang. Linn asked Jim for the words, and which he gladly shared. Then, since Linn has a personal connection to Mexico, she asked if Jim knew of any other versions or songs relating to General Santa Anna or -- more broadly -- to Mexico.
Jim says, "I've just mentioned that I haphazardly collect books. I don't (yet?) scour the internet for books about a particular topic, but if I see one (in a bookstore or flea market) that looks interesting and the price is right, I buy it. And I've been doing that for 50 years. Well, I went through my song books, searching specifically for versions of Santa Anna (or Santy Ana, or Santiano, etc.) and was suprised at both how many I found and the variety in both texts and tunes. Living in Denmark, I had also added a few shanty books in other languages to my collection, which proved to have some interesting surprises."
Linn says. "It was fascinating to see the variations in versions Jim had, both large and subtle, and I came up with the idea of hosting a Zoom session where we could not only present some of our own collecting, but invite others to share versions that they themselves sing. The Portsmouth (New Hampshire) Maritime Music Festival agreed to sponsor it (with publicity; we don't get paid!), and so we gave it a try."
It was a resounding success, with several folks contributing versions noticeably different from any either of us knew. Then various individuals (including ourselves) suggested that we should do the same with other shanties. We tried Rio Grande next... another success.
Now, as we pen this Story So Far, we have completed six Big Sings, with the next -- about John or Tom going to "Hilo" -- coming in January 2023, and no end in sight. If you join us then, or view the resulting videos, we hope you'll enjoy them as much we do.
Please see the other pages on this Shanty Big Sing web site for more information about both our Big Sings thus far and those sings planned for the near future, (including contacting us regarding participation).
|Jim Lucas and Linn Phipps|
A brief update (June 2023):
We have done some reflection and are renaming our sessions as "Themed Shanty Big Sings". We formerly referred to them as "Single Shanty Big Sings", but there are individual shanties for which there doesn't seem to be enough variety to support an entire Zoom session, yet which might be grouped together under particular "themes". E.g., a "California" theme could include shanties that focus on San Francisco or Sacramento or the California Gold Rush.
(This will not preclude a theme being a single shanty if the shanty appears to be of sufficient interest and variety.)