A collection of sea shanties for solo piano. Easy to Intermediate Level
"What Shall We do with a Drunken Sailor" is a sea shanty, sung to accompany certain work tasks aboard sailing ships. It is believed to originate in the early 19th century or before, during a period when ships' crews, especially those of military vessels, were sufficiently large to permit hauling a rope whilst simply marching along the deck. There are many variants of verses, each successive verse suggests a method of sobering or punishing the drunken sailor.
Soon May the Wellerman Come (New Zealand Trad.)
"Soon May the Wellerman Come" is 19th century New Zealand sea shanty. "Wellermen" likely refers to the Weller brothers' ships, which supplied the European settlers of Otago on South Island. In 2021, during the Coronavirus pandemic, a cover of the song by Scottish singer Nathan Evans became a social media viral hit, sparking a copy-cat craze of recordings of both Wellerman and other sea shanties. The Longest Johns, whose January recording of the piece also became a hit, had actually already recorded "Wellerman" in 2018, but at the time that version went largely unnoticed.
"Oh Shenandoah" (also called simply "Shenandoah", or "Across the Wide Missouri") is a traditional American folk song of uncertain origin, dating at least to the early 19th century. The song "Shenandoah" appears to have originated with American and Canadian voyageurs or fur traders traveling down the Missouri River in canoes and has developed several different sets of lyrics. Some lyrics refer to the Oneida chief Shenandoah and a canoe-going trader who wants to marry his daughter. By the mid 1800s versions of the song had become a sea shanty heard or sung by sailors in various parts of the world.
The "Song of the Volga Boatmen" is a well-known traditional Russian song collected by Mily Balakirev, and published in his book of folk songs in 1866. It was sung by burlaks, or barge-haulers, on the Volga River. Balakirev published it with only one verse (the first). The other two verses were added at a later date. Ilya Repin's famous painting, Barge Haulers on the Volga, depicts such burlaks in Tsarist Russia toiling along the Volga.
"Sloop John B" is a 1966 single by the Beach Boys and the seventh track on their album Pet Sounds. It was originally a traditional West Indies folk song or sea shanty, "The John B. Sails", taken from Carl Sandburg's 1927 collection of folk songs, The American Songbag.
The English sea shanty "Blow the Man Down" likely refers to a common mishap at sea during the age of sail wherein a strong, sudden gale catches a ship with its topsails fully set – the force of the wind, depending upon the load and balance of the ship's cargo, can actually "blow the man down", or blow the man-o'-war down into the water, partially capsizing it. As with many sea shanties its lyrics are not exactly fixed, combining customary verses with lyrics that would have been improvised.
"Spanish Ladies" is an English sea shanty dating back to at least 1796 and possibly more than a century earlier. The lyrics describe a voyage from Spain to the Downs (coast of Kent, UK) from the viewpoint of ratings of the Royal Navy. The song has made number of appearances in popular culture: it is mentioned in Arthur Ransome's "Swallows and Amazons," in Wilbur Smith's "Monsoon" and "Blue Horizon" as well as appearing in films such as "Jaws" (1975) and "Master and Commander" (2003).
"Heart of Oak" is the official march of the Royal Navy. It is also the official march of several Commonwealth navies, including the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal New Zealand Navy. It was also the official march of the Royal Australian Navy, but has now been replaced by the new march, "Royal Australian Navy." It was written in 1759 by English composer William Boyce, appearing in his opera "Harlequin's Invasion," with a libretto by David Garrick.
"A-Roving," also known as "The Maid of Amsterdam" is a folk song of Elizabethan or Jacobean origin. The lyrics have many variations. They are often cautionary tales of a sailor's amorous encounter with the Amsterdam maid who, variably, is married, taking advantage of the sailor for his money, or has the pox. The notes for the Doug Bailey-produced album Short Sharp Shanties claim the most traditional lyrics describe the sailor progressively touching different parts of the maid's body. Despite these variations, almost all versions contain the chorus of:
I'll go no more a-rovin' with you, fair maid A-roving, A-roving, since roving's been my ru-i-in I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid
Sea shanties were often sung whilst working, which makes "Haul Away, Joe" perhaps the most characteristic example of the genre; sea music historian an performer Stan Hugill calls this a “tack and sheet” shanty, “used mainly for hauling aft the foresheet after reefing the fores’l.” In a sense, however, there is also a double meaning—'hauling' can also refer to sailing closer to the wind, or moving away. The lyrics make reference to situations from which the the sailors might wish to "haul away," for example:
I used to have an Irish girl, but she got fat and lazy Away haul away, we'll haul away Joe. But now I've got a Bristol girl, and she just drives me crazy Away haul away, we'll haul away Joe.
"Leaving of Liverpool," is a lyrical lament also used as a sea shanty, especially at the capstan. It is very well known in Britain, Ireland, and America, despite the fact that it was collected only twice, from the Americans Richard Maitland and Captain Patrick Tayluer. The song has been recorded a number of times, the most famous, perhaps, being versions by The Dubliners and The Pogues. It is also used in the 1997 film "Titanic" as the ship departs from Ireland.
"All For Me Grog" is a traditional folk song that was originally popular with sailors and later adopted by folk music performers and pub singers. It tells the tale of a man who sells all his possessions, and even his wife, to pay for drink and tobacco. Although the song is effectively about a man's ruin through drink, it is upbeat and celebratory rather than regretful. It is usually performed as a raucous chorus song. Grog originally referred to a daily ration of rum that used to be given to sailors in the Royal Navy. It later came to refer to all types of drink. The song was recorded as a single by The Dubliners which charted at No.10 in Ireland in July 1967.