Friday, June 21, 2024

David Coffin performs for Revels in May. (Image: Revels via YouTube)

Sea chantey TikTok somehow became the music that sang goodbye to 2020 and ahoy to the new year, as a Scot named Nathan Evans posted his version of “Soon May the Wellerman Come” and fellow users of the video platform posted their own videos singing along. As of late January, it had been watched more than 9 million times, according to TikTok’s community news page.

You’ve probably seen it, or the countless duets that followed as TikTok uses paired their own talents with that of Evans. But here’s the video again, for a refresher:

Yet the song is not actually a sea chantey, meant to provide a rhythm to specific labor on a sailing vessel of the 1700s and 1800s, but a whaling song that follows a chantey-like beat – so The New York Times learned last month from David Coffin, a folk musician and chantey expert from Gloucester. Coffin happens to be artist-in-residence for Revels, the music and theater organization enlivening the city for the past five decades, and perhaps not coincidentally plans a free, hourlong Sea Chantey Sing this week. (Many will know him as master of ceremonies for The Christmas Revels every year since 1991.)

Coffin will sing with fellow maritime musician, educator and chantey expert Celeste Bernardo with a cameo from a Nils Fredland, of Revels.

“Through the course of the evening we will explain but mostly sing many different forms of chanteys – capstan/pumping/windlass, halyard, long and short haul chanteys, to name a few,” Revels organizers said in a Monday email, “plus we’ll take a brief look at the TikTok chantey craze and share some examples from the platform.”

The free Sea Chantey Sing is 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 on Facebook Live.