‘Today’s youngsters are tomorrow’s shantymen’ – shanty singers welcome trend

A member of a 32-year-old shanty singing group has said the recent maritime viral trend will “do nothing but good for our genre of music”.

Sea shanties made an unexpected return at the start of 2021 when a Scottish postman’s rendition of The Wellerman went viral on the video-sharing social platform TikTok.

Since then the man responsible – Nathan Evans from Airdrie, Scotland – has left his day job behind to pursue a career in music, while celebrities such as Andrew Lloyd Webber have added their own contributions.

The Sheringham Shantymen in North Norfolk have been keeping the tradition alive for decades since forming in 1988, and one member told the PA news agency he welcomes the trend, despite being confused initially.

“I have to say I was a little bit like ‘what on earth?'” John, 52 – who did not want his surname included – said.

“I actually then uploaded the app onto my phone. Yeah I think it’s great, I’m amazed at how it’s taken off. And I’m amazed at the celebrity faces that have gone with it, the likes of Gary Barlow, that’s got to be a good thing.

“It helps to widen the general perception of sea shanties, which takes away that old fogey bit of it and makes it much more acceptable. I love it, I think it’s great! I think it’s going to do nothing but good for our genre of music.”

The Sheringham Shantymen perform private and public gigs, raising money for charities and singing a range of old and new versions of shanties.

An international sea shanty festival, meanwhile, takes place in Falmouth regularly, attracting “in excess of 65,000 visitors to see over 70 shanty groups” normally, according to their website.

But while the success of the trend among young people may come as a surprise to some, John said that his group’s experience indicates all ages enjoy the genre.

“We had a workshop a couple of years ago in Norfolk and it was an after-school type activity,” he said.

“We went along and there seemed to be a lot of very bored 14, 15, 16-year-olds, and by the time the second song had started they had tuned into our wavelength and they had a whale of an afternoon.

“Today’s youngsters are tomorrow’s shantymen.”

The Sheringham Shantymen, a group of singers from North Norfolk
The Sheringham Shantymen, a group of singers from North Norfolk

Mr Evans has since targeted chart success with his performance, and was enlisted by the BBC to recite a shanty ahead of Manchester United v Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

John said of the young shanty star “I wish him the best of luck,” and added “I would like to be able to sing like that!”