Plainville Choral Society turns to sea shanties for May concert

Plainville Choral Society will present “World of Waters: Maritime Music” on May 4 and 5 under the direction of Greg Wilfrid.

This program will feature musical medleys from “Showboat” and “HMS Pinafore,” as well as sea shanties and various other songs about sailing, rivers, and the sea.

Sea shanties are a type of work song that were commonly sung to accompany labor on board large sailing vessels, according to press materials from the PCS. “Many of these songs are call-response songs, wherein sailors would take turns improvising verses while the rest of the sailors repeated a response in time with the work being done (hoisting a sail, hauling a rope, pushing the capstan, etc.). Sailors would have to continue to improvise verses for as long as it took for the work to be done.”

This concert will feature a few of the more famous shanties, including “Rio Grande,” often sung as sailors departed from shore at the beginning of a voyage, and “Leave Her, Johnny,” the traditional shanty sung on the last night at sea.

Wilfrid studied sea shanties as part of his completion of his master’s degree in music education degree at the Hartt School of Music. In planning for his first spring program with the Plainville Choral Society, he revisited these songs, also finding choral arrangements of traditional folk songs closely related to nautical themes (“Shenandoah,” “Sail Away,” and “Loch Lomond,” among others). Adding medleys from the operetta “H.M.S. Pinafore” and “Showboat” connects these themes with the Plainville Choral Society’s connection with the world of drama and musical theater.

The program will also feature a local connection with an arrangement of “The Farmington Canal Song.” The words to this song are in numerous folk music collections, though there is no one melody connected to the text.

The performance will feature various soloists and group solos, an accompanying band of piano, tin whistles, Irish flutes, hammered dulcimer, double bass, bodhrán, and other percussion.

Performances will be Friday, May 4 and Saturday, May 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Middle School of Plainville, 150 Northwest Dr., and may be purchased from any PCS member, or at the ticket outlets: Dancingly Yours, Plainville Senior Center, Saint’s Restaurant, Southington and Family Barber Shop.

Ticket prices are $15 in advance and $18 at the door, $5 for children 12 and under.

For additional information, visit or by calling (860)471-5137.