Shanties and Kids

The basic work effort of a sea shantey can lead to great rhythmic exercises for kids. For example, using a halyard shantey such as “Alabama John Cherokee” or “John Kanaka” kids can use the basic work effort beat of “Alabama John Cherokee” and play two-step tag or hold a ‘race’ in which you can only move on those beats as someone calls the shantey,

My classes always liked using beanbags or the spongy toy “koosh” to toss to each other across a circle. They would sing a short drag or short haul shantey and toss the beanbag across the circle to a classmate on the work effort beat such as “…way, haul away, we’ll haul away, Joe!”

A walkway shantey or capstan shantey is a great accompaniment to a snake dance when there are a lot of kids. “Roll the Old Chariot” or “Bonnie Laddie” works well for such movement.

“A-Rovin'” is  Downton pump shantey. The basic movement involves the two flywheels of the pump spinning around. We used streamers or scarves to keep the beat. Children hold on to a scarf or streamer and make a large, circular motion with one arm keeping the beat to the shantey in 6/8 time.

Simple body percussion such as patsch/clap to a macrobeat can be done singly or in pairs. This is a great way to help students improve beat competency. “Paddy Works on the Railway” is a windlass or pump shantey and can be used to great effect with partners.

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