© K.E. Vögele

Rolling home

Shantys from Travemünde

The tall ship PASSAT was launched in 1911 and sailed across the seas

In the times of the big windjammers sailors led a hard life on board, which had nothing to do with seafaring romance. Sea shanties are work songs that were an everyday occurrence on ships. The men sang songs to synchronize the movements and to make the work more pleasant like for example hoisting anchors, setting sails and "hauling ropes". One of the men was the so-called shantyman, who had a big voice and often used quite a spicy language. He was the one to set the pace with his voice by calling out a verse and the crew responded him with a roaring chant. Weigh, hey and up she rises! Not exactly a feast for the ears, but in any case, very effective.

And a bottle of rum

"Rolling home", "Fifteen men" and "Drunken sailor" – these are some of the most famous shanties. You probably know them too, don't you? The men sang whatever came to mind and cheered up the crew, the lyrics were simple and not very sentimental. The songs told of the storm, liquor, the ship, far-off lands, farewell and the pretty sailor's bride in the next port. Most of the shanties were sung in English, or rather it was a wild mix, because the ship's crews came from all over the world.

Shanty is alive

Today the tradition of singing shanties is kept by some shanty choirs. In Germany, they have achieved cult status and are simply part of the maritime lifestyle on the coast - even though the great era of windjammers is long gone. In Germany, the choirs' programme often includes "real" shanties as well as old German schlager hits like "Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb eins" and "La Paloma" sung by Hans Albers - and legendary catchy tunes like "Junge, komm bald wieder" by Freddy Quinn.

The PASSAT and its choir

Probably the most famous shanty choir in Travemünde is the PASSAT choir, which was founded in 1976. It is closely connected with the four-masted barque PASSAT, the eponym and godfather ship of the choir. The PASSAT choir is one of the musical ambassadors of Lübeck. It performs about 50 concerts a year in Germany and abroad. Its formula for success is its unmistakable sound and its repertoire: an attractive mix of maritime German and international folklore, evergreens and pop. Other popular choirs who have dedicated themselves to singing shanties with heart and soul are the Lübeck shanty choir "Möwenschiet", which has been singing for pleasure for 40 years already, and the Travemünde Liedertafel (also with female singers!). They all invite their listeners ashore to a musical sea voyage around the world.

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