Wind Ensemble

Songs of the Sea

For Wind Ensemble

Duration: 7 minutes

Grade: 3-4

Commissioned by Dr. Peter Meechan for a massed bands event at the BASBWE Shrewsbury Festival, December 2011.

Far From Home is based on, and uses excerpts from, a number of sea songs and shanties from different parts of the world. The title is taken from a traditional English country dance, and neatly sums up the lives of many sailors, seamen and fisherman in years gone by, who were often away from home for years at a time.

On long, perilous voyages, music was a source of entertainment and comfort, with songs telling stories of heroic deeds, tragedies at sea, naval battles as well as of homes, countries and family left behind.

Although scored for large forces, the piece is cued in such a way that some of the "rarer" instruments are fully covered elsewhere (please see the notes on instrumentation at the bottom of this page).

Songs/shanties used:

The Cobbler’s Hornpipe
Traditional English Hornpipe (17th Century) in 3/4 time

The Cumberland Crew
American Civil War song
Tells the story of the Union ship The Cumberland, sunk in a battle with a Confederate Iron-Clad off the coast of Virginia with the loss of all crew. The song gives the date as 8th March, but does not mention the year.

Henry Martin
English Sea Song (date unknown)
The story of three brothers who join up with the pirate Henry Martin. The song tells the story of a sea-fight with a rich merchant ship which is eventually sunk by the pirate’s guns with the loss of all crew and passengers.

The Coasts of High Barbary
16th Century English Shanty
Tells the story of a battle between a frigate and a pirate ship. After a day-long battle,  the frigate sinks the pirate ship.

Dance To Your Daddy
English Folk Song
A mother’s song to her son while waiting for her fisherman husband to return with the day’s catch.

Captains & Ships
Newfoundland Sea Shanty
A song about the ships that sail out of a Newfoundland port, and their captains. Wishing them well and hoping that their voyages are safe and prosperous.

Farewell Nancy
19th Century Irish song
A sailor’s song to his sweetheart explaining why she cannot go away with him to sea, and asking her to wait on the shore for him to return.

Sable Island Song
Folksong from Nova Scotia
According to the song, Sable Island sits eighty miles from land, on “the stormy western ocean”. The song makes reference to the need to buy food to feed the lifeboat crew.

17th Century tune. Originally a lively jig in 2/4 time.

Distributor:  J. W. Pepper


Picc., Fls. 1.2, Obs. 1.2, Cor Ang., Bb Cls. 1.2.3, Bb B. Cl., Bssns 1.2,
Bb Sop. Sax., Eb A. Sax. 1.2, Bb Ten. Sax., Eb Bar. Sax.,
Bb Tpts., F Horns, Trbs 1.2.3, Euphs. 1.2, Tubas 1.2,
D. Bass,

Timp., Perc

Additional Notes:

Although the piece is scored for large-scale forces, the following parts are fully cued elsewhere and can therefore be considered optional:

Oboe 2
Cor Anglais
Bassoons 1.2

The supplied Bassoon part contains both Bassoon 1 & 2, allowing one player to cover both parts.

Soprano Saxophone – if unavailable, the part should be given to a single Clarinettist.

F Horns – Exposed passages cued elsewhere. While 4 horns are desirable, parts are supplied with Horns 1.2 on a single part and Horns 3.4 on a single part, thereby allowing two or three players to cover all necessary material.

Euphonium 1.2 – Supplied as a single part, allowing one player to cover all necessary passages.

Tubas 1.2 – Can be covered by one player if necessary.

Double Bass – Largely doubled with Tubas. Exposed / essential passages are cued in the Tuba part.

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