Volume 13, Issue 5 ~ February 3 - February 9, 2005

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Music Preview

Songs of the Chesapeake: In Concert and On CD
The Bay’s soundtrack helps you get your sea legs.
Previewed by Carrie Steele

Bay songs are what Michael Buckley wanted to hear when he started gathering sounds for his five-year-old radio show, Voices of the Chesapeake Bay. His hope was to create a sense of place through stories and music on his weekly series broadcast on 103.1 WRNR-FM Sunday mornings from 7-10am.

Bay songs turned up scarce, and that got him thinking.

“There’s a lot of maritime music from New England,” says Buckley. “Lots of sea chanteys, which are different. They have cadences and are usually sung by many people, because groups of New England watermen were needed to raise the nets. The watermen down here are more solitary.”

Thanks to his perseverance, the rare songs of the Chesapeake are what you’ll hear Feb. 10, when 11 Chesapeake Bay musicians gather on Annapolis’s Rams Head Stage.

Before Songs of the Chesapeake could wash ashore, Buckley had to dive down into his musical connections and collections. He surfaced with 16 songs from the watershed’s headwaters in New York to Virginia.

“This collection is unique because it’s not all musicians. Some of the songs are the watermen themselves,” Buckley said.

Bunkie, David and Jordan Miller, are three generations of watermen from Tilghman Island, who sing “I’m Just a Waterman,” a song written for musical play The Last Waterman, written by Ed Klein of St. Michael’s.

Other musicians created songs from Bay experiences that touched them. Robbin Thompson’s “Chesapeake Moon” reflects on sailing by moonlight — “You have the whole Bay to yourself. It’s one of the most beautiful things you can do,” Buckley said.

The CD rose from the collection of songs he found for his radio show, as a benefit and as a way for the Chesapeake community to establish a sense of place through music. The CD wouldn’t have been possible, Buckley said, without financial backing from Richard Franyo, owner of Boatyard Bar & Grill.

The Songs of the Chesapeake CD benefits Bay non-profits such as Chesapeake Bay Trust, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Maryland Watermen’s Association and Living Classrooms Foundation.

Buckley spent 14 months compiling the CD, reeling in permission from record companies and coordinating design and layout.

The singers, groups and soloists, include both well-known and new artists.

Mike Aiken is a sailor whose recording studio is in the belly of a tugboat docked in Norfolk. His aptly named song, “Chesapeake,” was recorded in the studio afloat in the Chesapeake.

Them Eastport Oyster Boys, who sing “Marina, Marina,” are hometown favorites, musical comedians who’ve found musical ways to tell the Bay’s contemporary stories of ecology and culture.

“It’s an eclectic blend of all different kinds of music: folk songs, Celtic and blues,” said Buckley. Other songs are soaked with swing, gospel and rock. But the Bay’s soundtrack stays true to its theme: rockfish, watermen, crabs and plenty of ‘Chesapeake’ fill this 16-track CD.

At the Feb. 10 show, you’ll hear Deanna Dove, Dan Haas and Robin Jung, Bruce Myers, Mike Garfinkel, Tom Wisner, Mike Aiken, Them Eastport Oyster Boys, Dominick Murray, The Geckos and guest watermen The Millers.

Songs is partially dedicated to Admiral of the Bay Earl White, a lifelong waterman whose last job was sailing the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s skipjack Stanley Norman. He died last year at 86.

White’s voice can be heard on the CD, too, recounting days on the water, and singing ragtime blues.

“It’s a big world down here in Chesapeake Country, but it’s also a small world,” Buckley said of Songs, which he says strengthens our sense of place. “There’s a camaraderie that comes from living around the Bay. To study and understand the place where you live is a great thing.”

Songs of the Chesapeake in Concert: Doors open 7pm, show 7:30pm @ Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis. $25: 410-268-4545; www.ramsheadtavern.com. Also at the Avalon Theater in Easton on Sun. Feb. 13, 3pm.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.