Singing sea chanteys on Shelter Island


Attention all sailors, singers and maritime history buffs, enjoy an evening of traditional sea chanteys when Friday Night Dialogues welcomes long-time professional chantey singers Barbara and Al Cuenin and Frank Woerner. 

The music begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 10, at the Shelter Island Library. Mr. Woerner began performing traditional sea chanteys (also called shanties) in the 1960’s while the Cuenins have been singing for about 20 years. The trio has performed extensively around the New York metropolitan area, particularly at Sailors’ Snug Harbor in Staten Island and the South Street Seaport in New York City.

The sea chantey form is believed to have evolved during the rise of large merchant sailing vessels or Clipper ships in the decades prior to the Civil War. A type of work song, chanteys were typically sung to accompany labor aboard the large sailing vessels that plied the seas in the first half of the 19th century. As the move to steam-powered ships and the increased mechanization of shipboard tasks replaced the gracious large (but very labor-intensive) sailing vessels, chanteys gradually came to serve a less practical function and became more of a folk art form.

Chantey sings traditionally involve audience participation and this night will be no exception. The trio will provide song lyrics for choruses or responses for the participatory numbers so bring your voice and sing along.

Friday Night Dialogues are held in the library’s lower level community room. The event is free, though donations are always appreciated.

Next up: On June 17, David Browne, music journalist and contributing editor of Rolling Stone magazine will present “So Many Roads: The Life and Time of the Grateful Dead.”

For information on these programs and all others, contact the library at 749-0042 or check out the website at