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Homeward Bound (2006)

  • Music
  • Liner Notes
  • Contact



1. Orinoco Flow

Eithne Bhraonain/Nicky Ryan/Roma Shane Ryan arr. CPO Keith D. Hinton

2. Mairi's Wedding

notated by Dr. Peter A. MacLeod
words Hugh S. Robertson/arr. Hugh S. Robertson


3. A British Tar from "HMS Pinafore"

W. Gilbert/A. Sullivan
arr. Peter Gritton


4. The Pirate King from "Pirates of Penzance"

W. Gilbert/A. Sullivan
arr. Bob Chilcott

5. Captain Mac'

Wilfrid Sanderson
arr. Arvid Samuelson

6. Homeward

Eric Thiman


7. Marianne

Philip Wilby


8. Byker Hill

Philip Wilby


9. Down to the River to Pray

Sheldon Curry


10. Go Lovely Rose

Eric Thiman
poem by Edmund Waller


11. Great Day

Warren Martin


12. I'm Seventeen Come Sunday

Percy Grainger


13. Time After Time

Robert Birge
arr. Grayston Ives


14. Under the Willow Tree from "Vanessa"

Samuel Barber
words by Gian Carlo Menotti


15. Sleep

Eric Whitacre
words by Charles A. Silvestri


16. The Coast

Paul Simon
arr. CPO Keith D. Hinton


17. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes

Paul Simon
arr. CPO Keith D. Hinton


18. Homeward Bound

Marta Keen
arr. Jay Althouse


19. My Country 'Tis of Thee

arr. Kirby Shaw




Liner Notes

The "Sea Chanters" chorus takes great pleasure in presenting our latest recording, Homeward Bound, during our 50th year of service to America. Initially formed to preserve the tradition of the sea songs known as chanteys, we have adapted to embrace a variety of styles, dramatically increasing our ability to serve in the myriad of functions we perform as the Navy's official chorus. True to the Navy's watchwords of pride and professionalism, we bring you songs relating to the sea, travel, sacrifice and love of country to reflect our heritage, where we are today and our vision for tomorrow. We look forward to presenting this timeless expression of patriotism to future generations. As I write to you, the United States Navy Band is once again in residence at the Sail Loft on the historic Washington Navy Yard and so the map on our cover art truly represents our homecoming. So set sail with us, we're Homeward Bound!


- Russell J. Rathier, Leader, 2004 - 2008


"Orinoco Flow" conjures images of tall ships traversing the world's oceans in search of distant lands in the 18th and 19th centuries - an age of sail and of the sea chantey. Enya first recorded this reverie and chronicle as a solo artist and then re-released it under her revived group effort, The Celts - appropriate for our ensemble that recruits world class soloists for the Navy's official chorus, the Sea Chanters. What is the Orinoco Flow? It is the overflow from the Orinoco River. When Christopher Columbus noted its strength on his maiden voyage to the New World, he was convinced that South America was a continent and not just an island as he had previously thought. Explore now 50 years of Sea Chanter tradition on this, our musical voyage.


Sons and daughters of Scotland, young and old, hold "Mairi's Wedding" dear to their hearts. Originally in Gaelic, Johnny Bannerman composed this joyous dance for his close friend, young Mairi McNiven, and first played it for her in Glasgow. It spread like wildfire, transcending continental boundaries to become famous around the world - much to the delight of Mairi who, at 90 years old, humbly recalls the story of her song to this day.


"A British Tar" and "The Pirate King" describe disparate views of life at sea by undoubtedly one of the most prolific and successful musical duos in history - Gilbert and Sullivan. From 1871-1896, William S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan collaborated on 14 operettas including HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance, which remain among the most popular and enduring works of musical theater. "A British Tar" is a romantic satire of British naval hierarchy that pokes fun at the class differences between the common sailors and their officers. Sullivan predicted success for Pirates in a letter to his mother. "I think it will be a great success, for it is exquisitely funny, and the music is strikingly tuneful and catching." To hear why, listen to the virtues of plundering and pillaging as related by "The Pirate King."


"Captain Mac'" is a wonderful, humorous sea song. Lacking the rhythmic responses and accented beats that helped sailors perform their duties with precision, it is not technically a sea chantey, but its score can be found in the original purchases for the newly formed Sea Chanters! In 1956, the assistant leader of the Navy Band, Lt. Harold Fultz, selected a few instrumentalists from the Navy School of Music in Anacostia to sing rousing chanteys and patriotic songs for the State of the Nation dinner. They were an immediate success. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh Burke transferred them to the Navy Band, named this all-male chorus the "Sea Chanters" and tasked them with perpetuating the songs of the sea.


Sea chanteys not only united the efforts of the crew at work, but entertained them after hours as well, often expressing deep sentiments for home and loved ones. "Homeward," from Eric Thiman's Songs of Sailors and of the Sea, finds the crew preparing to depart from a foreign port. This beautiful musical setting evokes the rolling sea that awaits them. The composer crafts the final measures with the gradually diminishing sound of the crew's "Good-bye, fare thee well" to those left on shore.


"Marianne" and "Byker Hill" both come from one of Philip Wilby's most famous choral works, his arrangement of Three North Country Folk Songs. A Yorkshireman born in 1949, Wilby has crafted an impressive international career as a composer, performer and teacher. His hauntingly beautiful "Marianne" expresses the heartfelt longing of lovers kept distant by the sea. In contrast, "Byker Hill" is a rhythmic, coal-hauling song, not unlike the sailors' chanteys, that spurred England's miners as they drove their bodies in tandem to complete their arduous work.


"Down to the River to Pray" is an Appalachian baptismal hymn popularized in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? by Grammy winner Alison Krauss. To accentuate the simplistic beauty of the melody, the piece begins with a solo voice. It soon expands to two voices, then three and eventually to the full ensemble, including acoustic piano and upright bass.


Eric Thiman's "Go Lovely Rose" sets Edmund Waller's poem with opening thematic material that returns at the appropriate verses, keeping the unifying textual context of the poem intact.


A challenging work and concert showstopper, "Great Day" is a shining example of the enormous renaissance made by the Negro spiritual over the past decade. Warren Martin utilizes syncopated rhythm and heavy canonic writing to create the high energy of the song.


Serving in the U.S. Army as an oboist, soprano saxophonist and instructor, Australian born Percy Grainger arranged no less than 90 British and Australian folk songs for various instruments. Known for his sudden syncopated accents and clashing harmonies, his folk works maintain their proper lilt and character despite complexity in composition. "I'm Seventeen Come Sunday" is a dialogue between two young lovers as they make their way through the town, including sneaking past the girl's mother's open window!


The waltz, with its lilting rhythm of 3/4 time, has long been associated with romance. But what is a composer to do when the couple's past reveals differing intents? Robert Birge uses their bittersweet memories to set the tone for this charming pastiche of a waltz surrounding a section in a different meter, giving additional meaning to the title, "Time After Time."


Samuel Barber took his time before writing an opera; but it was worth the wait. Vanessa, composed when he was well into his forties, premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1958, garnering both international praise and the Pulitzer Prize for musical composition. "Under the Willow Tree" is Barber's own choral setting of a ländler that he used in varying forms throughout the opera. It begins with the Old Doctor, sung here by PO1 Michael A. Webb, and continues with the full chorus conveying the wild, dramatic peaks and valleys of Vanessa.


With an opera to his credit, too, Eric Whitacre has earned a meteoric rise to prominence in the choral world with his shimmering tonal painting creating a unique sound canvas. Legal issues prevented the use of Robert Frost's "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening." Fortunately, Charles Silvestri seamlessly formed the dreamy, winding text for "Sleep." One has to wonder how any other words could possibly match the music any better than these.


Arguably one of the best American singer-songwriters in history, Paul Simon followed the immense success of Simon & Garfunkel with an equally admirable solo career. His critically acclaimed solo album Graceland prominently explored Simon's resurgent interest in African cultures and rhythms. Amidst the politically charged atmosphere of 1986 apartheid, Simon featured South African musicians, none more prominently than Ladysmith Black Mombazo in "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes." Simon expanded his fascination with Brazilian and African rhythms with his subsequent album, Rhythm of the Saints. Speaking directly of a line in "The Coast" and of his increasing collaborative efforts with other musicians, Simon states, "This album even more than Graceland has musicians from several different cultures. West African guitar and Brazilian drums have a historical connection but it's not like there's a lot of West African guitars playing with Brazilian percussionists. So yes it's a family of musicians."


Remembering the daily sacrifices of our servicemen and women around the world, composer Marta Keen gladly agreed to have "Homeward Bound" used in a poignant film depicting military members, their missions and the harsh conditions they must endure before they can return to their loved ones. Jay Althouse believes Keen's piece to be one of the finest he's ever arranged.


Like the Sea Chanters themselves, "My Country 'Tis of Thee" has evolved in how it expresses its patriotic message, but never waivers in its excellence or ability to inspire. Samuel Francis Smith wrote the words while studying at Andover Theological Seminary in 1831. His friend, famed organist and composer Lowell Mason, asked him to provide words to tunes found in some German hymn books, either by translating the German text or in creating his own. Smith was struck by one in particular and wrote his lyrics to it. There is no indication that Smith was even aware that this German music was the same as Britain's "God Save the King." "America" debuted during a children's concert at the Park Street Church in Boston on July 4, 1831, and remains a traditional favorite. The Sea Chanters close Homeward Bound with Kirby Shaw's gospel rendition featuring PO1 Edward Daryl Duff. Its treatment infuses the traditional stateliness with an energy uniquely American -- a fitting way to mark our first 50 years of service to the greatest of nations, the United States of America.



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