Pembroke Library Hosts Chantey Sing

Photo: Jim Sherman and Stephen Sanfilippo singing songs of the sea at the Pembroke library. (Photo by Natalie Scott)

By Natalie Scott

On Wednesday the 19th, residents of Pembroke gathered at the local library at 6:30pm. Songs of the sea and the wilderness were performed by Stephen Sanfilippo and Jim Sherman of the group From Away Downeast, known as “America’s Easternmost Chantey Group.” The crowd met on the second floor of the library, where they were greeted with snacks, refreshments, and programs introducing the singers, musicians, and information about the songs that were about to be performed.
From Away Downeast shared several sea chanteys, which are historical songs of the sea. Sanfilippo and Sherman also sang some other tunes that were based on the Maine woods. The show consisted of three types of songs; a chantey, a ballad, and a ditty. Chanteys are easy to sing along with and were used to set a rhythm to a sailors duties. A ballad tells a story to the listener and is a bit more on the serious side. Sanfilippo explained a ditty as a song that is meant to be sung along with a group of people to ease the work that’s being shared. “It’s twenty below zero, it’s sleeting, the wind is blowing and you’re cutting trees,” said Sherman while explaining one of the songs, “When the River Meets the Rail.”
One of the performers, Stephen Sanfilippo, is a native from Brooklyn, New York. He holds a PhD in History, but enjoys pleasing a crowd in his spare time. When he’s not teaching Maritime History at Maine Maritime, Sanfilippo takes his music throughout New England, all the way to New York.
Jim Sherman became interested in traditional music in his teenage years. He is a U.S. Coast Guard Veteran, who was raised in Connecticut. For the past fifteen years Sherman has been living in Machiasport, where he plays and gives guitar and mountain dulcimer lessons.
The Pembroke Library has been holding a year-round Chantey Sing for the past ten years, with a different maritime theme every month. Each guest is provided with a discussion based on the history, as well as a sing-along. The next Chantey Sing will be held in August at the Pembroke Library on the second floor, with handicap accessibility. For more information on From Away Downeast, call 207-726-4747 or email