Tom’s gone to Hilo [sea shanty] (voice + keyboard)

Traditional halliard sea shanty

By: Traditional
For: Voice + keyboard
page one of Tom’s gone to Hilo [sea shanty] (voice + keyboard)

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Tom’s gone to Hilo [sea shanty] (voice + keyboard)


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Year of composition
Year of arrangement
Easy (Grades 1-3)
1 minute
Classical music
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This shanty was used “after a heavy blow, getting more sail on the ship. The decks are full of water and the men cannot keep their feet. The wind has gone down but the seas are running heavy. A big comber comes over the rail; the men are washed away from the rope. If it wasn’t for the man at the end of the rope gathering in the slack as the men pull, all the work would have to be done over again.” Hugill also gives us a glimpse of usage—“a tops’l halyard song, and one which never found favour with the afterguard, as it took too long to hoist a yard to it on account of the slow and lethargic way it was sung by a good shantyman. It was rather difficult to sing correctly, but even so it was popular with the crowd, particularly for heavy lifts.”

The modern consensus, anticipated by Tozer, Colcord and Hugill, is that the Hilo referred to is the Peruvian port of Ylo (or Ilo), rather than the Hawaiian port of Hilo which was only so named after the shanty was born.

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