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Lyr Add: Sail, O Believer

02 Feb 21 - 01:44 PM (#4091144)
Subject: Lyr Add: Sail, O Believer
From: GUEST,radriano

I first heard this at a London Shanty Collective zoom session (January, 2021 - I'll track down who sang the song and add it to this thread). The only recording I could find was by Gordon Bok. Sail, O Believer is one of the songs in the book "Slave Songs of the United States, 1867": Sail, O Believer is shown to come from the Port Royal Islands, C.P.W. It's a rowing shanty: "Among the most common rowing tunes were Nos. 5, 14, 17, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 36, 46. "As I have written these tunes," says Mr. Ware, "two measures are to be sung to each stroke, the first measure being accented by the beginning of the stroke, the second by the rattle of the oars in the row-locks. On the passenger boat at the [Beaufort] ferry, they rowed from sixteen to thirty strokes a minute; twenty-four was the average."

SAIL, O BELIEVER

Grand chorus:
Sail, o believer sai
Sail over yonder
Sail, o my brother sail
Sail over yonder

Verse 1:
Solo: Oh, brother, bear a hand
Ch:   Sail over yonder
Solo: Come, my brother, bear a hand
Ch:   Sail over yonder

Verse 2:
Come, view the promised land
Sail over yonder
Come, view the promised land
Sail over yonder

Verse 3:
Oh, Mary, Mary weep
Sail over yonder
Bow low, Martha
Sail over yonder

Verse 4:
Oh, my Lord's coming now
Sail over yonder
And my Lord locks the door
Sail over yonder

Verse 5:
Now my Lord's locked the door
Sail over yonder
Carries the keys away
Sail over yonder


02 Feb 21 - 02:45 PM (#4091146)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sail, O Believer
From: GUEST,#

http://www.rollandgoseasongs.com/rg_cd_2010/rg01sailo.htm

There's enough on the MP# sample goven to check melody and rhythm, if that's any help.


03 Feb 21 - 09:40 AM (#4091245)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sail, O Believer
From: severed-head

Hi Richard,
I may have been the one that sang it at the London Shanty session? I've been singing it quite a lot lately - great song.
Garry Walker


03 Feb 21 - 09:45 AM (#4091247)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sail, O Believer
From: Charley Noble

Yes, as mentioned above Dick Dufresne lead this song with Roll & Go on our recording "Watch Out!"in 2010. The link is above. Dick was inspired by Gordon Bok's recording.

Cheerily,
Charlie Ipcar


03 Feb 21 - 01:50 PM (#4091302)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sail, O Believer
From: GUEST,radriano

Hello Gary!

Yes, I thought it was you! Thanks for singing the song!


And hello Charley,
Thanks for the link to your group. You guys do the song well!

Peter Kasin and I were just about to start another recording when Covid hit us. Now I'm just gnashing my teeth.


06 Feb 21 - 10:04 PM (#4091889)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sail, O Believer
From: Joe Offer

Not much on this song in in the Traditional Ballad Index:

Sail, O Believer

DESCRIPTION: "Sail, O believer, sail, Sail over yonder, Sail, O my brother, Sail over yonder." The listener is invited to join in the work and view the promised land. "For Jesus comes... And Jesus locks the doors... And carries the keys away."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1867 (Allen/Ware/Garrison)
KEYWORDS: religious nonballad Jesus
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Allen/Ware/Garrison, p. 24, "Sail, O Believer" (1 fragment plus a short text which they believe to be the same song, 1 tune)
Scott-BoA, pp. 197-198, "Sail, O Believer" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #11976
File: SBoA197

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2020 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


06 Feb 21 - 10:18 PM (#4091895)
Subject: ADD Version: Sail, O Believer
From: Joe Offer

SAIL, O BELIEVER

CHORUS
Sail, o believer sail
Sail over yonder
Sail, o my brudder sail
Sail over yonder

[Col. Higginson gives the following stanzas, of which the above seems to be a part; but unfortunately he is unable to identify the music, which is well described by the terms in which he speaks of the words—“very graceful and lyrical, and with more variety of rhythm than usual : ”

Bow low, Mary, bow low, Martha,
    For Jesus come and lock de dour,
    And carry de keys away.

Sail, sail, over yonder,
And view de promised land,
    For Jesus come, &c.

Weep. O Mary, bow low, Martha,
    For Jesus come, &c.

Sail, sail, my true believer;
Sail, sail, over yonder;
Mary. bow low, Martha, bow low,
    For Jesus come and lock de door,
    And carry de keys away.]



Source: #32 in "Slave Songs of the United States, 1867," by William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, Lucy McKim Garrison

Tune (chorus only) transcribed on request. We don't know the melody for the verses.


06 Feb 21 - 10:33 PM (#4091896)
Subject: ADD Version: Sail, O Believer
From: Joe Offer

SAIL, O BELIEVER

Sail, O believer, sail
Sail over yonder
Sail, O my brother, sail,
Sail over yonder.

Come view the promised land,
Sail over yonder,
Come view the promised land,
Sail over yonder.

O brother lend a hand,
Sail over yonder,
O brother lend a hand,
Sail over yonder.

O Mary, weep,
Sail over yonder,
Bow low, Martha,
Sail over yonder.

For Jesus comes,
Sail over yonder,
And Jesus locks the door,
Sail over yonder.

For Jesus comes,
Sail over yonder,
And carries the keys away,
Sail over yonder.

Sail, O believer, sail,
Sail over yonder,
Sail, O my brother, sail,
Sail over yonder.

Notes:
For the Negro slave, a spiritual was something to live with, work with, pray with. American rivers and shores echoed to these melodies wherever slave stevedores worked, wherever slave oarsmen plied the longboats sailing from plantation to plantation.
Frances Ann Kemble, famous British actress, who resided in 1839 on her husband’s sea island plantations at the estuary of the Altamaha river in Georgia, heard many of these boat songs. Her husband’s plantations were on two islands separated by a distance of several miles, and she frequently traveled back and forth by boat. She has left the following commentary on the boat songs she heard:
    My daily voyages up and down the river have introduced me to a great variety of new musical performances of our boatmen, who invariably, when the rowing is not too hard, moving up or down with the tide, accompany the stroke of their oars with the sound of their voices.
    . . . The way in which the chorus strikes in with the burden, between each phrase of the melody chanted by a single voice, is very curious and effective, especially with the rhythm of the rowlocks for accompaniment. The high voices all in unison, and the admirable time and true accent
    with which their responses are made, always makes me wish that some great musical composer could hear these semisavage performances. With a very little skillful adaptation and instrumentation, I think one or two barbaric chants and choruses might be evoked from them that would make the fortune of an opera.*

“Sail, O Believer” is a boat song that was sung by the slaves on the sea island of St. Helena; its place of origin is in the Hebrides. Changed into a spiritual, it illustrates the remarkable way in which Negro people assimilated the American musical heritage as a means to their own profound and creative expression.
Pp 197-198 in The Ballad of America, by John Anthony Scott (Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1967)


Melody transcribed on request.


22 Feb 21 - 04:28 PM (#4094338)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sail, O Believer
From: GUEST,radriano

Joe, the melody is the same for both verse and chorus: