Letters to the Editor

Greenbank's Shanty Fest reset: Feb. 18

When the Whidbey Island ShantyFest at the Greenbank Farm had to be canceled due to snow, wind and cold, we had to decide what to do next. The Shifty Sailors chose to reschedule for Saturday, Feb. 18, because this concert/fundraiser is our gift to our island community.

Our gift comes in two packages: The first being the joining together of four musical groups (Shifty Sailors; Whateverly Brothers; Watch the Sky and Chris Roe) to make island people aware through music of Whidbey’s three medical support funds: Friends of Friends, Small Miracles and Medical Safety Net of North Whidbey, and at the same time donating all of the profits to these worthwhile organizations.

The second gift which is free (the five afternoon song sessions and workshops), is our gift to our island community. The 45-minute presentations include a children’s sing-along of nautical songs; stories and songs about women and the sea; an adult song circle; storytellers sharing nautical stories; and a time to discuss how to create, arrange and promote music on the island. Your input is welcome in all the sessions.

In addition, several artisans will be demonstrating their craft while the sessions are going on. And Whidbey Pies has created a special “seaman’s pie” to be served during the festival.

I’m sure many on the island do not know the history of the Shifty Sailors. The Island County Historical Society in Coupeville asked me in 1993 to form a group of singers to help promote the sales of a new book called “Sails, Steamships & Sea Captains.” It turned out to be a very successful and enjoyable experience, and the group (now 23 in number) has been together ever since.

For nearly 19 years, we have practiced continually learning songs of the sea, performing in the U.S., Canada and Europe, creating five CDs, and, whenever possible, fulfilling our mission as stated on our website of “making sure the surrounding maritime communities understand their own nautical history.” This is why we have created the ShantyFest. It is an opportunity for us and other like-minded groups to highlight our nautical heritage through song and demonstration.

We also strive to sing at festivals which do the same: Coupeville’s Penn Cove Water Festival, Anacortes’ Waterfront Festival and Workboat Festival, Port Townsend’s Wooden Boat Festival, Seattle’s Folklife Festival and Ballard’s Fishermen’s Fall Festival.

We know our mission and are proud of our 19 years of sharing that with all of you. Please, young and old, come and join us at the Greenbank Farm on Saturday, Feb. 18.

Vern Olsen

Shifty Sailors


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