Amateur SATB choir based in Fleet, Hampshire

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So here, we present to you, our version of Row On, inspired by Ninebarrow, performed by Hart Voices and The Chantry Singers under the musical leadership of Roy Rashbrook.

 

It's a bit of an understatement to say that life has changed for everyone since March! Particularly for the performing arts - relying on audiences coming together in venues to hear musicians and singers perform live, creating beautiful music and theatre together, as one. 

 

And of course, we all now know that this particular coronavirus strain thrives on human contact and loves unventilated spaces, much of which has previously been unavoidable for live performance.

 

It has therefore been a trying year for Hart Voices and Chantry Singers, unable to plan for concerts or even come together to sing each week in rehearsals, and we still do not really know when we can all be back together creating the music we love. 

 

But our desire to create and delight has not gone away. So this term we recorded one of our favourite Ninebarrow songs, from the comfort and safety of our own homes, and our talented maestro, Roy Rashbrook has painstakingly edited and directed this rather beautiful video together, which captures the hope and magic which still exists for us all when we make music.

 

And so, we present "Row On". A beautiful, romantic song which we wanted to share with the world so that you too can enjoy the music we love. 

 

If you can share it with others – by email or by social media - we’d be so grateful.

 

 

We put this video together for enjoyment (ours and yours!) but you may know that we previously released a single with Ninebarrow in aid of mental health charity Mind. The fundraising page is still open for that, so if you want to make a donation to Mind because you've enjoyed "Row On" so much, we would be delighted. 

 

You can do this at www.ninebarrow.co.uk/mind

It was long thought that the words to this song originated in an 1847 entry in the logbook of the Nantucket Whaling ship “Three Brothers”.

 

Sure enough, a visit to the Nantucket History Association’s excellent website reveals a modern transcript of the logbook, which makes for fascinating reading. It is full of matter of fact descriptions of what must have been a grim existence.

 

There are accounts of the number of whales caught, deaths on board, crimes committed by crew, desertion, fights, and a particularly detailed account of the spilling of a bottle of ink.

 

In amongst all the comings and goings of a commercial whale ship, there nestles a 24 line poem entitled “Row on, row on”.

 

Row on, row on, another day

May shine with brighter light;

Ply, ply the oars and pull away,

There's dawn beyond the night.

 

Clouds are upon the summer sky,

There's thunder on the wind;

Pull on, pull on, and homeward hie,

Nor give one look behind.

 

Bear where thou goest the words of love,

Say all that words can say.

Changeless affections strength to prove,

But speed upon the way.

 

Oh, like yon river would I glide

To where my heart would be.

My barque should soon outsail the tide

That hurries to the sea.

 

But yet a star shines constant still

Through yonder cloudy sky;

And hope as bright my bosom stills

From faith that can not die.

 

Row on, row on, God speed the way,

Thou must not linger here;

Storms hang about the closing day,

Tomorrow may be clear.

 

When researching for the 1964 book, “Songs the Whalemen Sang”, Gale Huntington assumed that this is the first occurrence of the text and so published the poem in full, attributing it to an anonymous crew member.

 

However, we now know that the poem originally appeared in a historical novel, printed in New York in 1844. G. P. R. James’ “Arabella Stuart: A Romance from English History” is an romanticised account of the real life story of Arabella Stuart (4th in line to throne at the time of the death of Elizabeth I) and her husband, William Seymour, whole she had married in secret.

 

The King feared that this union might be the start of an attempt to wrestle the thrown from his grasp and so had them both imprisoned, William in the Tower of London and Arabella in a house by the Thames in Lambeth.

 

In the novel, a friend of William's sails by Arabella's house in Lambeth and throws a letter from William onto the terrace, remarking loudly to his boatman that he'll probably be back that way in an hour. On returning Arabella's companion throws her reply onto the boat. Thus William and Arabella correspond.

 

However, at the moment in the novel when the poem occurs, Arabella has become suspicious that she is being watched and so her companion sings the song as a warning to the boatman that it is not safe and that he should “row on”.

 

The words she sings are slightly different to the Nantucket version and with her version, the poem makes sense.

 

1. Row on, row on! Another day

May shine with brighter light;

Ply, ply the oars, and pull away,

Thou must not come to-night.

 

2. Clouds are upon the summer sky,

There's thunder on the wind;

Pull on, pull on, and homeward hie,

Nor give one look behind!

 

3. Bear where thou go'st the words of love;

Say all that words can say,

Changeless affection's strength to prove,

But speed upon the way.

 

4. Oh! like yon river could I glide

To where my heart would be;

My bark should soon outsail the tide,

That hurries to the sea.

 

5. But yet a star shines constant still

Through yonder cloudy sky,

And hopes as bright my bosom fill,

From faith that cannot die!

 

6. Row on, then, row! God speed thy way!

Thou must not linger here;

Storms hang about the closing day;

To-morrow may be clear.

 

Verses 1 and 2 are a warning and instruction to keep rowing past and straight home. Verse 3 is a plea to the oarsman to take with him Arabella’s words of love and faithfulness. Verse 4 expresses yearning to be on that boat, heading for her lover, instead of locked in her prison.

 

Ironically, when writing his melody for this song in the 1980s, Dorset folk musician Tim Laycock chose to change the one line that forms the crux of the poem’s original message. He replaced “Thou must not come tonight” with "There's dawn beyond the night”. In so doing, he stripped the song of much of its original message, creating instead a more generally relevant love song, which can be re-interpreted any way one wishes (as we have done in our performance). The message to “row on” has become a plea for endurance in unfavourable circumstances rather than simply a coded warning.

"But yet a star shines constant still, Through yonder cloudy sky,

And hopes as bright my bosom fill, From faith that cannot die!"

LISTEN TO: ROW ON - SUMMER 2020

LISTEN NOW

Row On - The story behind the song

LOCKDOWN HAS MEANT NO LIVE SINGING...but the show must go on and we had to keep singing!

 

View Row On, our Lockdown 2020 project at: https://youtu.be/t3tAhoCSNVo