Roll the Old Chariot

"Roll the Old Chariot" is my favorite sea shantey of all time, and I especially like the version done by David Coffin, which is what inspired this arrangement (click here for a video). I decided to keep it a cappella in the spirit of the tradition and start out with solos in the tenor and soprano just to give it a little extra spice. As for the harmonies, I had a lot of fun writing them, especially in the slower section as well as the last few measures. As always, I'm leaving a link to the score as well as the Finale audio. Hope you enjoy!



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  •  Hi Alison,

    I enjoyed hearing your arrangement of this sea chanty. And, thanks for sharing the video that inspired you which I also enjoyed. I liked the way you made a suspension of the G# and B into the final cadence to F# minor at the very end. You seem to be going for a big ending with the divisi in the Soprano, Alto and Bass voices--and with the sopranos leaping to up to their highest notes in the arangement. To my ear, I would like to hear that nice suspension more pronounced. Would it help your aim with the ending if you changed the leading tone E# in the bass up a whole step to G# to help support/emphasize the G# in the Soprano? Then, the G# in the bass could resolve up to A in the final measure as the soprano resolves to F#. And, there are certainly other solutions. Do you have a small choir available to you to try this out this arrangement?  

    Glad to hear a bit of you music through this forum.


    • Hi Martin! I'll certainly test changing the notes in the bass a little bit. As for having a choir try out this arrangement, I sent this to my college choir director a few months ago, but he hasn't gotten back to me on it yet. I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

  • Cool.

    Do you have a choir at your school that can perform this? This synthesized version is a little too gentle for what ought to be sung by rough bearded men.

    For a moment I contemplated the parallel fifths in this piece, but I decided that 1. they are probably idiomatic and 2. you'd lose the character of the piece if you wanted to circumvent them.



  • I like sea shanties, though I have never arranged one myself.  I like the arrangement and its relatively strightforward style -- with a sea shanty you don't want to get too fancy, since the hands on an old sailing ship were not likely to be sophisticated types.  Some research shows there are various attested versions of this, including one called "A drop of Nelson's blood," under which title there is a Wikipedia article on it.  

    • I realize in retrospect that it's not entirely true that as I said I've never arranged a sea shanty.  I've in fact co-written one, with a guy named William Shakespeare:

      Stephano's Song

      The lyrics to this song from The Tempest very clearly mark it as a sea shanty, so I decided to put it to a shanty-like melody.  Apparently there were sea shanties, I mean songs recognizably like  what we think of as sea shanties, as early as 1610.  But where did Shakespeare hear sea shanties?  London dockside taverns?

      Stephano's Songs from The Tempest
      Download and print in PDF or MIDI free sheet music for Stephano's Songs from The Tempest arranged by jcorelis for Baritone (Solo)
  • Nice one. Easy to listen to. 

    I have no comment about the harmony. It seems fine, fairly basic to fit the tune which as you say is traditional. Nice perfomance. 

    I couldn't get to the audio file. It says "There was a problem playing this file." Maybe because I haven't a google account. It offers me to download the file but I'm loathe to do that without express permission. However, I got to the video all right.


    PS. There's something wrong with this site. It claims there are no replies to your original post. Ah well...

  • some of this was quite nice and imaginative but I must say a few of the chords or way the lines move such as the last chord of bar 30 and first of 31 seem a rather unpleasant transition in the context. The context and style are of course the relevant words here as almost nothing is completely wrong in absolute terms but when the vast majority follows a predicatable path, it can jar when something which is not what you expect occurs -- of course the surprise factor can work to advantage so it's a bit subjective. 

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