Welcome to Wings of Song!

a community chorus of all ages 

serving southern Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut

Spring 2024: Rough Seas, Safe Harbor 


STURBRIDGE – Wings of Song is about to start rehearsals for a one-of-a-kind musical program that it will offer twice: on Saturday, May 18, 2024 at 7:30pm in the First Church of Monson, Congregational, 5 High Street, Monson and on Sunday, May 19, 2024, at 3pm at St. Anne-St. Patrick Parish, 16 Church Street, Fiskdale (Sturbridge).  (It’s not too late to join the chorus!  See the final paragraph here.)

“Rough Seas, Safe Harbor” will take audiences on a huge sea voyage, much of it aboard a 19th-century whaling ship that might have left Portsmouth, New Hampshire—or Portsmouth, England—and sailed practically around the world, separating the crew from their families for as much as a year or two.   Nym Cooke, who served as Music Director for a similar program presented by the Revels organization based in Cambridge, Mass. (the “Sea Revels”), has combined 29 stirring, eloquent songs of the sea into a seven-part odyssey.  The individual sections of the program are titled “Home Port,” “Setting Sail,” “At Sea,” “Shipwreck!,” “Foreign Ports,” “Wives and Mothers at Home,” and “Return and Reunion.”

The individual songs vary tremendously in their points of origin, but collectively they weave a moving tapestry of life at sea—and also of life at the home port, for those left behind.  There are recently-composed choral works such as Allister MacGillivray’s “Away from the Roll of the Sea” and Leon Dubinsky’s “We Rise Again.”  There are many short, anonymously-composed sea songs, including chanteys (work songs) with titles like “Blow, Ye Winds, in the Morning,” “Away Rio!,” and “Cape Cod Girls” (all capstan, or pumping chanteys).  

There’s a dockside street cry, “New Oysters!,” and the part-song “To Portsmouth”; both are sung as rounds, and both hail from 17th-century England.  There are classics of the sea-faring repertory, songs such as “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?” and “Blow the Wind Southerly.”  There’s an 18th-century New England fuging tune, “Ocean” by Supply Belcher of Farmington, Maine, and the U. S. Navy’s signature hymn tune, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.”

There’s a gripping narrative of a shipwreck and its final victim, a real potboiler titled “The Last Hymn,” that will surely leave no eye dry.  There are passionate songs of parting (“Fare You Well, Mary Ann,” “Adieu, Sweet Lovely Nancy”) and of homecoming (“The Jamestown Homeward Bound,” “Rolling Home to Old New England”).

There are choral arrangements by Music Director Cooke (“Sailing Away,” “Where Am I to Go?”); there’s a song about a young lady committed to an insane asylum by her cruel parents while her lover is at sea (“I Love My Love”); there are unforgettable, moving anthems of the ocean like “The Mingulay Boat Song,” “Leave Her, Johnny,” and “The Seamen’s Hymn.”  And, as always at Wings of Song concerts, there are several audience sing-alongs: “Somos el Barco” (“We Are the Boat”), “Deep Blue Sea,” and some other songs already mentioned.

This is sure to be an unforgettable adventure—both musically and narratively—and the concert venues are sure to be crowded, so be sure to arrive early for a good seat.  Admission is free, but a freewill offering will be collected at intermission.  Both venues are handicap-accessible.  Audience members are invited to join the chorus for tasty (and free!) refreshments after the concert.  Last but not least, these concerts are sponsored in part by the Monson and Sturbridge Cultural Councils, local agencies supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.   Wings of Song is grateful for this support—and for the continued support of their many faithful audience regulars, supplemented by first-timers whom we’re always glad to see!  

For more information about Wings of Song or the Rough Seas, Safe Harbor concerts, contact Music Director Nym Cooke at nymcooke@gmail.com, or President Carol Curtin at carolcurtin77@gmail.com.