The River Scheldt Pilots' Choir® was founded in Vlissingen on April 27th, 1971 by the present honorary chairman Albert Veldkamp.
Pilots have a variety of leisure activities, such as sailing, playing football, acting and performing cabaret.
In 1971 choral singing was added to these activities.
Almost all of the 70 members are pilots or were pilots on the river Scheldt. The age of the members varies between thirty and eighty years.
Since 1971 the choir had 5 conductors:
Evert Heijblok, Philip Fey, Han Beekman and as number four, Léon Bours and the present conductor Rob van der Meule.
There are many musical talents among the pilots. Some of them play the violin, others play the accordion or the guitar.
The enthousiasm has always been great among the members of the choir. Therefore we can boast a large attendance on the rehearsals, which are held every Monday morning in the "Van Doesburgcentrum" in Vlissingen.
The River Scheldt Pilots Choir is the only shanty choir in the Netherlands that consists of seamen only. So you could say they are made for singing shanties.
The mutual contacts stimulate the unity of the choir. Apart from the performances all year around which are widely applauded, also the musical "Shadows of Time" is greatly appreciated by the public.
The repertoire consists of Seasongs and Shanties, the sailor's songs that were sung on board the old sailing ships to lighten the heavy monotonous work such as hoisting and reeving the sails, hauling the anchor, pumping and scrubbing the decks.
In the scanty spare time "forbitters" were sung. The texts of these forbitters mostly had a double meaning.
From the beginning of his career, the world famous English shantyman Stan Hugill, who sailed around Cape Horn several times, laid down a lot about shanties. The prime time of the shanty lay in the second half of the 19th century on board of the merchant ships.
An example of a shanty is "Blow ye winds in the morning". Stan Hugill also wrote "Shanties from the Seven Seas". Below more information on this book is given by Tom Knapp.
If you have any fascination for the work songs of the sea, Stan Hugill's Shanties from the Seven Seas should be your bible.
Stan Hugill was no deskbound scholar researching a topic through second- and third-hand resources. He was a sailor and a shantyman, making his living from the ocean as long as his kind of worker was still needed. But as machines replaced men on many of a ship's backbreaking tasks, the need for rhythmic shanties to unite the men's labours and lift their spirits were no longer needed. Fortunately, Hugill did his best to preserve the old songs and their histories, and this volume is a true labour of love.
Shanties from the Seven Seas was originally published in England in 1961. It went through several printings, with corrections and abridgements along the way, before being picked up by a new publisher in the late 1980s and seeing its first U.S. release. Now, the Mystic Seaport Museum has re-issued the book and, given the Connecticut museum's interest in preserving nautical history and lore, will hopefully keep it in print.
Hugill, who died in 1992 at age 86, is remembered in this new edition as "a singer, raconteur, amateur anthologist, armchair philologist, self-taught artist, and boon companion." He worked hard at sea during peace and war, survived two shipwrecks, was a German prisoner of war, retired into a new career as a boatswain and sailing instructor for Outward Bound, and was the person most responsible for preserving and reviving the shantyman's art.
"To the seamen of America, Britain, and northern Europe a shanty was as much a part of the equipment as a sheath-knife and pannikin," Hugill wrote in his introduction to this volume. "Shanties were alwaysassociated with work -- and a rigid tabu held against singing them ashore. ... To sing a shanty when there was no heaving or hauling would be courting trouble -- and the sailing-ship man was superstitious to a degree."