During the cold winter of 2021, we had the humble sea shanty to keep us warm. TikTok saw a surge of creators recording renditions of sea shanties, making the tradition that dates back to the 1800s mainstream. And what a blessing it was to anyone who enjoys shanties (hi, it’s me). Earlier this year we saw a Doctor Who spin on “Wellerman,” and today, we have another sea shanty pop culture moment: Star Shanties. It’s Star Wars meets sea shanties and it’s every bit as delightful as it sounds.
Star Shanties: Songs From a Galaxy Far, Far Away is currently playing at the Orlando Fringe Festival. The music tells tales about Star Wars legends and characters such as Thrawn and Hondo Ohnaka (my personal favorite shanty). For producer, director, and writer Arthur Rowan, Star Wars sea shanties began as a passion project during the pandemic. He first shared “Old Man Thrawn” online in early February 2021.
Rowan told Nerdist that “Geek Folk” is his favorite style of song to write. He added, “I love how the [Star Wars] galaxy is so rich with possibility when it comes to storytelling, even in areas that are unexplored in the films. I was an avid reader of the Extended Universe growing up, and I’ve been loving a lot of the additional material that’s been in the new canon.”
For Star Shanties, Rowan tries to take an authentic approach. He considers if the Star Wars galaxy had shanties, what and who would they be about? For most of the pieces he’s written so far, he said, “I start with an actual shanty or old traditional song, and then imagine where something like that would fit in universe. For example, some old shanties are about how bad-ass a ship or a captain is, and Thrawn seemed likely to have a devoted crew sing something along those lines. Some shanties are about boasts and tall tales; Hondo Ohnaka struck me as a great subject for that genre. And I love traditional Irish tunes, which frequently deal with defying an oppressor or with mourning the loss of home… both subjects that feel very Alderaanian.”
The long-term goal for Rowan’s Star Wars sea shanties has been to continue to evolve them and grow them. Hence, Star Shanties. The production stars Taylor Harrell as Barrett, Ryan J. Lynch as Jander, Mark Miller as Captain Vale, Jandrea Novak as Mynoc, and Charles Stevens as Rafe. Ashley Willsey designed the costumes and is handling the marketing. And Star Shanties has scenic design by Jake Lockwood and photography by McKenzie Lakey.
If you’d like to see Star Shanties at the Orlando Fringe Festival, you have four more opportunities to do so. The production has shows on May 21, May 25, May 27, and May 29. You can get venue information and tickets here. And if you can’t make it to one of these showings, dive into Rowan’s YouTube account to hear some excellent Star Wars sea shanties.