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We are a group of amateur singers who are slightly out of the ordinary in as much that all our members are based in the beautiful area of France known as the Languedoc in the deep south-west of France.To be more precise most of us live in the communes of the Razès within the Département of the Aude, a picturesque tourist region of gently rolling vine-covered hillsides interspersed with the slim pointy trees so reminiscent of Tuscany. We are an hour away from the shores of the Mediterranean and a similar distance from the mighty Pyrenees. The Canal du Midi winds its gentle way through our countryside en route to the sea. Our closest towns are the ancient settlement of Carcassonne - famous for its mediaeval Cité poised above the river Aude - and the revellers’ municipality of Limoux - whose inhabitants enjoy the longest continuous carnival in the world. It only lasts for 3 months! Not surprising when you learn that Limoux is renowned for having been the birthplace of sparkling white wine - its Blanquette and Crémant enjoy worldwide  reputations - some decades before the legendary monk Dom. Pérignon did his stuff in the Champagne area much further north.

How did we start?

A chance conversation in the summer of 2010 eventually bore fruit a year later when five men keen on singing got together with the intention of forming a group to sing shanties and other songs relating to the sea. It so happened that all the characters involved had chosen to live in France, the majority having the good fortune to be retired. Though our initial intention was simply to sing for our own amusement and pleasure, we were overheard in practice and invited to sing in friends’ houses on special occasions. From there it was a short step to entertaining in cafés, bars and at outdoor events which figure prominently in this part of the world during the summer months

Introducing The AudeShantyMen

The present members of the band are Barry Barcock, aka “Greybeard” who lives at Villelongue D’Aude, and who sings bass. He has the distinction of being the only genuine seaman among us, having served as an Artificer in the Royal Navy. Alongside him in the deeper vocal reaches is one of the original members, Gerard Slawson, from Montréal. The youngest amongst us at the time we were founded, he was always our “Powder Monkey”. The last man who has been in it “from the start” is Ian Murphy, a baritone, from Bellegarde-du-Razès. His total inability to navigate accurately (except to the bar!) led to the Crew baptising him “Magellan

It was only a matter of time before Philip Glasson was signed on as a new hand since he sang with a French choir in Alaigne alongside Greybeard and Magellan. A baritone/bass, we mistakenly called him “Chris” for the first few rehearsals : so “Columbus” it had to be! A chance meeting with Magellan in a local watering hole led to Tony Fletcher “the Mutineer” coming aboard. Originally in the area to house-sit, but now a resident, he was a welcome addition in the upper voice register. Our newest hands are Kevin Penny, a baritone, who answers to “Janner”, as befits a Plymouth boy, and Martin Wilcock whose tenor voice and wide musical experience make “Bos’n” a useful addition when we are up on deck.

Barry (Greybeard) Barcock
Ian (Magellan) Murphy
Gerard (Powder Monkey) Slawson
Phil (Columbus) Glasson
Tony (Mutineer) Fletcher
Kevin (Janner) Penny
Martin (Bosun) Wilcock
Toby (Juggins) Locke

Setting sail

During the formative stages of the band’s development we were fortunate that the Fisherman’s Friends from Port Isaac had come to national prominence. They set a benchmark and unashamedly we cut our musical teeth on parts of their repertoire which most suited our style at the time. We hope to thank them in person one day for the inspiration they have unwittingly given us.

We were always certain that our strengths lay in using our voices as instruments and in singing a cappella. We have worked hard to master the full range of harmonies in songs which lend themselves to this type of musical arrangement. The blend of our voices is something which singles us out. Additionally, every AudeShantyMan is more than capable of leading a song. We try to encompass a wide range of shanties and other songs of the sea at each performance. Always having a multi-national audience has led us to adopt some of the more tuneful shanties from our host country. Recently we have begun to write original songs in both English and French. In this we have been aided by the links we have forged with Ar-Vag, a group of Breton singers exiled on the coast in the port of Gruissan as well as with the Mariners de Riera, a group of habaneras singers on Spain’s Costa Brava with whom we sang in concert at Esclanya.

Charitable objectives

From an early stage we felt it appropriate to donate funds we raised from our concerts to worthy sea-based charities. In order to set this activity on a proper footing we formed ourselves into a French “Association Loi 1901” which gave us the legal basis to seek and distribute funds. In our short history we have sung for many worthy causes and have made donations in excess of €3000.00, the bulk of which has gone to the RNLI and its French equivalent the SNSM. We are keen to develop personal links to a rescue service in the UK and to that end we are currently in touch with an organisation in the Portsmouth area to whom we have just made a sizeable donation.

Future ambitions?

We long to be able to get the whole band over to the UK where it will be a special treat for us to sing to folk who speak our native tongue! We are aiming to make the trip to the Shanty UK Festival at Easter 2015. If there are any venues out there in the vicinity of Ellesmere Port who would care to host us around that time, please be in touch. See you there!

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