North Cape’s songs of the sea

THIS SUNDAY afternoon, the Town Hall Theatre will play host to the acclaimed Polish a cappella group North Cape, who are making their first visit to Ireland.

Renowned for their repertoire of traditional and original sea shanties and maritime songs, North Cape was formed in the city of Pszczyna in 1995 and is an all-male quintet. The group’s current line-up features founder member Luke Malcharek (tenor ), his brother Paul (tenor ), baritones Michael Bagniewski and Maciej Jureczko, and bass Julius Krzysteczko.

North Cape have toured frequently throughout Poland and further afield, winning many awards and establishing themselves at the forefront of the shanty scene. Over the years they have also broadened their repertoire to take in folk, gospel, and pop material.

Their inaugural foray to Ireland comes just a couple of months after the group released their latest album, A’capella Round The World. The album contains 17 tracks in different styles, and with material drawn from England, France, and the USA, through Trinidad and Barbados, Ukraine, Africa, and Silesia, a region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland, with smaller parts in the Czech Republic and Germany.

While the predominant language is Polish, the band also sings in English, French, Ukrainian, Swahili, and in the Silesian dialect. It all adds up to a heady cultural and musical melting pot fused together by the band’s superb a cappella singing.

Ahead of the group’s Galway concert, singer Maciej Jureczko took some time to tell me a little more about their work, beginning with a brief account of what prompted them to form in the first place.

“All of us are sailors and we wanted to join our two passions - music and sailing,” he explains. “We’re always singing shanties when we're on board ship, so we wanted to take the same feelings from the sea to our daily life. It was the beginning of North Cape. Now, we’re singing all kind of music: shanties, pop, gospel, folk, rock, etc.

“North Cape has always been a quintet. If you want to sing a cappella you need only three people, but your music will be very simple. If you want to do it very well you should have a minimum of five voices: bass, two baritones and two tenors. Five people give you more possibilities to do interesting arrangements. People like good music so we try to do it as well as we can.”

I ask whether there are connections between the sea songs of their native Poland and those of other countries.

“Sailors travel around the world and bring new cultures and music styles from different lands,” Maciej replies. “Over hundreds of years it mixed in every country’s cultures. We’ve got a lot of connections between Polish and other countries’ sea songs. We sing a lot of British, French, Dutch, American, or African sea songs which were translated into our language without any changes in music style.

“Naturally in our repertoire are also songs which we sing in their original version. Of course in our lyrics you can find the same themes. We sing about beautiful women, sea battles, hard work, refreshing whiskey, and sea longing.”

Ever since its formation North Cape has remained committed to the principle that the noblest instrument is the human voice and their latest album has been enthusiastically greeted.

“If you ask about people’s reactions,” Maciej says, “I must say, that North Cape - A’capella Round The World has been recognised as one of two the best shanties albums which have been released so far in the 21st century. People like the diversity in the music, good performance, our joyful mood, and lots of laughter at each of our concerts.

“We want to invite everyone to our concert in Galway. We prepare our usual kind of performance. We’ll sing a lot of shanties, but you'll find pop and gospel standard too. We want to take you on a musical journey around the world.”

North Cape are at the Town Hall this Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are €15/12/10. Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie

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