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Peter Johnston
Peter Johnston
UK News

Scottish church minister swaps sermon for TikTok style sea shanty

by Chantalle Edmunds

A minister from Aberdeen has got on board with the latest TikTok sensation of sea shanties.

Rev Peter Johnston, from Ferryhill Parish Church in Aberdeen, was inspired by his daughter who had been watching sea shanties online and decided to re-tell the story of Noah and the Ark in the form of a shanty, sung to the traditional melody of "Wellerman," with the help of a virtual choir:

"We've been experimenting with virtual choirs during the whole of the pandemic. So it's something that we had had been doing for the past year. And my daughter had been listening to a lot of sea shanties, it's become quite the thing over the last really few months or so. And then with Nathan's recent version going viral on TikTok it just kind of triggered a thought. And I knew that we were going to be looking at Noah's story coming up. And so I thought it'd be good to create something for that story.

Postman Nathan Evans was one of the first to upload a sea shanty, becoming an instant hit on TikTok. A shanty he posted in June last year received over a million views. Since then Nathan has posted more and in December a version of himself singing The Wellerman went viral. 

Others have posted videos harmonising with Evans' version attracting millions of views.

Rev Johnston added that everyone involved in the recording has thoroughly enjoyed the experience:

"One of the wonderful things about singing is that it's kind of a whole body experience to be doing it. And it's something that we're really missing during the pandemic is that being able to sing in community with each other. So it isn't quite the same during the virtual choir, but the finished result comes across that way. And it's definitely something that folks enjoy doing and really got into the sea shanty vibe. So that was wonderful."

The Noah and the Ark shanty has been made available to other congregations who may want to use it and has been well received:

"The response has been great. Lots of folks wanting to pick it up. And then of course, it spilled out beyond that with other people hearing about it, and wanting to know more. So that's been great for all those who participate and participated in creating it - it's been a real uplift for them as well," Rev Johnston said. 

He added that although sea shanties are a relatively new internet sensation, folk songs have long been part of the church's fabric:

"It's an old tradition within the church of using, you know, folk songs and melodies that come from kind of working backgrounds. So there's nothing that's new about doing that. But of course, these are great tunes, they're so catchy. And that was the whole point of them is to get folks all singing together. So it'd be good to see some of these tunes being resurrected in different forms to tell other stories. So that's all part of our tradition."

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