Welcome to Wings of Song!

a community chorus of all ages 

serving southern Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut

Spring 2024: Rough Seas, Safe Harbor 


STURBRIDGE – The entries are legion.  By the 1840s, the time away seems to average at three years.  Thousands of gallons of sperm oil and “other oil” are brought back.  The Catalogue of Nantucket Whalers, and their Voyages from 1815 to 1870 (Nantucket: Hussey and Robinson, 1876) records, as one example of many in its 142 pages, that the whaling ship Mohawk, master Oliver C. Swain, departed from Nantucket May 29, 1850 on its maiden voyage, destination “Pacific Ocean,” and returned April 20, 1854 bearing 1,890 barrels of sperm whale oil and 70 barrels of other whales’ oil, “sold at $1.50 per gallon.”  A barrel of whale oil contains approximately 35 gallons, so this voyage of the Mohawk netted about $102,900—the equivalent of $4,093,916.08 in 2024.  When the railroad reached the whaling port of New Bedford, Mass. in 1840, allowing easier access to New York and Boston markets, New Bedford became the richest city in the world.  Not just the US—the world.


This May, the Sturbridge-centered community chorus Wings of Song will present a musical version of a whaling journey that might have departed in 1850 from a whaling port on either side of the Atlantic.  New Bedford and Nantucket in Massachusetts and New London in Connecticut were some of the very busiest U. S. whaling ports in the 19th century; in England in the same period, the major whaling ports were London, Hull, and Newcastle.  Many of the songs derived from or associated with whaling—work-songs or chanteys, sentimental songs of leaving home and returning years later, hymns and anthems inspired by the mighty force of Planet Earth’s Seven Seas—were shared and sung by both British and American whaling crews. 


Wings of Song’s program, titled “Rough Seas, Safe Harbor,” will be presented in three Massachusetts churches: on Saturday, May 11th at 7:30pm in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, 18 East Main Street, Webster; on Saturday, May 18th at 7:30pm in the First Congregational Church, 5 High Street, Monson; and on Sunday, May 19th at 2:30pm (not 3pm as previously announced) at St. Joachim Chapel, part of St. Anne-St. Patrick Parish, 16 Church Street, Fiskdale (Sturbridge).  The concerts are free of charge, with a freewill offering being collected at intermission.  People are advised to arrive early to be sure of getting on board (doors open half an hour before each concert).  All venues are handicap accessible.  Yummy refreshments will be served after each concert. 


Music Director Nym Cooke is excited about the chorus’s progress: “We’ve learned 19 of the concert’s 29 pieces,” he says.  “It’s a rich, complex program, divided into seven sections [Home Port, Setting Sail, At Sea, Shipwreck!, Foreign Ports, Wives and Mothers, Return and Reunion].  Twenty-three of the 43 vocal solos have been assigned, and all seven of our instrumentalists have their music, with notes from me on what I’d like them to play.”  Accompanying the singers—and sometimes busting out on their own—is what Cooke calls a “fo’c’s’le band”: Brooks Milgate and Nancy Ducharme on keyboards, Chris Maden on concertina, Tim Loftus on acoustic guitar and pennywhistle, Hunter Foote on fiddle, Ellen Bradley on stand-up bass, and Leslie Sweetnam on ukulele and harmonica.  “The audience will be busy as well,” says Cooke, “with no fewer than eight singalongs”—old favorites like “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?,” “Somos el Barco” (“We Are the Boat”), “Deep Blue Sea,” the Navy hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” “Blow, ye Winds, in the Morning,” and “Rolling Home to Old New England.”


This is sure to be a one-of-a-kind concert.  Make plans now to attend.

For more information about Wings of Song or the Rough Seas, Safe Harbor concerts, contact Music Director Nym Cooke at nymcooke@gmail.com, or President Carol Curtin at carolcurtin77@gmail.com.