Ozarks Life: The Shanty Choir of Springfield

Singing songs of the sea, the choir hopes to unite the community with these sing-alongs at restaurants.
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 5:16 AM CDT
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FORDLAND, Mo. (KY3) - Barataria Bay is 722 miles from Springfield.

Centuries ago, those waters just south of New Orleans, were the closest, known pirate haven to us. That is unless you’re out these days in Springfield enjoying a jolly, Ozarks Life.

For the past year, Shawn Vomund and Zach Stelzer have been leading The Shanty Choir. They sing sea shanties at restaurants and microbrews in Springfield. Shanties were commonplace on sailing ships in the 18th and 19th centuries.

“It was really difficult for a shift to travel from point A to point B,” Vomund who is also the Fordland School District’s band director said, “and it required lots of manual labor.”

But there was one person on the ship who didn’t have any manual labor - the shantyman. Their only goal was to lead the crew in singing.

“They’re essentially work songs that are designed to do three things,” Vomund said. “The first thing is to unify movement. So everybody is pushing or pulling at the same time to make things more efficient. The second one is to pass the time, because when you’re singing, it’s easier, right? And the third one is to build community.”

And building a community is the main goal of this Shanty Choir today. Once a month, total strangers meet up. Whether they’re swashbuckling baritones or treasure-hunting tenors, no experience is needed to partake in the pirate-like party.

“There are a lot of people that you don’t know in the audience,” Vomund said, “but you can just look at the joy on everybody’s faces and you know, happiness spreads. It’s just amazing.”

The Shanty Choir does not practice. Anyone can show up, look up the words on their phone, and join in the jolly sing-along.

“If you’re nervous about singing in front of people, don’t worry, nobody cares,” Vomund said. “There are good singers there. There are terrible singers there and all in between.”

The area businesses also benefit from the buccaneers and it’s also good for all the “hearties.”

“You leave feeling lighter,” Vomund said. “You leave feeling happier, you leave in a better mood than you showed up.”

“People who used to sing,” Vomund says about those who attend, “they said, ‘I haven’t sung in years. This is so fun.’ And then there are people who have never sung in a choir or an ensemble at all, who are just blown away.”

The Shanty Choir is having its monthly meet-up on Friday, August 26, at Springfield’s Great Escape Brew Works. It runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

You don’t need any formal training as a singer, or pirate, to attend and have fun. You can sing or just sit back and enjoy the songs.

We have links to The Shanty Choir’s website and Facebook page so you can learn more about the group and find out where they’re gathering in the future.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com