16th Annual Maritime Folk Festival

Enjoy the songs of the sea in the state’s port city
Mudhook playing at last year's festival.

Whether you’re a landlubber or an old salt, you can join voice to cherish Portsmouth’s seafaring heritage and the distinctive songs of the Classic Age of Sail at the 16th annual Maritime Folk Festival.

As more of a renewal than a revival of story-telling, sea songs, shanties and forebitters, the festival celebrates the rich nautical history of the city with free performances and events held throughout the downtown area on the last weekend in September.

Co-founders Peter Contrastano and Jeff Warner, who drew their inspiration from folk music festivals they attended in the British Isles, decided in 2000 to help preserve and provide public access to this genre. They have been bringing traditional American and English maritime music and accompanying stories to pubs, restaurants, cafes, churches and the streets of the Port City ever since.

Festival-goers are encouraged to bring their voices and instruments and chime in for the rousing choruses of the shanties, which are a type of song that was commonly sung to accompany the hard labor on board the large merchant ships that sailed the seven seas until the late 19th century. Participants are also welcome to belt out the sea songs and forebitters, which are the seamen’s leisure tunes and off-duty melodies.

The merriment is appropriate for all ages and even the non-musical, so enlist friends and family in your crew.

The Maritime Folk Festival, which operates as a non-profit and is funded exclusively by donations, shoves off on Saturday, September 26, and drops anchor at the end of Sunday, September 27. For more information, visit newenglandfolknetwork.org/pmff.