13 May 2010 0 Comments

Shanty News : Rudy Sunde retires from Maritime Crew

Shanty News : Rudy Sunde retires from Maritime Crew

In a well flagged move, Rudy Sunde has decided to step down as the ‘Captain’ of the Maritime Crew. He made the announcement at one of his regular shows with the crew at the Maritime Museum in Auckland, New Zealand on the 8th of February 2010.

For those who do not know Rudy has been a prolific writer and performer of folk songs, both in New Zealand and abroad. He has released 14 albums, 5 of which with the highly popular Maritime Crew (founded 1994) (Full bio can be read here: http://www.maritimecrew.co.nz/rudy.shtml).

To go with his passion for the working man and his music Rudy also has been a tenacious researcher into New Zealand’s folk music and Maritime Heritage. The most notable shanty uncovered by him has been Capt. Matheson, which would have undoubtedly otherwise been lost.

Here is a copy of Rudy’s letter dated 9/2/2010:


Congratulations to Elise and Alex for providing a sister – Charlotte Rose – for Shannon to play with.

You all, except for Bob and Alex, heard my announcement yesterday. Yes, I am definitely quitting The Maritime Crew – now! I had thought that I might stay until after the CD for Roger Marbeck is recorded but have decided to go now.

This decision was made somewhat reluctantly as the Crew has been such a big part of my life for the last 15 years. But the simple fact of the matter is that my age is becoming something of a handicap. I find myself looking forward to quiet evenings at home for a game of Scrabble with Pat or a good book instead of forcing myself to go out to a rehearsal. My deafness is a handicap too. You are probably sick of me asking you to repeat what you have just said. Most of you speak rather quietly (or it seems to me that you do) so that I probably miss half of what you’re saying. Arthritis/gout in both hands flares up occasionally and this is a blooming nuisance. And my voice is probably just about shot too. So I will most likely be doing you guys a favour by retiring of my own volition and thus forestalling being kicked out for incompetence!! Let’s face it, I don’t think that there are too many 82 (nearly 83) year old shanty singers still warbling away – tunefully! Before I forget, I must say thank you to all who have at various times helped me with carrying my banjo. It gets heavier as I get older.

Little did I think when I got the first Maritime Crew together way back in July 1994 that we would achieve all that we have. For your information , here are the names of the singers who were there on that first date in 1994. Gavin, Jim Cardow, Terry Free, Andy Hindley, John Walton, Frank Winter and myself. Bob came along for our second performance in August that year while Lew and John McGowan came a year later in August 1995.

We have given 414 performances here in New Zealand and overseas to audiences large and small. Always, but always, we have been received most warmly for the shows that we have put on. Over the years we have developed a wonderful repertoire and musical style. We have made 8 CDs and had 3 tours of Europe with a 4th tour being planned. This is a record which few, if any, other folk group in New Zealand can match. Our very last CD CATLINS BOUND is one which we should be very proud of. I still wonder at the fortuitous chance that Mike McPhee heard my song “Auckland to the Bluff” on the radio prompting him to write to me. I think that we did a grand job writing the songs and recording them. We did not win the TUI but the competition for the award must have been very keen. I know that Mike is pleased with our contribution and that having the CD in the book is a great selling point.

In the years that we have been together, we have developed into a first class shanty group. No doubt about it! First class! I have many shanty CDs in my collection and, with possibly one or two exceptions, The Maritime Crew is by far the superior group. Not only do we have a wide variety of soloists but we have also been strong musically and this is always a big plus. And that is one thing that I would like to impress upon you guys – try to get a lot of music into this new CD for Roger Marbeck. Acapella is fine for folk club audiences but Roger has high hopes of tapping into the wider market of the general public and this public would far rather have foot-tapping songs and shanties with MUSIC . Don’t forget that the CD AUCKLAND TO THE BLUFF that Terence sold to a French company and sold in Europe as SEA SHANTIES/CHANTS DE MARINS had 17 of my compositions all but one of which had musical accompaniments. I do believe that is was this factor – lots of music – which persuaded the French company to buy this CD. I have seen this CD for sale in an Italian on-line record store.

I have had a wonderful 15 and a half years singing with The Maritime Crew. I have always strived to do what I thought was best for the Crew. Things have not always gone my way and this may have made me a bit grumpy (an old nick-name for me) at times. Sorry about that. I have often said that one of the smartest things that I have done in my life was to get The Maritime Crew started. When I look back at our achievements, I am so proud.

There is one thing that stands out in my mind and that is the number of wonderful friends that we have made in the shanty fraternity in Australia, USA and Europe. I don’t know what it is but there seems to be a spirit of comradeship among shanty singers - ever ready to burst into song or to sit back and listen attentively to someone else singing. I regret that I will not be seeing these friends again (unless they come to New Zealand) but I am still in email contact with them.

I am grateful to the many fine singers who have whole-heartedly supported The Maritime Crew. We have had many pass through our ranks so I will only mention some of those who have been longest. First among them I would put Frank Winter who was there from the very first and who, even though he had to come down from Kaukapakapa, rarely if ever missed a rehearsal. Likewise with gigs – he was always there. Sadly his life was cut short or we would still have him with us singing so lustily. I am delighted that The Maritime Crew gave him a chance to develop his musical skills – and these skills did develop. Peter Collier’s life was also cut short so sadly and his songs and music are no more. We miss both Frank and Peter but we can take pleasure in the fact that both were able to go to Europe with the Crew in 2001.

Bob has always been a keen supporter of the Crew for just about the whole period of our existence. His songs and harmonica have played an important role in our life. Lew and John McGowan are also dedicated members who have been with us for 14 years. John left us for a couple of years when he went to Australia but we have forgiven him for this lapse and we are glad to have him back in the ranks.

Then there are the men who have been with us for a long time but who have moved on. Gavin was with us from the first and a keen member he was too but he left us a couple of years ago to work on his own music. John Watkins too was another keen member until he left Auckland for the southern town of Feilding. He wanted to rejoin the Crew on his return to Auckland but it was felt that his style of singing did not now quite fit in with the rest. John Walton was with us from the start and continued to be a keen member until a couple of years ago when he underwent a change and started acting strangely – towards me at least. Pat and I had had a long singing relationship with him and it was sad for us to see him leave under a cloud. I am sorry that Andy Hindley returned to the UK as while he was a great supporter of the group he also contributed wonderfully with voice and concertina.

Our 3 current newer members – Warren, Alex and Paul – are making valuable contributions and I am sure that with the 3 older ones – Bob, Lew and John Mc – that the group will continue to make excellent music. I will have to watch from the side lines.

We now have to consider who is going to be the next panjandrum, captain, boss, leader, organiser, secretary, treasurer, banker, storesman, gofer – call him what you like! As Bob is the longest serving member I would suggest that he might like to take this on. Some of the tasks could be shared.

That’s it boys. I have said my piece and now I’m going to sit back and listen to you. No bum notes now!

May you have many happy hours singing together,


PS. I’d like to pay tribute to two lovely ladies who have supported us so strongly right from the start. They are my wife Pat and Sheila Duggan. Even though Sheila lost her partner Frank she continues to come along to just about all our gigs. Good to see her smiling face in the front row. And I don’t think that Pat has missed any of our gigs at the Museum, Bunker and festival. Thanks ladies. We love you both.



So what now for the Maritime Crew? They have re-admitted John McGowan back to the ranks and look to record another album with Ode records this year, and combining this with yet another European tour in August 2010 looks like it’s under full sail for the forseeable future.

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