Top of page

Arrr, it’s the Sheet Music of the Week Pirate Edition, Matey!

Share this post:

"Selections from The Pirates." Book and libretto by W. Clarke Mays, lyrics by Grace Sherwood, music by Marshall B. Martin. Providence: Livermore & Knight Co., 1912.

The following is a guest post by Senior Cataloging Specialist Sharrron McKinley.

AAAARRRR! Ahoy, mateys! It’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Luckily you can’t see me, because I’m sporting a bandana, an eye patch, and a fake peg leg. Nah, just kidding! It’s a real peg leg.

Almost anyone can relate to the romance of being a pirate, and dressing and acting the part would make it SO COOL! And of course we can help! Most translation programs don’t include “Pirate” as an option. There are web sites out there that offer to do the job for you….but I wanted to find more… ahem…legit pirate stuff.

We own a tutorial in the lingo:

Pirate Pete’s talk like a pirate / by Kim Kennedy ; illustrated by Doug Kennedy. 2007

And a book more FARRRR-ranging in its scope; it tackles those tricky sartorial questions along with many other piratical topics:

The book of pirates : a guide to plundering, pillaging, and other pursuits/ Jamaica Rose & Michael MacLeod.  2010

"Silvery wavelets. Brilliant variations on the pirates serenade," by Mrs. Susan A. Strother. St. Louis: Balmer & Weber, 1867.

But I can sense the crew yearning to sing the part as well.  Avast! Before ye cry mutiny, let us exploit the resources at  ‘and in the Performing Arts Encyclopedia, arrrr!

The Performing Arts Encyclopedia holds in its coffers treasures greater than a chest full of gold doubloons.  Shimmering in the Music Divisions collections are a bounty of musical treats for the landlubber wanting a taste of the sea life, including Henry F. Gilbert’s “Pirate song” , “The Pirates of Penzance schottische,” from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, and  Mrs. Susan A. Strother’s,  “Silvery wavelets, variations on the pirates serenade.”  The tranquil illustration depicts the more romantic side of pirate life, but the Music Division is chock full of songs for the would-be swashbuckler.

There’s a varied assortment of musical scores in our catalog that feature pirates:

Why do I like this 19th-century song sheet? Why, because somehow Kidd manages to choke out these dying words in 25 glorious verses, beautifully rhymed, and suspiciously tumbling off the tongue as though there’s music out there somewhere to sing it to…in a pub…with a beer in his hand, and a bunch of buddies to commiserate with him. Now, that’s MY idea of a dying pirate in all his glory!

This one is of interest to readers in the Washington area: The pirates of Chesapeake Bay / story by Phil Nelson ; music by Wayne Simpson.  c1986

For the classical music lovers among us, there’s Vincenzo Bellini, who will teach you how an Italian pirate sings in his hit opera of 1827, Il pirata, which we have in full score and vocal score.

One of the best ways to learn a language is by listening, and perhaps singing along. We have some recordings you might find useful:

Il pirata / Vincenzo Bellini.  A 1967 recording conducted by Erasmo Ghiglia.

Pirates of the Caribbean : swashbuckling sea songs (featuring the hit song First mate is a monkey).  p2007

Captain Darby O’Bill and His Matees 3.    2007

Or just look up Jimmy Buffett.

There are movies, too: there’s the Pirates of the Caribbean series, of course, and The pirate movie. These films and their soundtracks are in the collections of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division.

For readers in and of Pittsburgh, the Prints and Photographs Division has plenty to offer.

And finally, we leave you with a track from the National Digital Jukebox, Gems from Pirates of Penzance:

The Library of Congress can help fill your every pirate need, so shiver ye timbers and liven up yer life with jive pirate talk! AAAARRR!



Comments (4)

  1. Wonderful Sharrron!

  2. is the best music that i never listen is like a hiden comunications beweet pirates, i was in an error, i ever thought that the militaaary people are the best comunicators, but the pirates are too…

  3. It is interesting that Capt Kidd chose to issue a warning with his dying breath, just as his mate had. It is unfortunate that his repentance lasted not. Would that modern pirates would heed his warning or meet with his fate.

  4. I have my great grandmother’s music book and there is a polka by Susan A. Strother related to Lindenwood College. I would speculate based on what I have, that Ms. Strother was a music teacher at Lindenwood, St. Charles Mo in the 1860s. Thanks for your post.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.