Moeller brings songs of the sea
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:46 PM
"I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky.The love of the sea that moved poet John Masefield animates the life and music of Matthew Moeller. Moeller, who performs his Rollicking Tales of the Sea April 22, has spent much of his life singing about, working near and living on the water. When Moeller sings about clambering up the rigging, the audience can be assured that Moeller has done it; in 1993, he crewed on the Lady Washington, a square-rigger out of Seattle.It was the first time I was exposed to real sea music - not as entertainment, but as work songs, Moeller said. I was already fairly hooked by the music and by the tall ships, but I hadn't heard the rhythm of the music used to drive the work on deck, before. Moeller, who had a facility for remembering tunes and lyrics, was designated the chanteyman on the voyage. In the late 18th and early 19th century, it was not an official position, Moeller said, but it was always a valued one by officers and the men because it could make the work fun. Coordinating the work of several deck hands could be hard. The rhythm made it easier. According to Moeller, chanteymen didn't find a welcome in every square rigger; in the British navy, work was done to a fife, drum and fiddle trio. The men were forbidden to sing, because it was believed that the lyrics could promote mutiny or even sedition. You could say a lot with those lyrics, Moeller said, about your officers and conditions in the navy. Although Moeller can remember riding a tricycle along the deck of a 90-foot sailing ship owned by his aunt and uncle, his first interest in the sea was literary. Raised in Chehalis, his librarian mother and bookstore-owning father read voraciously - and so did Moeller, consuming Moby Dick and the Hornblower series, among other sea tales. I was a farm-boy landlocked in Chehalis, Moeller said, but I definitely had the romance of the sea inculcated early on, because my parents encouraged me to read.Today, he keeps his books in a plastic bin below-decks. A live-aboard for eight years - he specifies marina-docked, not anchored-out - Moeller traded a 27-foot boat for the 32-foot Downeaster sailboat called the Bouhran, where he lives with his cat Murphy.Moeller and Murphy take day and weekend junkets, sometimes sailing to Stewart island in the San Juans, where Moeller owns property and hopes to build, someday.Someday I'll have bookshelves again, Moeller said. Another downside of being a liveaboard is the maintenance you have to do on a boat. You don't have a yard to mow, but you have to remember that you're sitting in water.* * * * *Matthew Moeller sings Rollicking Tales of the Sea in a free concert at 2 p.m. April 22 at Island Center Hall. For information, call 842-2306. "