Hank Cramer & Constellation's Crew

Hank Cramer & Constellation's Crew


The premier maritime band from the Pacific Northwest, combining boisterous sea-songs with toe-tapping celtic instrumentals. The "official" band of the historic sailing warship, USS Constellation. Available with as few as 5 or as many as 10 performers, depending on venue's artistic needs and budge


Hank Cramer & Constellation's Crew is the official band of the famous sailing warship moored in Baltimore Harbor. It features both singers and instrumentalists, presenting a lively mix of rowdy sea-shanties, spirited jigs and reels on fiddle and concertina, and beautiful ballads. Although based in the Pacific Northwest, this maritime/celtic band has received international acclaim, and performed as far away as Nova Scotia, Hawaii, and the United Kingdom. The band roster reads like a “who’s who” of Northwest shanty-singers and instrumentalists: Hank Cramer, Davey Hakala, Josie Solseng, Mark Iler, Jessie McKeegan, Burt & Di Meyer, Mike & Val James, Michelle Cameron, Brian & Rachel Maskew, and Steve Akerman.

The group’s name originates from its close ties to the sailing warship USS Constellation, now a national historic site in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Originally launched in 1797, and totally rebuilt in 1854, it is one of America’s most historic ships. It earned fame not only for winning spectacular sea battles, but also for intercepting slave-traders off the coast of Africa and carrying food supplies to famine-stricken Ireland. Shantyman Hank Cramer first visited Constellation in drydock in 1996, as she was receiving an $11 million restoration, and gave several solo concerts aboard her after she was refloated.

The ship’s staff commissioned Hank to put together a CD of music which would highlight the ship’s history and help fund its preservation. Although Hank would have been happy to record an album of only “sea shanties” (work songs), his research showed that music aboard a man o’war consisted largely of instrumental tunes and ballads ("forebitters"), with strong Irish influences. Hank formed the band by recruiting the finest sea-shanty singers and Celtic instrumentalists he knew; the result is "Constellation's Crew".

They released “Songs of USS Constellation” in January, 2003, and quickly received nationwide airplay and critical acclaim. Sing Out! Magazine called it “the most beautiful and accomplished album of sea music we have ever heard.” That recording was followed in 2006 by a combination CD and concert DVD titled "Back To Sea". At the Tucson Celtic Festival in 2006, Hank Cramer and Davy Hakala took first place in vocal and fiddle music competition (respectively), in the professional performers' category.

"Constellation's Crew" was selected to give the welcoming concerts for the Tall Ships' visits to the Pacific Northwest in both 2005 and 2008. They have performed as headliners for the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival in Nova Scotia, and have rung in St. Patrick's Day in Hawaii by playing every Irish pub in Honolulu in a single hectic week.

A "Constellation's Crew" concert promises a rousing session of boisterous sea shanties, with instrumental gusto to spare. In festival settings, the group is also ready and able to lead workshops and panel concerts on a variety of topics.


Songs of USS Constellation (CD - 2003)
Back To Sea ( CD & DVD - 2006)
Soundtrack to the USS Constellation Visitor Center orientation video (2007)

Set List

We usually perform two 45-minute sets with a break, or one long set (60-75 minutes). This is flexible based on nature of the event and the needs of the audience or venue.

Here are some examples of our repertoire.

SEA SHANTIES (A capella work-songs):
Aboard a Man O War
Truxtun's Victory
The Congo River
The Alabama
Roll The Chariot
Country Life
A Health To The Company
John Kanaka
Johnny, Come Down to Hilo
Haul Away Joe
Billy O'Shay
The Harp Without the Crown
Pay Me My Money Down
Cape Cod Girls
One More Day

Out on The Ocean
The Moon & Seven Stars
Cold Frosty Morning/Drunken Sailor
Sailors' Hornpipe/Staten Island
Amazing Grace
Over the Waterfall/Soldier's Joy/Whiskey Before Breakfast
Off To California
Red-haired Boy
The Road to Lisdoonvarna
Tall Ships
The Kesh Jig
The Gale
Drowsy Maggie
Sean Ryan's
Frank's Reel
Silver Spire
The Wind That Shakes the Barley

BALLADS (sea songs with instrumental accompaniment):
All Around