Reviews and Praise
From the Vineyard Gazette, Friday, July 19, 2013:
Mark Alan Lovewell is a journalist and photographer who has traveled all over the world and the Vineyard writing stories and chronicling aspects of the sea. He writes a fishing column and his charted his own course through his life, while keeping an Island base. More than anything Mr. Lovewell wants to see the traditions and history of the seafaring community stay alive,which he does through his chantey songs and storytelling. He likes to say, the kids he performs for will someday be in charge of the Vineyard.
"We have a common obligation to connect our kids to the legacy behind it, to cultivate their imaginations," Mr. Lovewell said.
Mr. Lovewell's newest children's recording features his signature true and clear voice and a few nature sounds here and there, too. The CD is aptly titled A Child's Island. It contains plenty of familiar songs but it also includes stories. Mr. Lovewell will perform songs from the CD on Tuesday, July 23, at 4 p.m. at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown.
Mr. Lovewell descends from a whaling family and his songs and stories bring those days to live. In his story Quahaug, a Tale, Mr. Lovewell asks the lister to ponder the life of a quahaug -- a lone life indeed. They were eaten long before "candy bars and lemon meringue pie," he says.
He said he gets a kick out of playing to a crowd of children.
"I love doing children's shows, getting them excited. Music is participatory not a spectator sport." He's been playing for his own children, now grown, for years. It is their picture on the cover of A Child's Island. He played at their birthday parties and now they ask him to play for their friends when they come to visit and he's happy to oblige.
"I come from a musical family," he says.
His music next Tuesday won't be lost on the adults in the room, either. Mr. Lovewell said he enjoys watching the generations interact. "Why not celebrate the songs that connect generations?" asks
Phil DaRosa will join Mr. Lovewell at the concert. He recorded his CD in Mr. DaRosa's studio and has him to thank for incorporating the sounds of the Flying Horses and the ocean to the music.
Billed as a concert "for the young and the young at heart," the event begins at 4 p.m.
Tickets at the door are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors. Children 12 and under can come for free when they bring an adult with them.
Feb. 4, 2008
Thank you for your participation at the 21-st Burns Nicht Supper by giving the “Toast to Scots Around the World.” Your eloquent presentation and ballad accompanied by your concertina was worthy of belonging in the annals of the Scottish Society of Martha’s Vineyard as one of the best toasts ever! You gave an inspirational history lesson. Along with a charming ballad you enthralled the entire audience with your great enthusiasm! Your toast gave me the idea of future toasts be set to Robbie’s songs...
Thank you Mark, for making our celebration of Scotland’s Bard a memorable success!
Patricia Q. Wheeler
Happy New Year 2006 Postcard.
Happy New Year Mark!
We so enjoyed your concert New Year’s Eve -- your passion and respect for the music’s heritage is clear. Please keep pursuing your passion and your new song is beautiful. When I told my Dad of you and our experiences his voice with joy said: “‘Oh how beautiful... What instruments did he use?” He fished for ground fish out of Boston and Gloucester and pole fished tuna out of San Francisco. He was chief engineer. Was at sea weeks. He will Love your CD - no doubt.
Denise and Tony Purcell.
A customer review of the CD: Sea Songs of Martha’s Vineyard at what was once a web site: World Music, Everything from afrobeat to zouk!
Gotta love "JANET!"
Everyone i play the cd for says under their breath, "i gotta get this cd!" you can dance to it, chill to it, and (you know what) to it. Also, it has major boom if you have nice speakers in yo
On behalf of the Nantucket Historical Association, I would like to express my sincerest thanks to you for your wonderful performance at the Whaling Museum Discovery Room on July 30. As I mentioned, the NHA is trying to strengthen its family programming. Your thoughtful and enthusiastic performance was a perfect addition to our schedule.
Kirstin Freeman Gamble, Curator of Education
Nantucket Historical Association, written August 11, 2005.
CD Captures Stormy Tones of History
By Linsey Lee
If you need a special last minute Christmas gift that will appeal to someone of most any age and says “Vineyard” – here is the perfect solution. Sea Songs of Martha’s Vineyard, the new debut CD by Mark Alan Lovewell, is a wonderful collection of songs that celebrate our maritime heritage.
For those of you who have not heard Mark perform, or even those who have, there’s a treat in store. Mark’s voice is beautiful – rich and vigorous as befits these tales of stormy seas and strong men and extreme hardships. But he is also able to slide gracefully into gentleness and wistfulness as the songs tell of tragedy and loss. As he sings, Mark takes on the character of the songs’ colorful protagonists. He shouts the calls of a fisherman across the waters to his mate, he snarls with the fierceness of an angry captain. His tones dip into soft sorry as he sings the words of a sailor telling his true love goodbye. He squawks with indignant surprise at Uncle Jacob getting squirted with an eyeful of squid juice.
Not only can Mark sing, he can really play. His skill as a musician is evident in the lively and lilting sounds of the harmonica, concertina, guitar and banjo that accompany the songs. The music is sharp and clean and you’ll find yourself caught up in the tune and humming along.
These are the songs of the sea – of whalers and fishermen, of lost ships and lost loves, of the beauty of the ocean and lures of the port. These are the songs that were sung by the shanty men onboard ships headed to the whaling and fishing grounds, to help set the tempo for the grueling work of hauling sails or turning the capstan, or to endure the long dark nights and cramped quarters. Each is an enchanting musical statement, but also a lively geography and history lesson which tracks the movements of our Vineyard forbearers of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries.
The songs feature Vineyard place names in the same breath as those other seafarers’ destinations which featured so prominently in maritime commerce of the day: Greenland, Cape Horn, Liverpool, South Australia, and, of course, New Bedford.
Greenland Fisheries gives us a step by step recounting of the sighting and pursuit of a whale. The haunting song, Desolation, speaks to the privations of the crew aboard “the meanest ship afloat in all creation, which from Edgartown did sail…” bound for Desolation Island, a frequent Arctic stop on whaling and sealing voyages. Despite the agony of the conditions in which these men existed onboard, they can joke that “the meat on the ship once belonged to a horse, or one of his damn near relations.” This use of humor in the face of adversity runs through all the songs.
In Sweet Roseanna, Mark is accompanied by his daughter Emma. The song’s theme is a reoccurring one: the pain of saying goodbye to loved ones as a journey of uncertain duration and outcome is embarked upon. The tune is made all the more powerful and heartbreaking by Emma’s lovely voice and the poignant harmony their voices create.
These songs are filled with fishing and whaling terminology and wonderful words that have slipped from our current vocabulary. With the clarity of Mark’s singing voice, one is able to hear and understand each word. Many of the songs are classic shanties we’ve heard for years, and to be able to say “oh, that’s what that word is!” is a real joy.
“It’s all about stories. I love the stories,” Mark muses with contagious enthusiasm. And you’ll love the stories too. The songs weave together personality and plot and setting in a fun and engaging way. You’ll wonder, who are the ghosts in The Ghostly Crew! And what are they planning? Who are these characters with the quirky names hanging out on the Squid Fishing Grounds? You’ll want to know and hear more.
Mark has been singing and performing folk songs from his early teenage years. “But I’ve always been drawn to the maritime, the romance of the sea with so many of its colors and flavors,” says Mark. “I built my first boat when I was ten. It had a square sail. I almost ran into the On Time because I hadn’t yet figured out that I needed a centerboard. I couldn’t steer it. I’d sail one way and row it back.”
The CD is, in many ways, a collaborative product of Vineyarders past and present. The late Gale Huntington collected a number of these shanties from his wife Mildred’s family – the singing Tiltons – and from log books and museums. He and Mildred encouraged Mark to sing shanties and collect on his own. Alan Wilson, Maynard Silva and Jim Parr were all there to encourage and assist in the effort. “I did this with the help of my friends,” says Mark. “I never would have gotten this done on my own.”
Perhaps the most moving and captivating song on the CD is Fiddlers’ Green. We hear the thoughts of an old fisherman as he prepares for his death and of his vision of a seafarer’s heaven.
“The weather is fair and the dolphins do play and the coastland of Greenland is far, far away. The sky’s always clear. There’s never a gale. And the fish jump aboard with the flip of a tail. You lie at your leisure, ‘cus there’s no work to do. The skipper’s below making tea for the crew.” The chorus goes. “Dress me up in my oilskins and jumper. No more on the docks I’ll be seen. Tell me old ship mates. I’ve taken a trip mates. And I’ll see you some day on Fiddlers’ Green.”
Mark has been asked to sing this sorrowful but hope-filled lament at a number of Vineyard funerals. It resonates with us all as people of the sea. And this entire CD, Sea Songs of Martha’s Vineyard, will do the same.
A review of the CD: Sea Songs of Martha’s Vineyard published by the Vineyard Gazette, page five-a, December 17, 2004.
"Mark connects with his audience in a way that is quite personal and genuine. His performances are both educational and fun for the entire family."
-- Dr. Candace Lee Heald, former Director of Programs, New Bedford Whaling Museum.
You were incredible yesterday! You are an exceptional story-teller too! I was amazed at the smiling faces and laughter! Thank you.
-- Laurie Schreiber, director Edgartown Council on Aging, written Thursday, January 16, 2003
Program at Old Whaling Church
Explores Island Music and Lore
By Elizabeth Bomze
"Talent, tradition and travel" were central themes as Matthew Stackpole, executive director of the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society, introduced Mark Alan Lovewell's Old Whaling Church performance of Three Whales and a Dog. Calling on his talents as a musician, writer and photographer, Mr. Lovewell gave a lively and personable presentation of songs, stories and photographs of Martha's Vineyard.
To open his Saturday evening program, Mr. Lovewell encouraged all in attendance to put aside their daily gripes about hot weather and parking problems in Edgartown, and stick them in the small, white container that he held up, labeled "Island Stuff." But as he was explaining his rationale, Paul Alexander interrupted him, marching from the back of the church with a large metal barrel bearing an identical label. "Use this instead," he advised Mr. Lovewell.
As a fundraiser for the Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust, the program was thematically linked to the Island's history, culture and environment. Performances of sea chanties were interspersed throughout Mr. Lovewell's numerous anecdotes of Island marine life.
"I love a good story," Mr. Lovewell said early in the performance. "I love a song that tells a good story." The audience got both. As ran began to tap against the giant glass windows, Mr. Lovewell toured the spectators through his thoughts and experiences on return of the whales, the mysteries of opening a quahaug and the intricacies of a lobster trap.
"There are several ways to open a quahaug," said Mr. Lovewell. "You can use a mallet or a hammer – come on, I know you've all done that at some point – or a knife, but you should never shake a quahaug. Never open one that you've handled a lot," he said, knocking one against the floor-board. "But if you wrap it in a cloth, you can make it feel like it's in the mud again," he said, demonstrating. Indeed the towel must have worked, b ecause moments later the clam miraculously greeted the audience. "Are you sure it was the clam talking?" one man asked his young daughter. "Yeah," she replied enthusiastically. "It was him, I saw his mouth moving."
To explore the lobster trap, Mr. Lovewell asked for four volunteers. Together, he and the youngsters learned that there are, in fact, two sections to a lobster trap )) one called the "kitchen" and the other the "parlor." Mr. Lovewell further explained. "it's very similar to a summer home on Martha's Vineyard – guests come and eat your food, then they go hang out in the living room, and you're stuck with them."
The eclectic remainder of the program was a clear reflection of Mr. Lovewell's affection for the Island and its inhabitants; the bulk of his stories and songs (several of which he sang with his son, Alan and his daughter, Emma) told of the many layers of talent on Martha's Vineyard.
Before he read the poem from which his program took its name, Mr. Lovewell noted that its author, John Maloney, is both a stonemason and a published Island poet. And what became quite obvious by the end of the evening was that Mr. Lovewell, himself, is similarly blessed with multiple gifts.
A review of Three Whales and a Dog, a family program offered at the Edgartown Whaling Church on Saturday, July 6 from 7 to 9 p.m.
from the Friday, July 12, 2002 Vineyard Gazette, page two-B
Even though Mark Lovewell moved to Vineyard Haven a few years ago, his roots (via the Pease family) are in Edgartown and I still think of him as an Edgartownian. Mark has a very cool gig. Not only does he write about and photograph the waterfront and fishing and fishermen on the Vineyard for the Gazette, but he also sings songs of the waterfront and the sea.
Last Friday night Mark was the opening act at Songs of the Sea -- a benefit concert for the maritime studies project of Vineyard Voyagers at the Beautiful Old church of Whaling Days. He filled the old sanctuary with his strong, clear voice and accompanied himself on guitar, harmonica, and concertina. The last time I heard Mark singing "Fiddler's Green," several years ago, was in honor of his friend Donnie Brown's passing. It's a sad song -- a lot of the chanteys are quite mournful, and are usually about lost lives, lost fortunes, and lost love -- with a sad refrain. "Tell me old ship mates I'm taking a trip mates and I'll see you all on Fiddler's Green." Fiddler's Green must be analogous for sailors' burial grounds, or maybe, heaven.
This year Mark introduced the song in the context of Island friends we have lost this past year, including Mike Wild, Ed Coogan and Herb Hancock, among others. Mark's children, Alan and Emma, joined him onstage for "Pleasant and Delightful," an old English sea chantey. Mark acknowledged that Alan, a college sophmore and former Minnesinger at the high school, "has probably sung more from this stage than I have."
Emma who is entering her sophomore year at the high school, has just become a Minnesinger. The kids did a great job backing their father, and Mark has apparently dona nice job handing down the musical tradition to the next generation.
Sarah Piazza, Martha's Vineyard Times, Thursday, July 12, 2001