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A new sea music festival will take place next June in Essex

A newly formed organization will produce the first CT Sea Music Festival next June in Essex.

Joseph Morneault, a longtime chantey musician and president of the nonprofit group — Maritime Music and Tradition Society — said, "We're moving forward and it's official."

Taking place June 10-12 in a variety of venues and settings in Essex, the festival will include concerts by a diverse group of regional and touring sea music performers, a symposium, workshops, events and attractions. There will also be a thematic nod to the War of 1812 and the fact that, during the British invasion, the Royal Navy traveled up the Connecticut River to Essex, then Pettipaug, and burned several vessels.

The idea to create the new festival came about after Mystic Seaport Museum canceled its long-running annual Sea Music Festival last summer.

"The Seaport changed directions and the festival wasn't a fit for them anymore," Morneault said. Sea music artists and fans "went into a panic and we were running around with our hair on fire. Finally, I decided, 'Let's just get it done.'"

Along with other veterans of the Seaport's festival, including musicians Geoff Kaufman, David Littlefield and A.J. Wright, they formed the organization. "It wasn't enough to just want to create a sea music festival," said Morneault, a frequent participant in the Seaport festivals and former organizer of the short-lived Chantey Blast events celebrating the Connecticut River. "We have to build it from the ground up, without the traditional support system or major sponsorships."

Morneault said help came from Essex resident Geoffrey Paul, head of the charitable Paul Foundation and co-owner of the Griswold Inn, where every Monday is "Sea Chantey Night" featuring the Jovial Crew, a sea music group that includes Morneault.

"Geoff saw some of our formative exchanges on Facebook and reached out," Morneault said. "He told us to bring it to Essex. It's on the Connecticut River and it's geographically friendly for crowds. No event is more than half a mile from any other event."

"Geoff is very interested in community history and philanthropy," Morneault added. "With his help, the Connecticut River Museum, the town of Essex and other organizations got involved and we've been able to get this rolling. We're thrilled."

Committees have been formed to organize further funding and awareness, and work is underway to book acts for what the Maritime Music and Tradition Society is planning to be an annual event.

"That's the plan," Morneault said. "So far, there's a great deal of interest from acts wanting to be a part of it. We'll have to sift through all of that, and that's a good problem to have. We hope to be able to book artists on a semi-regular basis so that everyone who wants to, gets to play."

r.koster@theday.com

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