, Gloucester, MA

The Perfect Storm: The Story of the Andrea Gail

June 3, 2008

The perfect Song: Local Tenor Joins Choir for Film in Gloucester

Sam Gillingham has always had a fascination with the ocean -- regarding it with tremendous fear and respect.

"I realize the strength it's got," he said. "I'm always a little cautious about it."

The Newburyport man read Sebastian Junger's "The Perfect Storm" with interest, intrigued by the power of the sea that destroyed the Gloucester fishing boat the Andrea Gail and took its crew in 1991.

At the time, the two paragraphs toward the book's end describing the memorial service following the Andrea Gail's disappearance didn't especially stand out in Gillingham's mind.

He was drawn more to the pages detailing the 30-foot swells and illustrating the ocean's fury.

But a month ago, the ecumenical memorial service for the Gloucester fishermen began playing a bigger role.

He was recruited to help recreate the service for the Hollywood motion picture "The Perfect Storm" now being filmed in Gloucester.

The tenor, who has been singing since he was 9 years old, was one of 47 vocalists chosen to portray the church choir who sang for mourners at St. Ann's Church several days after the Andrea Gail was lost at sea.

Gillingham was contacted by a friend, the choir director at St. Mary's Church in Rowley, after directors for the movie put out a call for tenors to complete the choir.

A 52-year-old hair stylist by day with his own salon in downtown Newburyport, Gillingham was intrigued by the idea of being involved in a major motion picture, and signed on.

His role -- join the choir in singing "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," the same hymn that was sung at the actual memorial service for the commercial fishing crew.

The Navy hymn, with its references to the ocean and perils of the sea, is one Gillingham had seen in hymnals, but not one that he's regularly sung.

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The Perfect Storm: The Story of the Andrea Gail