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Chantey composer overcomes adversity

Jan 1, 2003

Fifty-six-year-old Howard Hornstein loves to sing seachanteys, and for much of his adult life he played fife and concertina with a group called the Ancient Mariners Chanteymen. Hornstein, who practiced as a pediatric dentist, enjoyed these songs of the sea so much that last year he published a collection of songs titled Favorite Songs of the Ancient Mariners Chanteymen. This in itself might not be considered too big a deal until one considers that Hornstein wrote the book using only his right eye.

This unorthodox method of writing results from the fact that Hornstein is in the advanced stages of amyotrophis lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease. Hornstein writes and "talks" by using a laptop computer and a small attachment connected to his eyeglasses that tracks the movement of his right pupil, which locks into a given letter of the alphabet. The letter then appears on a computer keyboard. If this sounds painstaking, it is. He writes at the speed of about one character per second. The writing of his book took him two years.

The self-published book includes many traditional chanteys as well as some original songs penned by Hornstein. Profits will be split between the Chanteymen and the ALS Foundation. The work is available from Hornstein Publishing, 165 Sperry Dr., Guilford, Conn. 06437; $25 or $35 with CD.


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