SoundCloud is a great place for people to upload their own recordings, and musicians in Cornwall and beyond have, over the years, uploaded tunes to share with the world. We’ve picked up on some of them and created a Cornish playlist. It’s a mixture of studio, home, and live recordings, which when brought together, reflect the wonderful variety of Cornish tunes.
We’ve gradually been adding Cornish trad music to a playlist on Spotify. There’s not a huge amount of material out there, as Cornish traditional music is still relatively unknown, but we have uncovered some great recordings of both old and new tunes, and some songs. There’s 46 tracks in the playlist so far.
If you have a Spotify account (there’s a free ad-supported version, or paid for no adverts) then you can subscribe the playlist, listen to the music, and get alerts when we add new tunes.
If there are any tunes that you think should be included just let us know in the comments below or contact us and we’ll have a listen.
When Money to the Moon played at the Degol Stul 2020 nos lowen we were lucky to have our set recorded by Brendan McGreal of Cornish Underground. We have posted four of the seven tracks to the Money to the Moon SoundCloud so that you can hear them. Scroll down to have a listen.
The tunes played in these four tracks are:
‘Fab Furries‘: King Harry Ferry Furry (Neil Davey), Tregajorran Furry (Neil Davey), Karol Korev (trad), Bodmin Riding (trad), Helston Furry (trad), Fer Lyskerris (trad), Polperro Furry (Mike Jelly), Nine Brave Boys (trad).
Kan Jack (Jack’s Song, by Robert Morton Nance c.1905) followed by Pencarrow (possibly 17th/18th century, known in Devon also).
Royal Wedding (a processional tune from the 18th century found in the music notebook of Morval House, dated 1770).
Falmouth Gig (old spelling of “jig”), followed by Bishop’s Jig then Porthlystry.
Money to the Moon personnel: Pete London (bouzouki), John Gallagher (melodeon), Tehmina Goskar (fiddle), Andy Law (fiddle), and Tom Goskar (mandolin).
To mask and to mum kind neighbours will comeEarly 17th century Broadside, also known as All Hail to the Days, c. 1625 (courtesy of The Hymns and Carols of Christmas)
With wassails of nut-brown ale,
To drink and carouse to all in the house
As merry as bucks in the dale;
Where cake, bread, and cheese is brought for your fees
To make you the longer stay;
At the fire to warm ’twill do you no harm,
To drive the cold winter away.
It might feel a bit tardy to talk about wintertime tunes and songs but it certainly feels like we’re still dallying with winter here in West Cornwall. Back in the Autumn we discovered the song Drive the Cold Winter Away sung by Ian Giles with the Oxford Waits. We were captivated by the sentiment and language of the lyrics as well as the beguiling tune in D minor.
The tune is best known as part of the Playford Dancing Master Country Dances dating to the 17th century–not forgetting that when Playford himself was penning these tunes and the dances that went with them, they were already getting ‘old’. It’s written a a slow jig tempo 6/8, and you can take a lot of liberties with the tune (as we did) as it doesn’t tire of being played over and over again. Not strictly Cornish trad, but I think, like a few other Playford tunes, good credentials for being known here, like in other parts of Britain, given the popularity of Broadsides and the appetite for them.
Drive the cold winter away, also known as All Hail to the Days was written or accumulated anonymously. It is a song about merriment, reflection and revellery during the darkest time of the year. To us, it summed up what guise dancing is all about, sharing joy in music and friendship, having fun in disguise, letting bygones by bygones, letting go of bad times, and wishing it would warm up a bit.
‘Tis ill for a mind to anger inclined
To think of small injuries now
Using this tune we made an electronic experiment. Using a Casio MT-68 keyboard, Beringer Model D (Moog clone) plugged into an Arturia Keystep we recorded the melody and some effects (whooshing wind) alongside the Casio’s analogue 6/8 “slow rock” rhythm. We experimented with recording mandolin over it, and also fiddle. The fiddle melody didn’t do the production any favours so we removed it, but we kept, and seriously filtered a double-stopped accompaniment.
It was also an opportunity to try some mastering at home. This was a taster for a project we have just started working on in earnest, to record the ‘fairy music’ of Arthur Mata, the first horner of the Gorsedh and early proponent of the 1920s/30s Cornish revival.
Supported by a £33,600 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and further funding from the Cornwall Heritage Trust and Screen Cornwall, the project seeks to rebalance the awareness of women’s roles in Cornish music-making past and present.
Like other areas of Cornish heritage, mainstream ideas of the Duchy’s music are dominated by male figures and traditions such as male-voice choirs and brass bands, but women have always been active in leading and shaping Cornish music. Through my role as an historian and curator–and indeed more recently as a musician on the Cornish Trad scene, I have felt particularly strongly about this imbalance.
“The work of musical women in Cornwall past and present has been astonishing, for example, the founding of early operatic and orchestral societies was very often fronted by a woman. The composition of the earlier version of Trelawny—Cornwall’s unofficial anthem—was by a woman. The revival of Celtic-Cornish instrumental and sung traditional music and carols has also been significantly led by women, such as Hilary Coleman, Frances Bennett and Sally Burley. Without their skills in capturing, recording and sharing since the early 1990s we just wouldn’t have our rich traditional repertoire.”
Over the course of the 15-month project, which is the first of its kind, the Hypatia Trust will host a programme of events to explore and celebrate music of various genres in Cornwall through a female lens. A volunteer research group will be recruited to delve into archives around Cornwall and discover the stories and music of historical women. Composing and conducting workshops aimed at building girls’ confidence in these male-dominated areas will be delivered in partnership with the Cornwall Music Service Trust, a charity committed to supporting the aspirations of young people in Cornwall through music education.
Workshop on women in the history of Cornish Trad
One of these events will be a workshop led by me in association with CornishTrad.com and our efforts to share knowledge, history and information on Cornish traditional music with the world. It will take place at the Hypatia Trust, Chapel Street, Penzance on Saturday 4 April 10.30am-1pm. This half-day workshop will explore what we know about the history of women who composed, performed and shaped the identity of the Cornish traditional music we know today.
We’ve just heard that the track An Diberdhyans / Dons Bewnans (Trad / Mike O’Connor) from the Andy Law & Friends album The Long and the Short of It has made it to 4th place in the Irish and Celtic Music podcast Celtic Top 20. We played fiddle and mandolin on this track.
The podcast host, Marc Gunn, announced that An Diberdhyans / Dons Bewnans was one of the most popular tracks of 2019. All of us who played on it are humbled and amazed. Thanks for playing us, Marc!
For those unfamiliar with Kernewek, the Cornish language, An Diberdhyans / Dons Bewnans is pronounced An Diberth-yans / Donns B-you-nanns which means The Parting / Dance of Life.
The Irish and Celtic Music Podcast is the world’s most popular for Celtic music with a global listenership running into the hundreds of thousands. It’s great for so many to hear some trad music from Cornwall, which is so often underrepresented in the wider Celtic music world.
It wasn’t just us from Cornwall in the top 20 either. Another Cornish band, The Grenaways, made it to number 16, with their track Rowan.
If you’re looking forward to more from Andy Law & Friends, keep your eye on Money to the Moon, our new band.
We’ve been listeners of Marc Gunn’s Irish & Celtic Music Podcast for some time now so we were completely thrilled when he played a few tracks of Cornish Trad on the recent editions of the podcast, from the charity album The Long and the Short of It by Andy Law and Friends. If you don’t know about this fantastic album, please take a moment to head to Andy Law’s Bandcamp where you can also buy it on digital download or order a CD.
In episode #438 at 15.25 you can hear An Diberdhyans (Trad. The Parting) / Dons Bewnans (Mike O’Connor. Dance of Life). If you are reading this Marc, we can help you pronounce the Cornish but we’re just delighted you are playing our music and including Cornish music in the rich mix of modern and traditional Celtic music that you showcase to your many thousands of followers.
In episodes #434 and #435 Marc Gunn plays more of our tracks, first the 18th century processional, Royal Wedding, from a musical manuscript found by Mike O’Connor at Morval House in Looe (with counter melody composed by John Law) paired with early country tune Sun Assembly, then another one of our high-energy favourites, a set of Cornish jigs called Falmouth Gig, Bishop’s Jig and Porthlystry.
Celtic Top 20
So now for the request. Marc Gunn has opened a vote for your favourite Celtic band played on the Irish and Celtic Music podcast and Andy Law & Friends are in the running. Please vote for Andy and us. It’s easy, we’ll show you how:
- Head to the voting page (ignore it says 2018)
- Enter your preferred episode number: 434, 435 or 438
- Enter name of band, Andy Law & Friends
- Enter your name and email address
- You can vote for multiple tunes or bands but only vote once. Comma separate multiple favourites
- Like and subscribe to the Irish & Celtic Music podcast!
Meur ras / thank you! Please share and don’t delay! The vote closes on 18 December 2019.
Time for some seasonal fun. What do you really know about Cornish traditional music? Take our quiz and share it with your friends.
Find out if you’re a dreary dirge or a joyous jig. Please comment and subscribe with your results.
The Cornish Trad Christmas Quiz 2019
Do you know your furries from your polkas? How well do you think you know Cornish traditional music? Pit your wits against the cornishtrad.com Christmas Quiz 2019. Most answers can be found somewhere on this lovely website. There are 30 multiple choice questions. Nadelik lowen.
On Saturday 4 January 2020, there will be a Cornish celebration of feasting, music and dance at Grampound Village Hall, TR2 4SB, a few miles outside Truro. The evening starts at 3.30pm with communal decorating of the hall and laying out a feast. After partaking in the feast there will be a procession led by fiddle-tastic band, Bagas Crowd. This starts at 5.30pm. Suggested donation of £5.
From 7.30pm until about 11pm no less than four Cornish Trad music bands will play the night away for a Nos Lowen (Happy Night) with lots of dancing, some of which will be led by Cornish dancers, and maybe also a bit of free styling. Music will be played by veterans Henavek, the gorgeous Heb Mar, Money to the Moon (that’s us) and the thrilling Davey & Dyer Duo. Tickets on the door: £10.
Degol Stul means Twelfth Night, the twelfth day after Christmas Day, a traditional time for festivity and gaddery. This wonderful event is organised by the Big Nos committee.
Over the last few years we have been researching guise dancing, a form of mumming that takes place during the twelve days of Christmas (and in recent times, a few days before). There is a wealth of information about the tradition in historic newspapers, and we have begun to transcribe the many wonderful articles on guise dancing so that they are searchable and freely available online.
One of the reasons for doing this is that in reading the well-known books that mention guise dancing, there seemed to be a fair bit of repetition, and not much life to something that, in our experience, is a pretty lively custom. We have used both the British Newspaper Archive and microfilms at Kresen Kernow in Redruth, Cornwall.
This is the kind of liveliness that we mean, found in an 1863 edition of the Cornish Telegraph:
Serving Him Out: An Incident of the Guise Dancing at St Ives
On Friday evening the 9th inst. a party of guise-dancers entered a beer shop at St Ives and obtained an interview with the landlord, whom they well plied with drink until his eyes blinked like two revolving lights and his dizzy head manifested unmistakable signs of a desire to change places with his lower extremities. In this unenviable state (which by the bye is better described than felt, we should think) four of the strongest of the party took the somnolent landlord by the arms and legs and ere could he say ‘What doest thou?’ spirited him into the open street, where a goodly number (as if by magic) started into the middle of the road and formed a procession singing the Old Hundredth with a more than mournful twang, and away they marched towards the beach (the house is situated near the sea side) landlord and all.
Some one at intervals gave short sentences from the Burial Service. As may be expected, the sudden and by no means welcome termination of a good day’s business roused into fury all the drink be-clouded and drink-debased energies of the poor fellow, but all his imprecations were met with the remark ‘Prepare, Evil! prepare; thy time is short indeed.’ His struggles and cries were all in vain and in a short time the edge of the water was reached. And now as the sobered man heard the rippling of the waves, he seem to fear the result, and made a superhuman effort to free himself, but alas! the hands that held him were too strong and whilst he was cursing his tormentors and invoking vengeance on their devoted heads he was borne out into the tide, whilst one, with a fine nasal accent, pronounced aloud, ‘We now commit his body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ ; if no one else will have him, the d—l must,’ and down they threw their burthen (wretches that they were) and scampered off, leaving their victim to scramble ashore as best he might.
Fortunately the only effect produced in the landlord is a determination to hate guise dancers in general with a perfect hatred. Who the delinquents are is a mystery.Cornish Telegraph – Wednesday 28 January 1863, page 3, column 6
So, dig in, and explore the heady adventures of the folk of West Cornwall in their pursuit of fun and entertainment, bringing fun and life into the darkest time of the year. Visit our guise dancing sources: newspaper archives page.