Cornish traditional music on YouTube

I’ve created a YouTube playlist called Cornish Trad. I’ve selected 45 videos over the last year or so, and the list will keep growing. They represent, to us at least, the best of Cornish trad music, mainly instrumental, on YouTube at the moment. If you have a video that we’re missing out on, drop us a line!

The playlist is pretty varied, from the brilliant Cornish Knight jigs by MacQuarrie and Toms — Bishop’s Jig (trad), Hernen Wyn (trad), An Marrak (Merv Davey)– to the full play of the first ever album of Celtic Cornish trad by Bucca, The Hole in the Harper’s Head or An Tol Yn Pen Yn Telynor released in 1982.

Cornish Trad playlist on YouTube.

Enjoy the performance of historical Cornish tunes such as John Old’s Nameless by Mike O’Connor and Barbara Griggs, and the Egloshayle Ringers by Salt and Sky (Emma Packer and Lizzie Pridmore), learn about Cornish instruments such as the Cornish double bagpipes or find out more about the dances that some of the tunes are used for such as the Cornish five-step or kabm pemp.

Mike O’Connor (fiddle) and Barbara Griggs (harp) play John Old’s Nameless.
Salt and Sky play and sing the Egloshayle Ringers.

You can save YouTube playlists but you can’t subscribe to them directly, unfortunately. There is still much out there on YouTube waiting for discovery. More and more historical archive footage is being uploaded too.

Nine Brave Boys by early music and La Moresca
Cornish dance Tin Stamps to the tune of the same name by Merv Davey.
British Movietone footage of Helston Furry/Flora Dance.

Because many of these videos are not titled or tagged specifically as Cornish music the best way to find your favourite tune is to search for its name or the many other names it might have in other traditions, for example, the Duke of Cornwall’s Reel is also known as the Opera Reel.

Jen Dyer (viola) and Neil Davey (fiddle)–also of Dalla–demonstrate the Cornish five-step or kabm pemp.
Opera Reel of the American Old Time tradition is also the Duke of Cornwall’s Reel here in Kernow!

Peter Kennedy’s Cornish Recordings

Peter Kennedy travelled around the UK from the late 1940s until the late 1970s with a tape recorder. Encouraged by folk collector Alan Lomax, he captured recordings of traditional songs, tunes, and stories about them. In the late 1950s, Kennedy presented the BBC radio folk music programme As I Roved Out. He went on to establish the Folktrax record label as well as editing the ten-volume recording Folk Songs of Britain with Lomax and Shirley Collins for Topic Records.

Peter visited Cornwall several times, recording, amongst others yet to be listed, in Cadgwith, Constantine, and on St Marys, Isles of Scilly. His archive was presented by Folktrax to the British Library, and thanks to support from Topic Records, some 10% of the 1500 hours of recordings have been digitised and made available online.

The Cornish recordings are wonderful. Listen to Joseph Thomas at Constantine sing the most incredible version of “The house that Jack built” that you are ever likely to hear. He talks fondly of his memories of wassailing around the Helford River, singing a fine rendition of the Cornish wassail song, and his memories of his grandmother, who was born in 1792.

The songs and tunes from the 86 year-old St Marys resident Bill Cameron, recorded in 1956, show just how diverse the world of traditional tunes was back then, with tunes being learned from sailors visiting from as near as Penzance, and much further afield. You can hear him sing “Away Down Albert Square”, which is more properly known as “Pomona” which was adapted into the popular song “Lamorna” sung in many Cornish pubs today. It’s interesting that, although we know that “Lamorna” existed as a song as early as 1910, Bill chose to sing “Pomona”.

Dig in and explore the Peter Kennedy Collection at the British Library. I explored the collection by using the “Location” tab to locate the recordings made in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.

Why not dig in to the wider British Library Sounds archive and see what other Cornish recordings are there?