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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?