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?

Penzance Cornish Session is six months old!

On Thursday 4th April the Penzance Cornish Session, a weekly pub session dedicated to Cornish traditional music, turns 6 months old. We held our first session on Thursday 4th October 2018, and it’s been held every week since, with just a break for Christmas. It’s been great fun so far, and we’re looking forward to the summer with all its visitors to Penzance, and sharing the wonderful tunes from Cornwall with tourists and locals alike in the Admiral Benbow.

There’s a great core of regular musicians, but we welcome more to join us. The session is led by melodeon player John Gallagher, along with the Cornish Trad authors, with members of Tros an Treys, Golowan Band, Penzance Guizers, Craggs Law (and several of us are in several of these!). We’ve had melodeons, concertinas, fiddles, mandolins, mandolas, bouzoukis, plus the occasional guitar and autoharp. Some musicians have joined us while on holiday and have picked up a few tunes with us along the way.

Have a listen to one of the sets recorded in the pub in November 2018. The Cornish Session is every Thursday 8-10pm. Come along sometime!

Find out more about the Penzance Cornish Session.

Marc Cragg and Andrew Law of Cragg’s Law playing at the Penzance Cornish Session
1830s flutina at the Penzance Cornish Session
Our second session in October 2018 saw the Admiral Benbow packed out with the German crew from the nearby filming of a Rosamund Pilcher episode.

London lecture on Cornish Folk Dance

Merv and Alison Davey of An Daras, and two of Cornwall’s longest practitioners of Cornish traditional music and dance, are giving a lecture called Cornish Folk Dance at Cecil Sharp House in London on 13 February 2019.

The story of folk dance in Cornwall, from medieval roots, through narratives of the nineteenth Century folklorists, the activity of the Celtic revivalists and on to the present day, is a fascinating one that reflects the distinct cultural profile of Cornwall.

Folklore Society Lectures

Find out more and book online at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website.