Penzance Cornish Traditional Music Session

Established in October 2018, the Penzance Cornish Traditional Music Session at the Admiral Benbow pub on Chapel Street focuses on Cornish traditional music. It is held every Thursday from 8pm – 10pm. A chance to experience a slice of free Cornish culture in unforgettable surroundings.

The Penzance Cornish music session in full swing in June 2019. Some of the musicians decided to get up and have a dance at the end of the night. Photo by Lee J Palmer.

Usually upstairs, it’s always lively. Led by melodeon player John Gallagher, local musicians gather to play tunes covering the whole gamut of Cornish music, with the occasional song thrown in for good measure. You might hear sets of tunes joined together, from the 18th century, to new tunes from the 21st century. Cornish traditional music is very much a living tradition. The pace of the music can be quite fast. There is occasionally dancing. And you’re welcome to dance freestyle too!

Musicians at the Penzance Cornish Session, June 2019. Photo by Lee J Palmer.

To contact the organisers please visit our contact page.

Info for musicians and percussionists

The session is a great place to listen and join in when you’re ready – all that we ask is that you play sensitively. There are links to chords and scores below. If you already know the tunes, go for it!

Percussion players need to be invited by the session organisers.

Musicians are not paid, but the landlord provides some jugs of beer on busy nights. Playing is thirsty work!

Learn the tunes

You can find our current set list along with scores and sound files on the Kesson website run by Kyt Davey. From time to time the website will ask for a donation to help support the costs of running this amazing resource. Please consider supporting them.

Some versions of our tunes are played from Neil Davey’s Fooch! available in some independent stores like Trevada Music in Camborne.

You can also find the dots and midi files for session tunes in An-Daras’s Prys Ton.

You are also welcome to bring a small recorder or use your phone to record tunes and learn them by ear.

Play the chords

If you want to accompany the tunes, a book of chords by John Gallagher to accompany 71 Cornish tunes is also available to download and print. The book will always be a work in progress, so check back here for updates.

Current tunes

Sets

  • King Harry Ferry Furry (Neil Davey) (D)
  • Tregajorran Furry (Neil Davey) (G)
  • Karol Korev (D)
  • Bodmin Riding (G)
  • Helston Furry (D)
  • Fer Lyskerris (G)
  • Polperro Furry (Mike Jelly) (D/Dm)
  • Nine Brave Boys (D)
  • Sunny Corner (G)
  • Plethen a Beswar (Hocken’s Four Hand Reel) (D)
    Played back to back
  • Cornish Quickstep (D)
  • Bolingey Furry (Will Burbridge) (D)
  • Giddy’s King Harry (D)
  • Begone from my Window (D)
  • Boscastle Breakdown (G)
  • Quay Fair (D)
  • Duncan Hunkin (G)
  • Newlyn Fair (Marc Cragg) (G)
  • Bernard’s Polka (Marc Cragg) (G)
  • Raffidy Dumitz (Len Davies) (Dm)
  • Gelasma (Robin Holmes) (Dm)
  • Cliffs of the Lizard (Lizzie Pridmore) (Dm)
  • The Descent (Steph Doble) (Dm)
  • Minor Quay Fair (Dm) – harmonic minor key variation of Quay Fair
  • Ryb an Avon (Am)
  • An Dyfunyans (Am)
  • Merry Maidens (Kyt Le Nen Davey) (D)
  • Cornish Squire (Jim Pengelly) (G)
  • Cock in Britches (G)
  • Tinners Fancy (D)
  • Causewayhead (Bernard Evans) (G/D)
  • Jim Stacey (Hilary Coleman) (G)
  • We Be (G)
  • Tolla Rooz (Will Coleman) (Em)
  • Travelling with Strangers (G) / Waiting for a Bus (D) (Ray Delf)
  • Hard Rock Miner (Merv Davey) (Am)
  • Ewon an Mor (Neil Davey) (Am)
  • An Diberdhyans (Em)
  • Dons Bewnans (Mike O’Connor) (Em)
  • Polka Covath (Ray Delf) (G)
  • Maggie May (G)
  • St Keverne (D)
  • Trevince (G)
  • Breakfast at Bryony’s (Neil Davey) (D)
  • Kan Jack (Robert Morton Nance) (G)
  • Pencarrow (Em / B modal)
  • Carnega Waltz (Richard Trethewey) (G)
  • Nancevallen (D)
  • Turkey Rhubarb (G)
  • Breannick (D)
  • Now The Summer Is Over (Andy Davey) (G)
  • Petticoats Tight (D)
  • Petticoats Loose (Gm)
  • Falmouth Gig (D)
  • Bishop’s Jig (G)
  • Porthlystry (D)
  • Hernen Wyn (Em)
  • Jackson’s Claret (D)
  • An Culyek Hos / The Mallard (Em)
  • Gwinear (Gm)
  • Bouncing Sam Jago (Hilary Coleman) (Dm)
  • Forbidden Fruit (D)
  • Ker Syllan (Merv Davey) (Em)
  • An Morladron (G)
  • Tansys Golowan (Jon Mills) (D)
  • Coer Elath (G)
  • Oll an Gerriow e’n Beaz (Frances Bennett) (Am)
  • Neidges Awarra (Neil Davey) (Em)
  • Trevla (Neil Davey) (Gm)
  • Landithy (Stephen Hall) (Gm)

Single tunes

Getting faster tunes

  • Newlyn Reel (Am)
  • King of Sweden / Mr Martin’s Reel (D)

Tunes associated with places

  • May Tree Fair (Will Manley) (Dm)
  • St Just Cock Dance (G)
  • St Piran’s Furry (Roger Pinsent) (D)

Very old tunes

  • Royal Wedding (G)
  • Shaw’s Waltz (G)
  • John Old’s Nameless (F)

Slow airs, sometimes sung, other

  • Morvoran (Richard Trethewey) (Gm)
  • Estren (D modal)
  • Constantine (Am)
  • An Oula / The Owl (Henry Tamblin) (D modal)
  • O What is That Upon Thy Head (D modal)
  • Warleggan Ox Driver (D)

End of session tune

  • Duke of Cornwall’s Reel (G)

Occasional or coming up

  • Mowes Yseldryow / Dutch Girl (G)
  • Barn Door (D)
  • The Night Tide (Richard Trethewey) (D/Em)
  • Can Palores (Ralph Dunstan) (D)
  • Joan Sanderson (Am)
  • Three Knights (Gm or Dm) (kabm pemp or 5/4 version)