There are several sessions and folk clubs in Penzance covering just about all folk styles. The Penzance Cornish Traditional Music Session at the Admiral Benbow pub on Chapel Street focusses on Cornish traditional music. It is held every Thursday from 8pm – 10pm.
Sometimes downstairs, sometimes 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.
It’s always fun for everyone, and a rare chance for visitors to Penzance to see some Cornish culture.
The Admiral Benbow is a fabulous pub with an equally fabulous interior, popular with tourists and locals alike.
Come along and experience the world of Cornish traditional music.
To contact the organisers please visit our contact page.
Info for musicians
Musicians are welcome to join in, even if you don’t know any of the tunes. The session is a great place to listen and join in when you’re ready – all that we ask is that you play sensitively.
If you already know the tunes, go for it!
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 MIDI files on the Kesson website.
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.
- Tregajorran Furry (Neil Davey) (G)
- Karol Korev (D)
- Bodmin Riding (G)
- Helston Furry (D)
- Heva (G)
- Polperro Furry (Mike Jelly) (D/Dm)
- 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)
- The Descent (Steph Doble) (Dm)
- Minor Quay Fair (Dm) – minor key variation of Quay Fair
- Ryb an Avon (Am)
- An Awhesyth / The Lark (Em)
- Plethen a Beswar / Four Hand Reel (Hocken) (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)
- An Dyfunyans (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)
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)
- The Night Tide (Richard Trethewey) (D/Em)
- Can Palores (Ralph Dunstan) (D)
- Joan Sanderson (Am)
- Three Knights (Gm or Dm)
- Nine Brave Boys (Am or Dm – modal)