Penzance Cornish Traditional Music Session

Update 31 July 2020: Penzance Cornish Session is still cancelled during the coronavirus outbreak. We will return when it is safe to do so. Hang in there everyone! Keep playing.

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.

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.

Session etiquette

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, dots and sound files below. If you already know the tunes, go for it!

Percussion players must be invited by the session organisers, and be mindful of their rhythm and volume.

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

Learn the tunes

You are encouraged to bring a small recorder, or use your phone to record tunes and learn them by ear. Scores are just a guide to the way we play the tunes and should not be slavishly adhered to.

Racca 2

The largest source of scores of Cornish tunes old and new. Download Racca 2.

Kesson

Website and tunery run by Kyt Davey. Dots and live midi playback for our tunes on the Penzance Cornish Session set list.

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.

Fooch!

Cornish tunes for sessions in Neil Davey’s Fooch! available in some independent stores like Trevada Music in Camborne. Has CDs to play along to.

An Daras – Prys Ton

Run by Merv Davey and the Cornish Folk Arts Project. Download tunes and midi. Prys Ton is a Cornish session music book available for free via the An Daras shop.

Mike O’Connor’s Ilow Kernow

All the historical tunes we play come from the books published by Mike O’Connor, including Ilow Kernow 5. They are available to order direct.

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 (Em / A modal)
  • An Dyfunyans (Am)
    played as slow airs
  • Cornish Squire (Jim Pengelly) (G)
  • Merry Maidens (Kyt Le Nen Davey) (D)
  • 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)
  • Tane an Gove (Neil Davey) (Bm)
  • Ewon an Mor (Neil Davey) (Am)
  • An Diberdhyans (Em)
  • Dons Bewnans (Mike O’Connor) (Em)
  • Polka Covath (Ray Delf) (G)
  • Maggie May (G)
  • Breakfast at Bryony’s (Neil Davey) (D)
  • St Keverne (D)
  • Trevince (G)
  • Kan Jack (Robert Morton Nance) (G)
  • Pencarrow (Bm / E modal) – Version in Fooch!
  • 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 and G)
  • Gwinear (Gm)
  • Bouncing Sam Jago (Hilary Coleman) (Dm)
  • Forbidden Fruit (D)
  • Ker Syllan (Merv Davey) (Em)
  • An Morladron (G)
  • Off She Goes (D)
  • Tansys Golowan (Jon Mills) (D)
  • Old Town (Neil Davey) (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)
  • Grampound Furry (C / D modal)
  • St Just Cock Dance (G)
  • St Piran’s Furry (Roger Pinsent) (D)

Historical tunes

  • Royal Wedding (G)
  • Shaw’s Waltz (G)
  • John Old’s Nameless (F)
  • Brade’s Cornish Procession (D)
  • Glory of the West (Gm)
  • La Belle Jannette (Gm)

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)