Search

Fenten

A source for Cornish music publications

Month

April 2013

At Home

Perraners at The Seiners, Perranporth                 Tuesday 11th December 2012

The Seiners is a great pub and the Perraners a great gang of singers!

The pub sits right by Perranporth beach with wonderful views of the wide stretch of sand and at high tide it feels as if it’s a ship at sea. Inside it has wooden floors and beams – great for acoustics.

Dan and Lisa took over the pub as owners last year with great trepidation. They had previously been landlords but when the owner went bankrupt they had to make a big decision – whether the pub would close or to jump in and turn it around. Happily for us they chose the latter and for a few months in the winter they teetered on the edge but as Summer came their fortunes began to change. Why? Not only because of the tourist season but because they are such friendly and welcoming people. They have great ideas too and an amazing amount of energy to see them through. At a time when pubs are closing so fast it’s a delight to know of a success story!

One of the ideas they have been so supportive of has been a regular Cornish music session (which I co-run with Neil Davey and Jen Dyer) on Tuesday nights and a shout afterwards with the Perraners.

Seiners session
Seiners session

The Perraners have regularly practiced in the backroom of The Seiners for several years and about 3 years ago they began to join us in the bar after their rehearsals. They started as a group after hearing the Calstock Singers sing at Lowender Peran (Interceltic Festival in Perranporth) in 2000. Some of the members knew the Cornish songs but wanted to develop harmonies and repertoire so they asked the Calstock MD – Ian Marshall to work with them. Ian not only still conducts the Singers when they perform as a choir but has also written some lovely arrangements of the pub songs. On their website they describe their name:

As Perranporth is named after St Piran who reputedly liked his ale, and picking up from the local saying “as drunk as a Perraner”, the name The Perraners seemed very appropriate for a group that insists on meeting in a pub!’ 

Some of the original members such as Chris and Karin Easton, Stuart, Nigel and Leslie are still involved and sing great renditions of many of the Cornish favourites. A few of them have also formed the great shanty group Stamp and Go. Others such as Steve – a great bass singer have started to sing favourite songs of their own such as ‘Martin Said To His Man’ and ‘Maggie May’– developing harmonies by regularly singing them.

Malcolm and more singers
Malcolm and more singers
Karin and other singers
Karin and other singers

As I play at the Seiners every week and join in with the singing too, it’s hard to choose a specific visit but these photos are from Christmas time when we sang local carols with them. One of their ‘own’ is the Bolingey version of While Shepherds Watched – which is a lovely arrangement – Chris Easton taught this to me as he grew up in Bolingey in a Methodist family.

Chris and others singing carols
Chris and others singing carols

The singers are incredibly welcoming and ready for anyone to join in so between them and the Landlord and Lady it’s a place to feel ‘at home’ in and just how pubs should be!

Advertisements

This Is Us

St Just Feast Sunday 4th (& 5th) November 2012

We’d heard about St Just Feast throughout the summer. ‘You going St Just Feast? That’s the place to be!’, ‘Got to get down St Just end of October, everyone goes there’. We wanted to catch the Cape Cornwall Singers anyway and so this seemed an ideal time. After checking it out with their contact Steve Gear we headed down with a few friends on a Sunday afternoon.

The Kings Arms
The Kings Arms
Kings Arms again
Kings Arms again

We arrived in the heaving back room of the Kings Arms in St Just square. There may have been an English flag flying from the Church but it was undiluted Cornish in here. There were singers from Bude, Newquay, St Merryn, Isles Of Scilly, Helston and of course all over Penwith too. Leading the way were the Cape Cornwall Singers, one man doing the line out (singing the first line to get the pitch).

‘The Cape Cornwall Singers were formed in 1997 in an attempt to resurrect the singing traditions of the area in the local pubs around St Just and West Cornwall.. Our distinctive sound was formerly familiar in impromptu sessions throughout the town, especially during the St Just Feast celebrations, but has declined in recent years due mainly to the demise of the local tin mines’

Harry Safari was there too of course as he has a close relationship with the singers who have popularised many of his songs. It was as if all the people we had visited throughout the summer had descended on this spot for a final sing of the year! Of course this was not true because we were about to enter the Carol Season – so many fine Cornish carols waiting to be sung and at St Just I heard the first ones: ‘Hark The Glad Sound’ & ‘Lo The Eastern Sages’. I was told that this is traditional. As is the feast. There are wonderful descriptions of the Feast by William Bottrell from the 1800s:

“Es time for me to be goan, for I’ve further to go than any of your other feasters.” [said Dick] “No, no,” said Mary, “stop over tomorrow and till servy day” (Feasten Wednesday) “if you will, and go with me and Grace to the fiddler, for I can shake my shoes in a three-handed reel yet and shall for years to come, I hope.” “I trust thee west,” said Jackey, “for my old grandmother danced of a Feasten Monday till she was eighty-two, and a better woman there never was.” The sports of the wrestling ring and plan-an-guare (the round) which was given up to the boys for their games at quoits, were kept up from daylight till dark night, when all went home for a hasty meal and to take the girls to the public house, where the fiddle and fife in every room put life into the legs of the dancers; but they seldom found fiddles enough, and many a merry jig and three-handed reel was kept a-going by the tune being sung to old catches…”              (“Stories and Folk-Lore of West Cornwall”, first published by Bottrell, Penzance, 1880, facsimile reprint 1996 by Llanerch Publishers, Felinfach).

The Feast used to only be on the Monday but nowadays the Sunday has become the traditional day for the singing, spearheaded by the Cape Cornwall Singers. So packed into the low beamed room we sang all the old favourites plus a few more popular in the West – one of my favourites has become ‘Safe In The Arms’ sung with such passion!

Then everyone heaved out of that pub and went across the square to the Commercial for the next bout. We had gone down with a friend who grew up in Nancledra and he began to meet familiar people, one of whos comment on the way was ‘This is what Cornwall’s all about; this is us!’

At The Commercial
At The Commercial

If possible there seemed even more people there and I was told that on Feast Sunday they do at least 200 covers in their restaurant! All ages got stuck in and it was amazing to look around at all the faces singing, grinning, laughing, shouting, giggling and concentrating on the job in hand  – the sound was incrediable and I felt swept along by it.

Some Of the singers
Some Of the singers

We heard a rumour that Bone Idol (from the Scillies) were singing back at The Kings Arms so before we went we popped in there for a quick listen – the contrast was extreme and the peace of the pub and the quiet, close harmonies was a lovely calm end to a brilliant visit.

This was one of our last visits and I think the Cape Cornwall Singers sum up what we have experienced in our journies across Cornwall:

‘Cape Cornwall Singers are ordinary people, with ordinary lives, who sing with passion of the enduring traditions and extraordinary beauty of our homeland’

Everyone was having a good time!
Everyone was having a good time!

Singers and Songs

Singers Night at The Golden Lion, Stithians                           20th October 2012

I’d chatted to Roger Bryant on the phone about coming up to his sessions at the Golden Lion on the 3rd Sat of every month a while back – he wasn’t sure if it was exactly what I had in mind for the project but partly because we’d talked about Sankey hymns and partly because his songs are being sung around Cornwall at Shouts (e.g. Cornish Lads and Miners Anthem) I thought it would be good to visit.

Roger in full voice!
Roger in full voice!

Roger sings with the infamous Rum & Shrub shantymen. His father was Welsh and his mother came from a Cornish family who had a reputation for pub singing, so Roger comes from good singing stock! Indeed his wife’s father was alarmed when they were courting – he referred to Roger as ‘one of the drunken Bryants’!  Having said that he was brought up Methodist at St Mawes which is why he likes the Sankey hymns. He also feels they are easy to learn with good chorus’ and tunes; they have an affinity to Southern Baptist hymns (from America) and certainly some of them are also sung around the pubs like Let The Light Of Your Lighthouse as well as popular plantation hymns, likely to come from the baptist tradition; Lily Of the Valley, Swing Low & Old Time Religion. He remembers as a child sneaking in the back door of the pub to hear the singing and that certain songs were associated with certain people who would come out every Friday night, sit in the same place and sing ‘their’ song. Woe betide anyone else who sang that song! This reminded me of the great story by Charles Lee ‘Pascoe’s song’.

Some of the singers
Some of the singers

When we arrived some people were already there and I recognised singers from as far afield as Penzance and Calstock! Many of them are involved with the folk clubs in Cornwall. There was also a couple who’d come from Bideford folk club too! We were warmly welcomed by Roger and his wife and soon the singing began – sure enough it started with a lovely old Sankey hymn ‘Blessed Quietness’ which everyone seemed to know. After that Roger, with a lovely sense of humour, invited people to do a turn. Certainly there was little overlap with the songs we’d heard elsewhere and we knew only a few of them but it was entertaining and there were choruses we could join in with. There was a happy, informal atmosphere with everyone evidently knowing eachother well. It was also lovely to hear Thorn and Roses peform a few numbers including their version of This Is My Cornwall. They are a 3 part harmony singing group with Jinks providing a wonderful bass and Sylvia and Rowena beautiful close harmony.

Thorn & Roses
Thorn & Roses

Roger sang his own composition – Cornish Lads and it was great to hear  it from the ‘horses mouth’! Later on everyone sang another Sankey hymn with a great chorus: ‘Only Remembered’. Towards the end a woman shyly asked to sing – obviously one of the first times she’d done so and gave the sweetest rendition of the ‘Old Grey Duck’ I’d ever heard. She said she remembered her father singing it to her as a lullabye.

I realise the more we travel around the greater spectrum of pub singing we hear and as usual it’s good not to be too prescriptive about these things! The bottom line for me is; is everyone having a good time? And usually, with singing involved, they are!

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑