Winter 2016 – So we begin again!

23rd October – And we started our collecting again this Christmas with a visit to the lovely singing group Kescana in Lostwithiel. They are an all woman group who sing very sweetly, making up their own harmonies to many traditional songs including the old folk carols. It was lovely to find our way to their rehearsal in a warm kitchen out of a dark rainy night in October. We had got lost, taking the back roads and whilst descending the steep road from Bodmin direction we came to a sudden stop as the body of a deer blocked our way! We got out and Sally moved it to the side as it was definitely dead but in the dark didn’t seem much injured. When we returned to the car Sally realised her hands were wet, not from rain but blood! And so we arrived at their house with her needing to wash the blood from her hands – a pretty dramatic entrance!  Kescana started over 20 years ago but they began singing Cornish carols when they recorded a CD with Merv Davey (present Grand bard) called Nadelik in the late 1990’s. We recorded them singing the Holly & the Ivy (a version well known in Cornwall), The Cherry Tree carol which their leader Jo Tagney accompanied on the harp and a recently written song called Bring in the Green by John Heslop. And we even had cake to finish – thankyou all!

Kescana singing in Lostwithiel earlier this year


November 27th – On Sunday afternoon (feeling slightly worse for wear after wassailing in ‘Druth the night before!) Sally and I visited Paynters Lane End Chapel for their annual Merritt carol service. It is a beautiful chapel and very prominent, sitting on the five-ways crossing in the heart of Illogan. I was really pleased that we heard about this concert at the last minute because I had hoped we could record at least one Merritt carol in the place he lived. The service was informal and funny with an augmented choir (made up of singers from Redruth Methodist, Stithians Ladies, Holmans Climax and Four Lanes Male Voice Choirs). There was no conductor and it was a testament to how embedded these carols are in the community that none was needed. It was quite a short service and 3 of Merritt’s carols were sung as well as Nicholas’ Star of Jacob. These were Hark the Glad Sound, Hail Sacred Day and Come Let Us All with One Accord.


The augmented choir at Paynters Lane End Chapel



November 28th – On Monday we drove the long way to Bude for their carol concert at the Parkhouse Centre. The Old Cornwall Society have done a wonderful job reviving the carols popular in this area many years ago. The key figure in this is Mike Richardson who not only collected the carols from people in the surrounding villages but also transcribed and arranged many of them and they are now published in a book by the OCS. We were very glad to meet him that night and chat. There was a choir made up of a variety of people come especially to sing the carols and some have been coming several years to support the revival. The audience too joined in with some of the carols and we even sang St Day and Hark the Glad Sound in Cornish. This was not Merritt’s tune however and I was really surprised how little overlap there were with the carols we heard at this concert and those from other parts of Cornwall – it is a consequence of how remote parts of Cornwall are from each other! One of them – Flaming Seraphs or The Stratton Carol, we hope to use in our book. We were grateful to Audrey Aylmer who invited us to come and was evidently instrumental in organising the event. We came away very happy to hear these new carols (to us anyway) and one Christmas pudding better off which Sally won in the raffle!


Singers at Bude with Mike Richardson sitting