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Cornish Carols

Cornish Carols 2019

It feels as if there is a wonderful renewed energy for the singing of these carols this year, with workshops being held in Penzance, St Ives and Redruth to teach the carols as well as many other places such as Falmouth, Padstow and Troon continuing with their traditions. I’m delighted to say that the Red River Singers have also recorded a CD of these carols too called Arise & Sing!’

Arise & Sing CD 2019
Arise & Sing – Cornish Carols by the Red River Singers

Authors, singers and researchers, Sally Burley and Hilary Coleman have for many years been actively involved in this carolling tradition, and during 2016 they travelled around Cornwall, recording stories, memories and local versions of carols. ‘Hark! The Glad Sound of Cornish Carols’ was published in November 2017 and immediately sold extremely well virtually selling out within a month! The good news is that a reprint has been done for this carolling season. In 2018 it was universally acclaimed as the winner of the Federation of Old Cornwall Society’s Holyer an Gof Cup and gained national recognition when the Folklore Society of Great Britain placed it third in their Katharine Briggs Award.

Partly funded by the Cornish Heritage Trust, The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies and the Red River Singers, the book is accompanied by 2 CDs of recordings and contains 32 carols with associated history and photos.

 “We hope the book will continue to raise awareness of our wonderful carols and will preserve this heritage as well as increasing knowledge of Cornish history through the background of the carols and the local stories” said Sally Burley.

Hilary and Sally were delighted when they received the following message from Bert Biscoe after he had read a copy of Hark and shared it with others: ‘due to your book, my mother-in- law has been wandering in her mind around Towednack seventy five years ago singing with the band; Peggy Gill, who is organist at Leekseed, is remembering carolling in Delabole and St Teath; and so on – you have not simply published a book, you have ignited a joyous recollection and renewal! When grandmothers enthuse their grandchildren to sing carols from their villages then you know you’ve created something special’.

Copies of the book are available at Waterstones’ in Truro, The Cornish Store in Falmouth, Trevada in Camborne and Edge of the World Bookshop in Penzance. Or you can order online at

This year watch out for the Red River Singers and also the Redruth Carol Choir at the following events

Sunday 1st December & Sunday 5th January– 8pm Countryman Inn, Piece, TR16 6SG

Saturday 7th – 12 – 2pm.Carols, Godolphin House, TR13 9RE

Sunday 8th – 4.30pm. Carol singing, Albany Road/Victoria Park, Redruth TR15 2JB

Wednesday 11th – 7.30. Perranzabuloe OCS. Perranporth War Memorial Hall, TR6 0EY.

Thursday 12th – 7.30pm. Merritt Carol Concert. St Agnes Methodist Church, TR5 0UA.

Saturday 14th – 7.30pm. Camborne Carol Concert, Liberal Hall, TR15 8AS

Sunday 15th – 4.30pm. Carol Singing, Plain an Gwarry area, Redruth TR15 1HU

Friday 20th – 6.30pm. Carol Concert. Trevenson Church, Pool, TR15 3PT.

Saturday 21st – 7pm. Diaspora Carol concert. St Just Miners’ Chapel TR19 7LT.

Sunday 22nd – 4.30pm. West End/Trewirgie area, Redruth, TR15 3AD.

Sunday 29th – 3pm. A service of nine lessons in Kernewek (Cornish), St Euny Church, Redruth, TR15 3BT.

Carol Choir 2018
Redruth Carol Choir 2018

Carolling around Redruth 2018

There are plenty of other places that Cornish Carolling will be happening from East to West this winter but here are the dates of not only the carolling around the Redruth area but also a couple of talks which Sally and Hilary will be giving about their book Hark! The Glad Sound of Cornish Carols.


Saturday 24th – 6:00pm at the Town Clock. Redruth Wassail.


Sunday 2nd – 4:30pm, Redruth Carol Choir visits Flowerpot Chapel, Higher Fore Street area.

Sunday 2nd – 8pm. First & Last Carols. Countryman Inn, Piece, Redruth, TR16 6SG.

Tuesday 4th – 7pm. Carols with the Red Rivers at Waterstones Bookshop, Truro

Wednesday 5th – 7.30pm, Hark! Talk for Padstow Old Cornwall Society. Social Club, Padstow

Saturday 8th – 6.30pm. Carol Concert with the Red River Singers, Coer Heb Hanow & Tereba Nessa, Liberal Club, Camborne

Sunday 9th – 4:30pm, Redruth Carol Choir visits Plain an Gwarry area.

Wednesday 12th – 3.30pm. Gwinear Church Tree Festival with the Red River Singers,  followed by tea in the church. Gwinear Church, TR27 5JZ

Thursday 13th – 7.30pm. Carol Concert with the Red River Singers, St Agnes Methodist Church, 30 British Road, St Agnes TR5 0UA.

Friday 14th – 4pmCarols with the Redruth Carol Choir at the Old Fashioned Christmas in the Butter Market, Redruth

8pm – Carols with the Red River Singers, Plume of Feathers, Fore Street, Pool, Redruth TR15 3PF. Contact number for venue: 01209 713513.

Sunday 16th – 4:30pm, Redruth Carol Choir visits Albany Rd, Treruffe Hill area (followed by Baptist Church Carol Concert – all welcome)

Wednesday 19th – 1-2pm. Hark! talk. Truro Museum, 25 River Street, Truro, TR1 2SJ.

Thursday 20th – Evening. Diaspora Carols, Truro Cathedral, 14 St Mary’s Street, Truro, TR1 2AF. Including the Redruth Carol Choir,

Friday 21st – 6.30pm. Carol Concert with the Red River Singers, Trevenson Church, Church Road, Pool, Redruth TR15 3PT.

Sunday 23rd – 4:30pm, Redruth Carol Choir visits Trewirgie, West End area

Saturday 5th – 3pm onwards, Degol Stul (12th Night Feast), Red Rivers singing around 6pm, Grampound Village Hall

Sunday 6th – 8pm, First & Last Carols. Countryman Inn, Piece, Redruth, TR16 6SG.

Hark! The Glad Sound of Cornish Carols

…and finally Ladies and Gentlemen we are pleased and hugely proud to be able to announce that our book Hark! The Glad Sound of Cornish Carols is now available! Please see below for information as well as the variety of launch dates around Cornwall. Many of them will see us returning to the places we recorded to say a huge thankyou to the singers and presenting a book to them, with, of course, a few carols on the way! We also have a few workshops on offer (Marazion and Liskeard) as well as book signings and talks . Hopefully there’s something for everyone so please come along and meet us and buy a book (or two – a great Christmas present!)

Cornish Carols are unique and to have a publication that brings together the essence of that is marvellous. The hours and miles will have been well worth it I am sure. Congratulations to Sally and Hilary for their achievement’. Roger Gool (Leader of Padstow Carollers)
Hark! The Glad Sound of Cornish Carols is a record of carols sung throughout Cornwall, in a variety of locations: church, pub, chapel, on the street, in people’s houses and at special occasions such as the Bodmin Wassail, Picrous Eve and St Just Feast – to show how embedded these carols are in their communities. ­

IMG_0366The book contains two CDs as well as scores and words, the background to the carols, the composers and reminiscences of people who sang them.

£19.99  ISBN 978 1 9999037 0 1
214 pages paperback

The book will be available on 15 November. To order, click here Francis Boutle website

Hark Launch dates 2017/18

November 2017

WIL007 Liskeard Christmas_Tuesday A4 Poster_LowResSaturday 4th ​- Pre-launch talk and carols with the Red River Singers at the The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies’ Winter Festival, Redruth Community School, Tolgus Vean, Redruth, TR15 1TA, 2:45pm
Saturday 18th ​- Carol workshop led by Hilary, Marazion Community Centre, TR17 0HM 10am – 4pm, to book:
Monday 20th – ​Talk and carols, St Columb Old Cornwall Society, The Bowling Club,West St, St Columb Major, TR9 6RX, 7.30pm.
Saturday 25th​ – Redruth Wassail, around Redruth finishing at The Miners Arms, Plain an Gwarry, from 6pm
Sunday 26th ​– Carols with the Red River Singers at the Christmas Market, Heartlands, Pool, TR153QY, 2pmMarazion carols

December 2017

Saturday 2nd – ​Carols and book signing, part of Nadelik Lyskerrys Event, The Bookshop, 2 Barras St, Liskeard, PL14 6AD, 1pm, See Nadelik Lyskerrys for further info.
Sunday 3rd​ – ‘First & Last’ carols, The Countryman Inn, Piece, TR16 6SG, 8pm.
Monday 4th​ – Carol concert with the Bude & Stratton Old Cornwall Society, St Andrew’s Church, Stratton, 7:30pm
Tuesday 5th – ​Talk & carols with the Red River Singers at Waterstones Bookshop, Truro, TR1 2QU, 7pm
Friday 8th​ – Talk & carols at Kresenn Kernow, Alma Place, Redruth, TR15 2AT, 5pm followed by carols at ‘Old Time Christmas’ Redruth Revival community event, Buttermarket courtyard, Redruth, TR15 2AS, 6pm.
Saturday 9th​ – Carol concert at Bridge Chapel featuring the Red River Singers, Keur Heb Hanow and Tereba Nessa, Bridge, Illogan, TR16 4QW, 7:30pm
Thursday 14th – Carols for Picrous Eve at The Kings Arms, Luxulyan , PL30 5EF, 9pm
Friday 15th​- Carols with the Red River Singers for Gwinear Christmas Tree Festival, St Gwinear’s Church, 3pm
Friday 15th ​- Carols with Caharrack and St Day Silver Band, St Day Square, TR16 5JX, 8pm
Saturday 16th ​- Talk and carols with the Red River Singers, The Church of the Assumption, Blowing House Hill, Redruth, TR15 3AA, 2pm
Saturday 16th ​- St Ives Carol Service with the combined choirs of St Ives, Fore St Methodist Chapel, TR26 1HW, 7pm
Tuesday 19th ​- Carol Concert with Stithians Ladies Choir, St Stythians Band and St Stythians Male Voice Choir, Stithians Centre, 8pm
Friday 22nd ​- Carols with the Red River Singers at Trevenson Chapel, Pool, TR15 3QA, 6:30pm
Monday 25th ​- Christmas Day carols with Four Lanes Male Voice Choir, Four Lanes Square, 11am

January 2018

Tuesday 2nd ​- Talk and carols with the Red River Singers, Carnon Downs Old Cornwall Society, Carnon Downs Village Hall, Tregye Rd, TR3 6GH, pm
Saturday 6th ​- Twelfth Night Celebration, Degol Stul, Heartlands, Pool, TR153QY, 1-11pm
Sunday 7th ​- ‘First & Last’ carols, The Countryman Inn, Piece, TR16 6SG, 8pm.

Update on Hark!


Autumn 2016

Here we are now during a few golden days of Autumn and I have a chance to catch up on news about the Carol Book research.

Research: We spent the Spring and Summer visiting the Cornish Studies library in Redruth (like a sweet shop to us!) gathering information on all the publications made about Cornish Carols. Unlike our previous book on the pub songs, there is a wealth of writing about this topic going as far back as Davies Gilbert (1823) and Sandys (1852) right up to the present day re-publications by the Old Cornwall Society of some of the old Carol Books; so much to read and absorb!

Researching in Kresenn Kernow


We were very excited to discover in the library a notebook, probably dating from the late 1700s and possibly from the Hayle area, with four beautifully handwritten carols, two of which are in our singers’ repertoire; A Virgin Most Pure and To Mirth Inclined (although there were 28 verses in the notebook!) One other, Gods Dear Son, has now entered the Cornish instrumental tradition as An Dufynyans, which my band, Dalla, recently recorded! That only leaves one, called Remember Oh Thou Man, which is in both the Hutchins manuscript collection from the Penzance area (approx 1825) and in Sandys’ however the tune in the latter collection is the same as one in an even older British collection called the Melismata from 1611!

Interviews: As well as visiting the library and doing lots of reading we have been fortunate enough to visit several people with knowledge of Carols in their area and have now recorded a wealth of memories and stories from Polperro to St Ives!

Two manuscripts of the same carol – Behold. One from an ancient chap book in the possession of a carol researcher Peter Meanwell and the other a recent photocopy of a transcription from Polperro


We have a few more interviews to go before we do our final recordings this Christmas. I’m glad to say we won’t be quite as busy as last year and our dates for these Carol trips so far are:

Monday 28th November – Carol concert, Parkhouse Centre, Bude

Sunday 11th December – Merritt Concert, Redruth Wesley Chapel

Saturday 17th December – Cotehele Wassail, Calstock

Saturday 24th December – Falmouth Docks

We have heard that some Cornish carols are sung at Camelford on Boxing Day, so if anyone knows about this we’d love to hear from you!

Getting There!

23rd December 15– Firstly went to Tom Bawcocks eve at Mousehole, parking at Paul and walking down to the village, feeling the festive atmosphere grow as more and more people joined us with children and lanterns. We stood on the harbourside enjoying the lights around the harbour until the procession came through.  At the slipway they stopped and we recorded the Male Voice Choir and others singing the song before we then had the long walk back up the hill again! After that we drove over to The Dock at Penzance to record the carols there. It was hot and crowded with an expectant atmosphere and the people there seemed really enthusiastic to join in with the core. It was lovely to watch Dave ‘lining out’ and acting as a go-between – it seems they have a tradition of repeating the last line on many of  the carols which needed to be communicated! I got some good feedback from people there about the project, which is always reassuring and saw loads of people I knew . Got back around midnight feeling a bit whisht!

Tom Bawcock's Eve porcession
Tom Bawcock’s Eve procession
A blurry Dave at the Dock Inn
A blurry Dave at the Dock Inn






24th Dec – Sally and I went to record Canoryon Troon in the morning in Camborne square – just brilliant! A lovely group of people, singing wonderfully and so friendly. Many of the carols were ones  I’d not heard before too, but all Cornish. The sun also shone for a moment and it felt like a great start to Christmas eve!

Canoryon Troon on Christmas Eve
Canoryon Troon on Christmas Eve

In the eve we had our own Tregajorran carols. The singers arrived at our house about 6.30pm and it was lovely to hear ‘Hark the Glad Sound’ getting louder as they entered the house – it felt like Christmas had begun! We then sang walking down the hill; the first line of Glory Glory – ‘Rolling Downwards’ seemed very appropriate, going to other’s houses and meeting with more singers until we arrived at the square – lovely! I recorded Awake Ye Nations and other carols there.

Christmas Eve, Tregajorran
Christmas Eve, Tregajorran


25th Dec – Christmas Day in the Morning! Went to Four Lanes to record the Male Voice Choir in the square. There was a good turnout of people to listen to them and it’s great that this tradition still endures. They sang several Merritt carols amongst others and finished with one composed by one of their members ‘Christmas bells’

Four Lanes choir & crowd on Christmas Morning
Four Lanes choir & crowd on Christmas Morning

26th Dec – Went to Calstock and headed for the Tamar Inn to sing and with the intention of recording Lyngham as this was where I’d first learnt it. It was lovely to return to my home town and see so many people there I knew. The singing was raucously loud and the pub really noisy too! As I walked in they were singing Lyngham but luckily they were happy to sing it again (and again!) I also recorded Jack Spurr and my dad singing together which was quite special.

Patrick & Jack
Patrick & Jack

And that was the end of our recordings until the New Year – phew!




In The Thick Of It

13th December 2016 – Off to Padstow for the carols, was a little apprehensive about going to such a local community  event . But I needn’t have worried; the singers were really friendly towards us and we were able to chat as we went from house to house. They sang in the streets and called on elderly people who joined in from their doorways – such lovely carols too! There was a big mix of men and women and children. It was lovely how the boys stood with the tenors and the girls with the sopranos, picking up the parts. A friend, Jenny, was there and I realised she was quite a mainstay for the women singers and the girls shared funny moments with her pretending to sing the bass parts!

Padstow Carollers
Padstow Carollers

17th  – Went to Picrous Eve at Luxulyan. It was good to see all our old friends from that area and others came down from East Cornwall, so we had a good mix of ages gathered round the covered pool table! We soon got going with Nick Nicholls leading some off and had a good general sing (not just carols). We recorded Glory Glory – but is it a Fowey or Golant carol?!

The old boys...
The old boys…
...and the young ones!
…and the young ones!






18th – Went to Sally’s home town, St Day, in the eve to record St Day Carol with the Carharrack & St Day Silver Band. This is a regular event for our singers .  The Daylight Choir (a newly formed St Day Choir) were singing when we got there. It was horrible weather so the band didn’t play for long but we did manage St Day with them before we all ran for shelter!

The band in the rain!
The band in the rain!

19th – Out to St Ives for their carol concert which was in the Fore Street Chapel. Squeezed between a mass of other buildings right on the habour  it seemed a wonderful location to hear these carols that are from St Ives and nearby.  I was really moved by the concert; beautiful singing with real feeling and William Thomas was lining out the verses. The sermons were quite moving too and the whole evening had a timeless quality to it. And then the whole congregation rose to sing Hellesveor …perfect!

The ladies of  the St Ives community choir getting ready to sing
The ladies of the St Ives community choir getting ready to sing

20th – Sally and I drove down on a wet dark evening to the Halzephron Inn to record the Cadgwith Singers who sing there every year – a good evening chatting to quite a few people we knew and recording some of the songs. We presented them with a Shout Kernow book which was received well and Paul Collins said they knew a St Keverne version of While Shepherds which they then sang.  Then he and his wife went into a back room with us and sang ‘What Heavenly Music’ as a duet (and another I didn’t know) Great stuff.

Cadgwith Singers

21st –  Another evening visit, this time to hear the Moushole Male Voice Choir concert at Paul Church. It was very lovely with some great singing from the choir as well as from Kath Matthew’s daughters Twin Harmony. Amazingly we sat behind a trio who’d come from St Keverne who told us all about the THREE While Shepherds from the Lizard: St Keverne, Porthallow and ‘Welshy’. Incredible stuff!

Mousehole Male Voice Choir
Mousehole Male Voice Choir

The Journey Continues…

1st December – Sally and I went to our first recording elsewhere (not Redruth!) for the carols – to Port Isaac. A long drive but worth it. It was lovely to meet new people including Janet Townsend, their MD. and they seemed really pleased we were there. It was also lovely to listen to new (to us) carols too. As it was their rehearsal night, which is in the old Temperance Hall, there was a relaxed atmosphere and we recorded 3 local carols: Angels from  the Realms, Hark the Glad Sound (not Merritt) and Love came Down at Christmas. I suddenly felt really good in the middle of recording Angel from the Realms; the excitement that we are doing the right thing!

Port Isaac singers
Port Isaac Choral at rehearsal


4th December – In the morning Sally and I went to record Pip Wright’s choir, Dawn Chorus at Tremenheere cafe near Penzance, singing Wassail the Silver Apple, written recently by Mike O’Connor. It was good to see her and others again and record such a big group, about 60 I think,  and the acoustics were great. We stayed for coffee which was lovely – most of our trips will be in the dark and cold so it was nice to sit in the sunshine!

Dawn Chorus (2)
Dawn Chorus rehearsing at Tremenheere

Then in the eve we left for Pencarrow House near Wadebridge to record the Washaway West Gallery Choir. It is an amazing Georgian house (still privately owned by the Molesworth-St Aubyn family) and we met Peter Meanwell,  the MD who has a huge knowledge of Cornish carols. The choir sang a wide range of carols from across Cornwall. Mike Brown (a sound recordist who’s volunteered to help us at some events) came to record which I was grateful for as I could sit back and take notes rather than worry about the recording quality!

Christmas tree (1)
Christmas at Pencarrow House



5th December – In the evening The Red River singers sang at Bridge Chapel again for the Carol Concert along with Tereba Nessa and Keur Heb Hanow, both choirs sing lesser known Cornish carols and also carols in Cornish. We particularly wanted a Cornish language one but there were so many good ones and leads for others that we’re not sure which to choose! Thankfully Mike Brown was on hand again and recorded the whole concert. The evening went well and we had a great sing in the pub afterwards – felt like Christmas had begun! We missed our dear friend Len Davies though – this time last year he was singing Glory Glory with us double forte. But I hope he could hear us raise the roof wherever he’s listening!

Keur Hep Hanow
Keur Heb Hanow


6th December – This was the big one for us; First & Last Carols at the Countryman Inn at Piece (so called because we sing on the first Sunday of December and then January). A full on night with wall-to-wall Cornish carols; ‘andsome!  There was a great turnout with lots of meeting up of friends and a great deal of chatting as well as singing!  A good number of my family were there – 3 generations! We sang all our carols and then our singers Keith and Jill’s family gathered and sung some more. Got home about midnight with a horse voice!Countryman carols

9th December – Sally and I had a good trip up  to Polperro to record The Polperro Fisherman’s Choir and found the Chapel easily. We were early so went to the Ship Inn with some of the singers and had a good chat with them before going to the rehearsal. I’m really happy we found a contact with them as we never got to this bit of East Cornwall for our Shout Kernow book. They sang a version of While Shepherds Watched;  Tis Christmas Time, that they’ve always sung there and Murray Collings, who’s sang with the choir for over 60 years could remember the names of other carols they sang there when they used to black up their faces (to disguise themselves) and go ‘Darkying’. The carols were called Behold and Welcome (A version of which we heard at Pencarrow – I wonder if it could be the same?) but  are not sung anymore.  It was a very special evening!

Fishermans Choir
Polperro Fishermans Choir

The Adventure Begins!

Recording Redruth Wassail at The Oxford
Recording Redruth Wassail at The Oxford

This was our first outing to record the carols around Cornwall and we had a brilliant time in Redruth on Saturday for the revival of the Redruth Wassail. We took the wassail bowl from pub to pub with a whole host of musicians and singers. The bowl will reside at the Oddfellows club for safekeeping until the following year. Thanks to all who organised it and for the goodwill of the pubs too. Here’s to many more. Meuras!

Hark! The Glad Sound of Cornish Carols

Sally and Hilary are at it again! After the success of their first book Shout Kernow, celebrating the pub songs of Cornwall they are once more planning to travel around Cornwall to all kinds of places and venues but this time their mission is to record the carols of Cornwall being sung in situ ‘where they do belong to be’. They hope to represent a variety of locations: church, chapel, pub, out on the street, people’s houses, etc. showing how our carols are embedded in the communities from which they come, selecting ones that are most popular or meaningful to the area they come from or to the people who sing them.

Here’s some of the places they’ll be visiting (nearly all in the month of December!):

Bodmin, Bolingey, Boscastle, Bridge, Bude, Calstock, FalmPencarrow Poster 2015outh, Four Lanes, Halzephron, Luxulyan, Padstow, Paul, Pencarrow, Penzance, Polperro, Pool, Port Isaac, Redruth, St Neot, St Day, St Ives, St Just, Stithians, Treen, Tregajorran, Troon,

..and some of the carols too:

Boscastle  Jack, Stratton Carol,  Can Dilly,  Bodmin Wassail, Treen While Shepherds, Lyngham, Hark The Glad Sound, Lo He Comes, Hail Sacred Day,  Awake Ye Nations, Choir Of Angels, Arise & Hail,  Pendeen While Shepherds, Hail Smiling Morn,  Newlyn While Shepherds, Sound, Sound,  Hellesveor, See The Morning, St Day,  Glory, Glory, Stithians While Shepherds,  Harky,Harky, Jesse, Rouse,Rouse, Polperro While Shepherds (Xmas Time), Holly & Ivy, What Heavenly Music, Carol Carol Christians, A Virgin Unspotted, Redruth Wassail, Wassail The Silver Apple, Lo The Eastern Sages, Calm On The Listening Ear.

As you can imagine the cost of this travelling will be quite large so to raise money for this we have produced a pack of 6 unique Cornish Christmas cards for sale at £5 (+ £1.50 P&P). Please contact Hilary at if you would like to support us and order a pack!

Hark! Christmas Card
Hark! Christmas Card

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