A source for Cornish music publications


Hark The Glad Sound

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

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.

Pray Open Your Door…

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

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!




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!

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