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!

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