Old Hark!

Hark! The Glad Sound of Cornish Carols – a new book for 2017

Having sung many carols popular in Cornwall over the years (starting with Lyngham as a teenager), I knew how special they were to this part of the world. I loved the canons and flourishes of the Victorian composers; the dance feel of the old ‘curls’ – ‘carol’ originally meant to ‘dance’; and the bare, plaintive harmonies of the mediaeval ones.

I began singing carols as an adult: Lyngham, then St Day and Redruth Wassail. I wanted to go carol singing and needed others to sing harmonies! So the Tregajorran Singers were formed in 1997, and I remember when we first tackled Merritt’s Hark the Glad Sound, we were so chuffed to get it up and running! Another carol we learnt was Awake Ye Nations which we got from a songbook from our Treggy Chapel, unaware that my Mum and Dad had also picked it up in Australia and were singing it in East Cornwall calling it Wakey Wakey! We now sing 25 Cornish carols but I am also aware of the many carols sitting unsung in the back of books such as Dunstan’s Cornish Song Book, Canow Kernow, and Strains of Ancient Mystery.

The Plan for this book will be similar to our previous publication, Shout Kernow which will be to travel to particular places to record the carols being sung in situ ‘where they do belong to be’, so Hellesveor in St Ives, and Rouse, Rouse in Padstow. As well as on particular occasions/events – Redruth Wassail, Bodmin Wassail, Picrous Eve, St Just Feast, etc. We also wanted to represent a variety of locations: church, chapel, pub, out on the street, people’s houses, etc. Carols are embedded in the communities. We hope to select ones that are most popular or meaningful to the area they come from or to the people who sing them.

The book will contain harmonised scores (as close as possible to what is recorded or written by the composer), two CDs of the songs sung in situ, backgrounds to the songs and composers and personal memories of the people who sing them plus pictures and photos old and new.

To help us with the costs of research we have produced a pack of 6 Cornish Christmas cards for sale at £5 (+ £1.50 P&P). Please contact Hilary at hilary-fenten@hotmail.co.uk if you would like to order a pack

Hark! Christmas Card
Hark! Christmas Card

11 thoughts on “Old Hark!

  1. I have CDs from Grass Valley, California, of their Cornish miners choir singing carols (we were there for the singing in 2013). You might be interested to see them. I can get them to you via Jenny C, my next door neighbour.


  2. An excellent project!
    If you want to relate to any Cornish carols to the Yorkshire/Derbyshire tradition, I could help. For example, Lo! the Eastern Magi Rise is sung at Coal Aston in NE Derbyshire.
    Hopefully you will distinguish between carols sung in tradition as opposed to those that only exist in MS or print.
    I look forward to the finished results.
    Ian Russell
    PS I also have many Cornish carols in my archives from a number of collections.


    1. Hi Ian, thanks very much for your comment. It would be very interesting to compare notes! Perhaps I can send you a list of carols we’ll be using and see whether there are overlaps?


      1. Yes, please do.
        Best wishes
        Ian Russell, Professor Emeritus
        The Elphinstone Institute
        University of Aberdeen
        MacRobert Building
        King’s College
        AB24 5UA
        Tel: +44 (0)1224 272386
        Website: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/elphinstone/
        Join the Friends of the Elphinstone Institute and help support our public events, research and study initiatives
        The dates and venue of the next North Atlantic Fiddle Convention are 11-15 July 2018, Aberdeen.
        The University of Aberdeen is a charity registered in Scotland, No SC013683.


  3. Getting far more excited in advance than is appropriate for a chap of my age. We have a couple of Grass Valley ‘Cornish miners choir’ LPs from late 1950s or early 1960s as well as a book of Cornish carol’s published in South Australia in early 20th century in addition to any local material Sue may have. Great project, nothing makes me feel I am where I belong to more than being able to sing the carols I love in company.


    1. Hi Freddy – there is no one central for Cornish carol dates. Every area does it’s own thing! But here are our dates around Redruth and you can contact me on my email hilary-fenten@hotmail.co.uk. Cheers Hilary
      Saturday 24th – 6:30pm 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 – 4pm, Carols 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, http://www.trurocathedral.org.uk/whats-on/carols-from-the-cornish-diaspora
      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.U


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