MOUSEHOLE is a magnet and a mecca at Christmas. Thousands pack the ancient fishing village and harbourside for the gorgeous annual decorative lights and the lively Tom Bawcock's Eve celebrations. The singing of carols and traditional Cornish choruses is heard long into the night.
The crowds come by coach from throughout the county to enjoy the spectacle and also to remember quietly the bravery of those lifeboatmen of the Solomon Browne who gave their lives in their rescue bid that fateful hurricane night.
At the centre of much of the music-making is the famed male voice choir, now established for well over a century and currently singing with some 70 voices to be the largest - and probably busiest - in the Duchy.
Their Christmas concert at nearby Paul parish church on Monday (Dec 22) was a 'sell-out' for hundreds before the first carol was sung. Crowds love to hear the familiar melodies and the choir presented a full flavour of new festive songs, readings and messages as well as revelling in the 'carols for all'.
The choir is enjoying a peak under conductor Stephen Lawry with accompanist Annette Turton - their concert diary for the next couple of years is evidence of this current success.
Behind them is the Albert Hall spectacular - and ahead in the New Year is participation in the international choir festival throughout the Duchy of 2015, with planning well advanced. Mousehole have included a Worcester tour in the past year.
Christmas is a special time for them.
The concert was in aid of Paul church and Mousehole Methodist Church, two buildings in which they regularly rehearse. The guests were twins Jenna and Morwenna Matthews, whose family has been associated with the choir for generations. They have built a great reputation with their concerts and recordings for good causes.
Their latest CD 'As Long as We Have Music' is for the Robert Johns Leukaemia Fund - based at Week St Mary - aid of leukemia research at Derrford and the Royal Marsden hospitals for which they have already raised £4,000.
Their earlier CD of songs 'Twin Harmony' also proved a big hit, raising £6,000 for the Little Harbour childrens hospice. They have sung at 26 concerts through Cornwall and Devon in 2014 and have 11 already arranged for the coming year.
They have a 'sixth sense' of mutual support and rapport in their rhythms and melodies, sweet, sincere and wonderfully appealing. There mother Catherine on keyboard and father John - a member of the choir - on hand-drum - completed the scene with Jenna also adding solo and obligato on the flute. Their 'O Holy Night' brought an ovation from a delighted audience and their contributions also included a charming 'Love Shone Down' by Piercy, 'Still, Still, Still' by Evans and the ever-popular classics 'Silent Night' and 'Away in a Manger'. The family live at Heamoor near Penzance. John also joined the twins and members of 'Bucca's Four' for the contrasting medieval carol 'Rejoice with Heart and Voice.'
Musical director Stephen made special arrangements of many of the choir's carols which ranged from the 'Seraphic Minstrels' and 'Holy Voices' by local composer Ninnis to the lively spiritual 'My Lord He is A-Coming Soon' and the American 'Like a Candle Flame'. There was something for everyone including the old Cornish setting of 'Star of Bethlehem' arranged by former Mousehole conductor Maddern Williams. The soloist in 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' was Colin Trevorrow.
Members of choirs in Cornwall, from Truro to Nankersey, and a 'regular' at these Christmas concerts from Exeter, also enjoyed it all as did two stalwart long-serving senior Mousehole members and brothers Dennis and Peter Mitchell, now in the audience.
There were readings by Stephen and choir members Mick Madden, Jon Pender, Kevin Wild and Bill Edwards. Choir chairman Charles Law thanked all who had assisted, including organist John Harry, and presentation were made by hon. secretary Tim James.
There was a blessing by the choir president, Revd Julyan Drew.