Cornish carols really do

Friday 4th December, 2015 - 3:12pm


By Rodney Ward

It's November and the choir have returned to Mousehole for our Monday night practice. Thoughts turn to our two Christmas concerts at Porthleven on December 8th and the much anticipated and beloved annual Christmas Carol concert at Paul Church on December 21st. Sandwiched between the two is the switch on of Mousehole lights and Tom Bawcocks Eve. Busy, but very enjoyable times ahead for Mousehole.

But did you realise that the Cornish carols that we know, practice and sing had a very troubled history and had a real struggle to survive, but we are used to that in Cornwall! It took a lot of faith, work and no little courage by our Cornish forefathers to revive these much admired pieces of music.

Back in 1647 the celebration of Christmas had been abolished by Cromwell. The early Methodists and Puritanism continued to surpress these Christmas carols. By 1820, Cornish Carols had all but died out. Step forward in 1822 one Davies Gilbert of St. Erth. He began a revival of ancient Christmas Carols. In 1833, William Sandys, a member of the Stannary Court of Cornwall wrote some more carols.

This inspired more Methodists to realise that this carol lark was quite good fun really and singers would practice in chapels and school rooms all over Cornwall. Inspired by this new found musical expression, Cornish writers came out of the mines and the fields to write the Cornish carols that we sing today. Broad, Heath, Ninnis and best known Thomas Merritt started writing Cornish carols for four part harmony. Carol singing was revived in Cornwall and local choirs and congregations rejoiced.

In the 1970's and 80's the late Kenneth Pelmear helped to revitalise these Cornish carols. And now, in 2015,Steve Lawry and the Mousehole Choir still follow on this worthy tradition. Carols such as "Lo, He comes an Infant Stranger", "Hark the Glad Sound", "Angelic Hosts" are just some examples of wonderful Cornish carols that we sing. In concert, in the pub or on our brilliant CD..."Christmas with Mousehole"... (call 01736 361 371 or email to order copies) it means that the sound of your forefathers and our heritage is preserved for us and future generations.

And if you think that this is just another Christmas fairy tale then come and see and hear for yourself. Our annual Christmas Concert on December 21st at Paul Church will convince you that the work and dedication to the Cornish Carol by our forefathers and also by our wonderful Choir has all been worthwhile.

See you all at Christmas.

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