Cornish Music

The Cornish National Music Archive has been launched

www.cornishnationalmusicarchive.co.uk

The collaborative effort documents and celebrates music in Cornwall

It is an online resource about music in Cornwall, featuring all kinds of music - from brass bands to choirs, pub songs to rock bands, and orchestral to pop. 

Funded by the Cornwall Heritage Trust, Gorsedh Kernow, Lowender Peran and the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, the collaborative project is the work of Cornish musicians and researchers Tony Mansell, Merv Davey, Kate Neale and Garry Tregidga, who have made the website during lockdown. 

The project stems from an archive of sheet music and old manuscripts collected by the former Cornish Music Guild, which had been housed in the Cornish Studies Library until it was rediscovered by the group and handed to Kresen Kernow. 

Merv Davey, director of Lowender Peran, said “Rediscovering the Guild’s archive was the spark that got us thinking that there ought to be somewhere that brings all types of Cornish music - and music in Cornwall - together.’

The website is freely available online for people to search and explore, and also has a section where visitors can create a profile and log in to write their own articles for publication. The creators encourage contributions on all aspects of music in Cornwall - with categories for individuals, performing groups, songs, tunes, and many more. 

What qualifies for inclusion in an archive of Cornish music? Tony Mansell, projects co-ordinator, explained ‘We’ve put our heads together and decided that the archive should be broad and diverse, rather than narrow and prescriptive. It includes music that is, or has been, popular in and special to Cornwall, impactful in Cornwall, written in Cornwall, written about Cornwall, inspired by Cornwall – covering individuals, traditions and compositions that express, reflect and celebrate Cornwall and our distinctive identity.’ He continued “For example, my specialism is brass bands, so many of my articles focus the history of these hugely important groups for communities across Cornwall.’

Kate Neale, project lead, said “We’re hopeful that people will not only enjoy exploring what’s already there, but also contribute their own entries. You could add a biography of a composer you’ve a particular interest in, write up a memory about the best gigs you’ve seen in a particular venue in Cornwall - or give an account of a musical experience, whether as an audience member or as a performer - or something else. Really, we’re hoping that the archive will be a resource for music lovers of every type, spark ideas and discussions, and record important information for posterity’. 

Garry Tregidga, co-director of the Institute for Cornish Studies at the University of Exeter, added ‘This is a wonderful opportunity to build on the fantastic work of the former Cornish Music Guild, and we hope that the archive will be useful for both amateur and professional researchers who are interested in Cornwall’s rich and diverse musical culture.’ 

The website is available at www.cornishnationalmusicarchive.co.uk and its data will eventually be handed to Kresen Kernow for safekeeping.