We watched The Greatest Showman recently, a last treat of the festive season. Fabulous!
“People come to my show for the pleasure of being hoodwinked” says Hugh Jackman as showman Phineas Taylor Barnum in the film.
We went to see Scrooge at Leicester Curve at Christmas. Again, fabulous. I recall tweeting afterward, ‘if one could only suspend disbelief forever…’ 

Loe Bar, Porthleven Cornwall,

I wonder – Suspend disbelief, that life’s not just all a construct?
I wonder – Hoodwinked into thinking it’s all worth it?

The Showman’s songs go;
” ’cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colours fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake”
“But I won’t let them break me down to dust
…For we are glorious”

Listening to some BBC Radio 3 Desert Island Discs recently a few people commented on the need for ‘structure’ in their lives.
One of Miranda Hart’s desert island choices was an old hymn from her memories of school, to her it resonated ‘structure’. Kirsty Young joked with her about a new motto for life: ‘relax within a structure’.
Dame Judi Dench talked about disliking having to ‘split the atom’ and break through the proscenium arch. For Dame Judi, it seems the performance of a character is one thing, but she hates making a real-life one-person personal speech. Directors have spoken about her ‘almost unbelievable ability to switch in and out of character’. Choice… “Acting, should be done” she says.
Einstein is quoted to have said: “One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries… of the marvellous structure of reality…. Never lose a holy curiosity.”

One can see that without some element of faith in some structure in our lives, much of it might crumble, fail to grow, and cease to breathe.


The December season for many is a time where we break routines, pause work, and enjoy other activities. It’s a time for entertaining dreams. We celebrate stories from the past – old narratives – a time where the hoary-headed might be especially respected. We entertain fantasy and myth. We suspend disbelief and perhaps we’re hoodwinked.

This holiday season I have beem entranced by a few paralell worlds. The absence of a familiar habitual structured daily routine has invited me to wonder into films, stories, paperback novels and the theatre. From Dickens to Mariani, Moana to Skywalker, Paddington Bear to P.T.Barnum…

It the words of Tom Jenkins Thank you very much  – A joy-filled thanks for the death of the squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous people in our worlds.

And in the words of Maui You’re welcome!”.  “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust

You don’t need much suspended-disbelief to feel that perhaps it’s not hoodwink behind the lights, it’s song!

In the incandescent enrapturing songs of Hugh, Keala, and team…

From now on…” {must see video}

This is me…” {must see video}


“I saw the sun begin to dim, And felt that winter wind…  When the glitter fades…  These eyes will not be blinded by the lights…  A man learns who is there for him… From now on… this is me!”


Colourful spirit…

PICT4574The colour of things… The spirit of things…

My life, and I assume yours, is coloured and recoloured daily…

Sometimes the colours and pigments that stir and dawb the surface of our lives make a confused mess.  Sometimes the views can be kept in-check, geometry maintained, balance and harmony constructed.  More often for me an abstraction and uncrafted disjunctive perspective dominates.

Like an ongoing painting, our spirits are momentarily and daily reworked in various ways…

As I sat earlier eating my Thai Sweet Chicken McCoys and my Shippam’s crab paste ‘n’ salad sandwiches (with the kids home-grown cress), I was reminded of the above: we are a product of our senses.  Our spirit is a product and reaction to our encounters.  We make decisions and assumptions based on a cumulative effect of our experiences, but essentially it’s down to our reception of our world.

Back to my sandwich;  Shippam’s in Newlyn closed in 1980s – my crab sandwich reminds me of Newlyn in Cornwall.  Despite now living as far from the sea as is possible in the UK, I regularly see birds, or the sky, and truthfully imagine that the Cornish ‘North Cliffs’ and Godreavy are but a mile away.  I would die if I couldn’t recall this ‘spirit’ from Cornwall.  Despite knowing we are essentially alone in this world, among other things ‘the spirits of life’ are one thing that keeps me from unraveling.

All things come to an end but spirit can be strong.

Simple strong base layers…

My Cornish childhood spent a stone’s throw from the vast ocean will never leave me and is always present. I guess we all have things that we cherish that are essential parts of our make up.

Recent news about the RNMDSF building in Newlyn Cornwall ‘up for sale’ reminded me of times when, as a small lad, we would go to a Sunday evening ‘service’ at the said Fishermen’s Mission and one song amongst others springs to mind.
I recall a large smoky room, fishermen’s shadows in corners, a snooker table taller than me and plaques, awards and a sense of refuge. I recall songs about anchors, safe-return, loss, toil and light. The sound of my grandmother and the colour and spirit of this song, might fade but will always be present:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one…

Yes, there are many other tunes that have coloured my outlook, by The Jam, Tchaikovsky, The Hothouse Flowers and Nina Simone etc.  They all lie under the surface of my life’s painting, under the colours that are mixed up daily.

I value greatly the underlying colours that underpin my perspectives.

I value foundational spirits in a picture that’s made up of many levels of encounter.

I am pleased that it’s still being creatively worked on daily.

Yes, the colours often blur and run…

But I think the colours we live with, the spirit/s that keep us truly alive, should be shared.

Here’s to the reality of spirit; to flavours, colours, images, sounds, thoughts and feelings…

Less fabrication, polish, and plastic. Less catalogued lifestyle, less click and collect culture.

Were you there when the sun refused to shine? (Were you there?)
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
O-o-o-oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!…

Here’s to more recognition of our “spirit” ?


Sweet Nightingale

It’s St. Piran’s Day on Wednesday, as well as the start of a period of reflection for many people before the festival of Easter and various celebrations of Spring.

I recently found myself transfixed by some birdsong, which caused me to recall this Cornish ditty from my childhood. I can’t place from specifically where I remember this – I guess music is like that, it’s absorbed…

Sweet Nightingale:

Coincidentally, I proposed to my wife on St Piran’s Day in 2003 at Low Bar near Porthleven (my father’s home-town).

We recorded the birdsong on this track in May 2013 at Cribbs Meadow in Rutland

Here are some more Cornish dittys:

Happy St Piran’s day to all Cousin Jacks!


Camborne Hill

As a youngster I heard this song sung many times in many places. As a teenager I lived on, nay on and at the top of, Camborne ‘ill.

Camborne man Richard Trevithick built the world’s first full-scale working railway steam locomotive. On 21 February 1804 Trevithick’s invention was part of the first steam locomotive-hauled railway journey along the tramway of the Penydarren Ironworks, in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.

OK the song’s an old chestnut, but here ’tis (in a fashion) for posterity:

And a few more, I am no musician but the sentiment’s there I hope:

“Shining down on Sennen” Song written by Mike O’Connor

“Cornish lads” Song written by Roger Bryant



…back to school…

This week I went back to primary school.

A few dozen members from the choirs Global Harmony and Woven Chords, along with our MD Liz, were privileged to be invited to the Sacred Heart Catholic Voluntary Academy in Leicester. The aim was to share songs from around the world and share the experience of singing expressively and in multiple parts.

What an experience and a privilege. I tweeted during the day “What a FANTASTIC buzz!”  I found the 400 children’s response to the choir’s performance in the morning assembly astonishing. Rarely do adults show such truthful wonder and enjoyment. Our organised, expressive, layered compositions were possibly usurped by the honest enthusiastic pleasure that the children expressed in return – what a BUZZ!

I joined Tina and Frances to share with a class of 5 year-olds.  The experience of ‘showing’ young children forms of singing and making noises with the voice was enlightening. Such enthusiasm and willingness to create, priceless moments.

At one point I tweeted “Energy needs application, discipline and observation…”. For me personally; I was reminded at one point that expression and communication needs form, structure and discipline if it is to have a place in a organised community.  Tweet “Hence community is important… Easier said than done?”

Tweet “What an experience, singing with a Leicester primary school #talkaboutenergy!”

I think the day was thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by many! It’s hard to put a finger a single thing to take from the day because it was rich in emotion, ideas, and honesty.

Some raw recordings (from a phone in my pocket)…

Chaotic kids pre-muster: gathered in the hall…

Many thanks to fellow choir members Tina and Frances for their enthusiastic planning and support!

A classroom rehearsal: “One Morning Soon / Angels” a traditional American gospel song

A classroom rehearsal #toocute “Oo a lay lay” This is a traditional echo song from Polynesia

A final performance: “One Morning Soon / Angels” a traditional American gospel song

Check some other classes’ songs here:

Great day!


Sans Day Carol

The Sans Day Carol or St Day Carol is a traditional Cornish carol from the village of St Day in the mining area near Redruth.
I’m a Camborne boy but as many Camborne boys did (those that didn’t aim as high as Truro) spent a deal of teenaged time in the Redruth area. Ah… happy daze.  Never did a Christmas pass without hearing this tune, among other Cornish chestnuts, being sung somewhere.
Not that I know much about it, but the original Cornish words for this song fell from use. A renewed interest in the Cornish language has seen the cornish words somewhat revived.

Rather like the Holly ‘something’ lives on…
Going through the annual stages of the berry’s colours? Birth “white as the milk”, energetically vibrantly “green as the grass”, humanly physically “blood-red” and deeply deadly “black as the coal”…

What is ‘it’ I wonder, much more than a jingly crimbly festive cheer…

Long live the holly!

Now the holly bears a berry as white as the milk, And Mary bore Jesus all wrapped up in silk.

And Mary bore Jesus, a saviour for to be,  And the first tree in the greenwood it was the holly
Holly, holly,  And the first tree in the greenwood it was the holly

Now the holly bears a berry as green as the grass, And Mary she bore Jesus who died on a cross.

Now the holly bears a berry as blood it is red, And Mary bore Jesus who rose? from the dead.

Now the holly bears a berry as black as the coal, And Mary bore Jesus who died for us all.

Cornish chorus: forgive my ignorance but it’s sumt’ like this  

Ha Mam o an Maghteth, Marya Mam Dew,  Ha gwedhen an gwella, an gelynen yu
Kelyn, Kelyn,  Ha gwedhen an gwella an gelynen yu.


Bad Weather and Glorious Views – (some foughts)

PICT2126I’ve always had cause to reconsider my experience of growing up in Cornwall – you can take the boy out of the county but not the county out of the boy etc… yadda yadda.

I have always failed to summarise this essential attitude that seems to pervade much of the Cornish being – previously, the best I could come up with is a curious ‘contentedness’ with their meagre lot. A brash humility, not necessarily humble contentment, but a brackish contentedness… a rough softness… a sugary saffron bun on a salty sea wall.

The steam engine and 3000 foot shafts were Cornish…
At sea, the most dangerous civilian job in the UK was Cornish…
The lichen and moss (soft silky) that coats many a granite outcrop is “Cornish”…
Causley’s Tim Winters was/is essentially Cornish…

Cornwall is the the second poorest place in the UK. It’s a place of contrasts: with expensive yachts and luxury second homes for Tarquin and Jessica’s summer sojourn, a place of union-jack shorts, Carlsberg nites, plastic buckets and chicken nuggets for Vince and Pat. It’s a place of community eating and religious feasting. It’s a place of craft and art as well as back-of-a-lorry markets. It was a place of place of warm chapels and cold pews. It was my home. It has a deep rich if damp past and an unknown future. Fantastic weather and a harsh climate.

Moving on from ‘contentedness’, I have recently reconsidered the notion of ‘reverence’.

In her book “An Altar in the World”, Barbara Brown Taylor, quotes Paul Woofruff “To forget that you are only human… to think you can act like a god – this is the opposite of reverence” Reverence – a virtue that keeps people from trying to act like gods. Barbara says “While most of us live in a culture that reveres money, reveres power, reveres education and religion, Woodruff argues that true reverence cannot be for anything that human beings can make or manage by ourselves. By definition, he says, reverence is the recognition of something greater than the self – something that is beyond human creation or control, that transcends full human understanding.”

My recollection of the Cornish world-scape recalls a sustaining reverence. The land sea and sky are so much bigger, the engineering and raw-material trades are harsh, the summer sun burns harder and brighter than man’s endeavour.

The Cornish love of music is another essential quality that I have always lived with.
Moving ‘up to England’ and losing touch with a ‘contented reverence’, I similarly found that a love of real music can be lost in the manufactured world that we find ourselves consumed by.
Bjork and David Attenborough recently discussed that essentially “singing is more fundamental to us than speaking”, and notions of the sublime, symmetry, transcendence, simplicity.
Musical expression is essential to human life? Live music, sound, reverberates, resounds, emotion… Song and rhythm agitate energy that can lift and stir…
Can I posit that feeling is more fundamental than thinking?…

The combination of emotional expression and an essential reverence, now there’s a thought.

Bad Weather and Glorious Views (just some foughts)


More Seasonal Sounds…

Further to the post last month: Good Old Sing 

Some great audio recordings with videos have been posted to YouTube of a few of the other songs in the concert. Well done all!

And a big thank you to Keith Tonks and Steve Johnson for compiling them!

Global Harmony is a mixed a cappella world music choir based in Melton Mowbray, UK.

If you fancy it go and join them!