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Kernewek Lowender 2017

Kernewek Lowender 2017 – A Review

In the early stages of planning for Kernewek Lowender 2017, it became apparent that some hard decisions had to be made, as sponsorship money promised in 2015 was not delivered. The impact of the decisions made will be discussed at some length, as part of the review of the 2017 event.

There was also concern at the dates given in all the publicity; 18th – 21st May were dates advertised, and events happening on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were listed as ‘Prelude events’, and not mentioned until a few pages into the programme booklet. (There have been concerns expressed at how it can be called a ‘Cornish festival’, when most of the events concentrating on the Cornish heritage have become ‘prelude events – quite apart from the impact on bookings when it is not clear just when events will be starting.)

The decision to only have online bookings (with no ‘over-the-counter’ ticket sales) has also been criticised, as many people who are regular attendees don’t have computers.

However, the overall festival seems to have gone quite well, and left many people happy; while there were rumours that this was ‘the last Lowender’, many people are quite determined that that won’t happen!

It was good to be able to renew friendships with our Cornish cousins from Victoria, New South Wales, and Western Australia; their effort to be with us is always much appreciated.

It was also good to see Kate Neale again; her third visit to Australia in 3 years, as she nears completion of her PhD on Cornish music of the diaspora.

Dressing the Graves for the first time had two ceremonies on Tuesday and two on Wednesday, instead of trying to fit three into one day. Tuesday morning was at Greens Plains, led by Rev. June Ladner, and was followed by lunch in Paskeville. Jan Lokan and Ros Paterson both had family members honoured in this ceremony. Noel Carthew carried our Association banner on high (in all four ceremonies) as a marker to be followed around the cemeteries – despite comments of possibly ‘doing a Mary Poppins’ in the strong breeze!

Tuesday afternoon was in Wallaroo cemetery, led by Ross Argent, and with the Kadina Wallaroo and Moonta Band playing.

Wednesday morning was Kadina’s turn, led by Trevor Briggs, and the Grand Bard arrived in time to attend Lilian James’ Cornish language classes on Wednesday morning and the Dressing the Graves funeral procession, and ceremony, in Moonta Cemetery.

Once again, we were pleased that local schoolchildren were able to be involved in these ceremonies – writing the citations, preparing the floral tributes, or singing at the gravesides.

There was some amusement at one citation, which quoted from a newspaper obituary, which stated that the deceased had “fallen down dead, and never moved or spoke after he had fallen.”

Wednesday evening there was an informal dinner to meet the Grand Bard in a relaxed atmosphere, without any stress on the (possibly jet-lagged) visitors.

Our Seminar was held on Thursday, in the Wallaroo Town Hall. The theme of Cornish music was quite different from past Seminars, and possibly helped distract attention from the cold – though knee-rugs were available if needed!

A quartet, from our Association choir, provided some examples of different styles of music sung by our Cornish forebears in Ballarat, and in the Moonta area.

Quartet: Margaret Johnson, Jan Lokan. Noel Carthew, John Mayfield.

After a welcome by President Carlene Woolcock, and opening by our friend Paul Thomas (Mayor, District Council of the Copper Coast), the first keynote speaker was Kate Neale, “Sweet songs of the old home: Cornish carols in South Australia.” This was followed by Matt Curnow’s presentation of a paper prepared by Graham Bartle OAM (who was unable to travel from Victoria due to ill-health) “A Cornish corner in Mt Pleasant, Ballarat”, which included the quartet singing of Mt Pleasant carols – both traditional and of Mr Bartle’s arrangement.

After morning tea, the Grand Bard, Dr Merv Davey gave a keynote address “Folk song, dance and identity in Cornwall”, which included material on Cornish bagpipes through history, and playing of tunes on two different types of Cornish bagpipes – which proved of considerable interest. (His wife, Alison, had a display of bal-maiden’s bonnets, which also attracted interest.)

This was followed by Robynne Sanderson, speaking on ‘The Cornish influence on music in Broken Hill”, and Robyn Coates on “Alfred Rowell, influential musician.

After lunch, June Ladner gave a paper on “Heart and soul: Music at the Moonta Mines Methodist Church”, which included the quartet singing some of the old hymns, including “Fidler Jim” Richards’ tune ‘Rapture’ which was sung at many funerals – and June also utilised Daryl Parker at the keyboard to remind us of Sunday School days of “standing up” music, “quiet time” music, “Hear the pennies dropping”, and ‘Going home” music (and stretching our legs by standing up and sitting down on cue helped maintain our attention, and provided some light-heartedness!)

This was followed by Graham Sobey’s ‘History of brass bands on the Copper Coast.”

After a short break, Noel Carthew spoke on “Cornish composers and performers” – with some thoughts on whether this should include only Cornish-born people, or those who have moved elsewhere, or those born elsewhere and moved to Cornwall, or those of Cornish descent but living outside Cornwall (eg Jim Wearne in Chicago!)

In John Brimson’s absence (again, through ill-health), Jan Lokan then presented his paper on “Local Cornish and their choirs: Cornish connections of South Australia’s Metropolitan Male Choir”, and Philip Payton gave a concise summing up of the day’s proceedings.

Friday 19th was in Moonta, with the fair in the Square and events such as maypole dancing and children dancing the ‘Furry Dance” in the main street; the usual parade down the main street (with the Cornish group led by the Grand Bard), and the official opening by Premier Jay Weatherill (who is also of Cornish descent).

Friday evening was, as usual, ‘Meet the Cornish’ pasty tea and concert. The concert was led by our Association choir, and included Adelaide composer Fiona Karamanlidis’ recent song “The Bells of St Buryan”, for which Fiona had added harmonies especially for our choir. The choir’s songs were interspersed by Merv Davey’s bagpipes – once again, creating much interest.

In what seems to be fast becoming a tradition, the ‘Three Janners’ (Ralph Thomas, Terry Johnson and Noel Carthew) presented Harry Glasson’s song “Harry’s song for Cornwall”, with audience joining the chorus – much in the style of a Cornish ‘shout’.


Colin Roberts and his brother Kevin presented a couple of songs, with their guitars, and then led the community singing, before the choir returned for ‘Trelawny” to finish the evening’s programme.

Saturday 20th was in Kadina, with another fair, and events along the main street, including the Furry Dance (where the dancers included Merv & Alison Davey, and Noel Carthew and Carlene Woolcock).

The Gathering the Bards was in Wallaroo at 2.30 pm, led by the Grand Bard. It was pleasing to see a larger crowd than usual to watch this ceremony. Once again we were pleased to have Leisl Warner playing her harp for the ceremony – despite the day being her birthday, and having travelled from Adelaide for the rehearsal Thursday afternoon, and again for the ceremony on Saturday. Her involvement is much appreciated; she has been playing for the bardic ceremonies in South Australia since she was 14 – some 35 years now!

Sunday morning saw the ‘Blessing the Waters’ on the waterfront at Wallaroo, with the local ‘Sing Australia’ choir and Daryl Parker at the electronic keyboard. This was followed once again by the ‘Aussie breakfast’, and the cavalcade of cars.

In the afternoon there was the usual Heritage Church service in Moonta Mines Church, preceded by June Ladner’s leading of ‘community hymn singing’, with Daryl Parker on the pipe organ, and with items by the Metropolitan Male Choir.

In the evening, we had our usual ‘wind-down’ dinner, as a chance to thank those who had helped us during the week, and bid farewell to friends as we headed our separate ways home. The efforts of the Wallaroo Sports Club staff were appreciated.