As I sit myself down to write this brief foreword, I ask myself can there be music more stirring than these old Cornish folk melodies? Though not Cornish myself (I confess to being born a little further up the road, in Bristol), I feel I have spent sufficient time in these 'ere parts to resonate with the sturdy brass band tradition that continues to permeate this incomparably beautiful, rugged county. One can almost detect a French 'accent' when listening to the piano music of Debussy, and likewise, speaking as a lapsed brass player, there is undoubtedly something of the Cornish twang about Trelawny when played on a cornet or euphonium. Then again, one gets a different, yet entirely convincing effect upon hearing these melodies rendered on woodwind instruments; hence, with a little gamesmanship on my part, I am pleased to see my collection of these fifteen delectable ditties come to fruition in the form of arrangements for treble clef brass instruments (in B flat and E flat), Trombone and Tuba (bass clef), Horn in F, Flute, Clarinet and Bassoon.
While many will find themselves humming the likes of Going up Camborne Hill, Lamorna or The Helston Furry Dance even before they have turned to the first page - for these are indelibly intertwined with Cornish culture – I wonder if I might draw your attention to The Cornish Squire, The Pool of Pilate and Cold Blows the Wind Today Sweetheart, which are quite simply sublime melodies, perhaps needing that extra bit of help in bringing them to mind nowadays.
In the best tradition of musical hand-me-downs, Cornish folk music works equally ideally sung and played, and only by doing so on a regular basis can such traditions hope to continue forward with vigour and authority. A legitimate way of achieving this is to revitalise the harmonic scheme of these ancient tunes and bring them up to date for a modern audience; after all, it was such an approach that fuelled the imagination of Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams in decades past, while skilfully paying homage to the underlying charm and, for want of a better word, simplicity, of the original music. But this is only a start – for without an energetic response from younger generations, Cornish folk music is destined to wither on the vine in much the same way as is happening with the Cornish dialect. So, put your instrument to your lips and proceed, not with caution, but with enthusiasm and a smile, for your great grandparents (and perhaps even their grandparents) would surely raise a glass if they could hear you doing your bit to ensure the survival of this splendid heritage.