As played at Rescorla Session
As played at Benbow Cornish Music Session Penzance
Audio file: Bodmin Riding played by Lowender Peran Festival Band for North Cornwall Furry, Oct 1987
In 1927 the Recorder of Bodmin Old Cornwall Society, W.J.P. Burton, described the events of Bodmin Riding sixty years earlier and his commitment “I should be sorry if the old tune, which is a most exhilarating air , became lost, and I have kept it in my own memory by playing it once a month for more than fifty years.”
Bodmin Riding is one of the oldest recorded traditions in Cornwall and when it was revived in 1974 local historian Pat Munn, was able to provide a timeline from Parish Church accounts in 1469 through to W. J .P. Burtons recollections of the 19th century. Like all feast day customs it has taken many different forms with many different emphasises but the essential elements are a procession, a furry dance, a mock court, a parish feast and a riding ale.
The tune is not identified by name until the nineteenth century, but Cornish musicologist Mike O’Connor points out that when the custom was revived after the commonwealth it reportedly involved a procession with music and drums which may indicate when the tune was introduced. The tune appears as Captain Brown’s March in a manuscript collection dated 1770 but this gives no indication of origins.The Bodmin Riding tune is used for the North Cornwall Furry Dance and is sometimes referred to as “North Cornwall Furry”.
In St Ives the tune is known as the “St Ives Well Procession” and is used to accompany the dancers and procession that leads from the Guild Hall to St Ia’s Well on Feast Monday in February. John Barber, St Ives Poet and Cornish Bard, penned a verse to fit the tune in 1976. The author was invited accompany the St Ives Guizers when they visited Truro in 1975 and this was also the tune that they used on that occasion.
The Bodmin Play with its mock court went through a number of transformations after the 1974 revival and in 2004 was reconfigured to become the trial of the Beast of Bodmin. Will Coleman and Clive Little collaborated on the production of the play which included creating lyrics for the tune which introduce the principle characters: the “Beast” which represents Cornwall; the “Helliers” (hunters), the young people of Bodmin who chase and capture the “Beast”; and the “Ragadaziow” (forefathers) who try the Beast.
“Bodmin Riding”, Old Cornwall, (St Ives, Federation of Old Cornwall Societies,1927), Vol.1, No.6, p.35.
Pat Munn. Bodmin Riding and other similar Celtic Traditions, (Bodmin, Bodmin Books Ltd, 1975).
Mike O’Connor. Ilow Kernow – Music in Cornish Culture”, Fifth Edition, (Wadebridge, Lyngham House, 2009), p.81.
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