Man owns 800 records and tapes made in or about Cornwall

Cornwall’s charity shops have proved to be an invaluable treasure trove for one Cornishman, who has created a fascinating collection of 800 records and cassettes celebrating music made in or about the county.

Chris Trevena, from Penzance, has spent the past few years scouring every nook and cranny of shops across Kernow – from Redruth to Polperro – for oft-forgotten musical gems by Cornish musicians or anything with a Kernewek link. The result is a resource, Sounds Like Cornwall, which celebrates every genre of music from the dawn of shellac, through vinyl and tape.

If you want to listen to brass bands, male voice choirs, singer-songwriters, rock bands, electronic artists… anything with a Cornish flavour, then Chris is your man and he’s making every attempt to digitise it all so everyone can enjoy his extensive collection online.

Chris told CornwallLive: “It all started with the album 1,000 Cornish Male Voices at the Royal Albert Hall with Camborne Town Band. It was recorded on November 5, 1983. The was a huge, momentous event – perhaps more so in hindsight. There were over 30 male voice choirs with celebrity vocalists such as Wendy Eathorne and Alan Opie. About 700 blokes got on a privately rented train from Penzance to London. They rehearsed, sung for over two hours, got the train back home, rest Sunday, went back to work Monday.

“I’m from Camborne and to know that Camborne Town Band played on one of the most prestigious stages in the entire world was a revelation to me. All the profits from the recording went to the purchase of a body scanner at Treliske hospital. That’s a story that I’ve found consistent with male voice choirs and brass bands – the two genres of music which are most affiliated with Cornwall – they sing for the benefit and investment in their own communities and communities abroad. It’s a mantra that is very strong in Cornwall even after 40 years when this record was made and it continues to inspire me.”

man owns 800 records and tapes made in or about cornwall

Chris Trevena pictured at his home in Penzance, where he has ‘Sounds Like Cornwall’ – a huge archive celebrating Cornish vinyl and cassettes from the 20th Century.

Looking through Chris’ collection is spellbinding, whether you’re a huge music lover or a proud son or daughter of Cornwall; it goes back as far as a 1912 recording of an Australian singer called Richard Dawson performing the Flora Dance on shellac, the precursor to vinyl.

Modern-day records include Jonny3snareS, an electronic artist, celebrated Welsh/Cornish musician Gwenno, and bands such as Mildred Maude, The Golden Dregs and Tinnedfruit.

There is something for everyone. Bunk Dogger is an intriguing album from the late 1970s by a band which featured legendary Cornish musician Al Hodge. The provocative sleeve by famed design group Hipgnosis (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin) wouldn’t be allowed today and, indeed, it was banned then thanks to the one and only Mary Whitehouse.

Keltia Rok is a much sought after compilation of acts from the Celtic nations, while the exquisitely named The Hole In The Harper’s Head, from 1982, is an album by Bucca, a band featuring the celebrated Davey family of Cornish folk fame.

Chris has found an album featuring psychedelic rock bands from Cornwall (with a picture of Roche ROCK on the cover just to get the message home) and even a rarity featuring President George W Bush’s 2002 ‘Axis of Evil’ speech cut and edited alphabetically by Cornish-born conceptual artist Lenka Clayton.

If you want to listen to an album of Cornish mechanical instruments, a 7″ single featuring comedy writer and actress Morwenna Banks singing White Horses or a little girl from the Clay Country called Beverley Bunt who released a single on His Master’s Voice (HMV) in 1959 called Me and My Teddy Bear then Chris is your man.

man owns 800 records and tapes made in or about cornwall

Chris Trevena pictured at his home in Penzance, where he has ‘Sounds Like Cornwall’ – a huge archive celebrating Cornish vinyl and cassettes from the 20th Century.

He explained: “If it’s inspired by Cornwall from afar, if it’s written in Cornwall or recorded, say, at Sawmills studio, or just by people living here like contemporary artists such as Kelsey Michael in Penzance, then I collect it.

“This is a resource for people in Cornwall to enjoy, or Cousin Jacks and Jennys, or people with an interest in the music of Cornwall. If they really like a male voice ladies’ choir then this is the place to be, or if you like lots of punk this is the place to be, or if you like Hammond organ jazz then this is the place to be – as far as I’ve seen so far, it’s every genre under the sun all created here or at least inspired by Cornwall.”

Chris added: “These records are predominantly coming from charity chops. It’s amazing they still put them out as I’ve heard a lot of this stuff goes into landfill, which hurts a bit. It’s an attempt to ensure that everything made here or inspired by Cornwall is digitised. It’s a resource for people to learn more abut the culture, traditions, Kernewek language and so much more.”

You can listen to digitised versions of the collection on the YouTube channel Sounds Like Cornwall, while Sounds Like Cornwall Today, is another YouTube channel which celebrates modern Cornish music.

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