Helston Flora Day May 8th

“I thought I heard the curious tone, of the cornet clarinet and big trombone…”

Let’s dance and sing our way through Helston Flora Day, usually held on (or occasionally) around May 8th, cancelled this year due to Covid-19. This wonderful ancient colourful Cornish festival goes back a long way, and may have started off as a ritual to welcome in Spring, following the dark Winter months. Some say the name ‘flora’ comes from an Celtic word ‘feur’ meaning ‘festival’

Dancing through the streets…!

Helston comes alive with a day long festival of dances, brass bands and pageant depicting Helston’s history called ‘Hal-an-Tow’. I was fortunate to be invited to take part several years ago dancing with a dear friend of mine, Russell Pascoe, and clearly nothing could have prepared me for the magic of the whole day.

Helston Flora Day has set processional dances held throughout the day from 07.00 in the morning until early evening, for adults and as well as special childrens’ dance. Couples swirl and turn in colourful clothes as the brass band accompanies them with the Furry Dance (rhymes with ‘hurry’), played many times over! Have a listen to this iconic music.

The music on Flora Day is always provided by the Helston Town Band who play from memory. It’s been suggested that a Cornish poet and folklorist called Margaret Ann Courtney, from Penzance, wrote the tune that was sometimes sung with these words by the local children. Can you fit this rhyme to the tune above?

“John the Bone was walking home , when he met with Sally Dover. He kissed her once he kissed her twice and kissed her three times over.”

In 1911, a British singer and composer called Katie Moss, visited the Helston Flora Day and took part in the dancing, having a marvellous time. On the train home that evening she wrote words and music of a song all about her experience that same day, and called the song, The Floral Dance. Here is a recording of the chorus that song. Can you hear any similarities to the tune of The Furry Dance??

For schools…Activities to do at home!

  • Can you create your own processional dance like the Flora Day dance? Keep the steps simple just in case you might need to dance it several times over through the streets of Helston!”
  • Can you create your own lyrics to the tune of The Furry Dance? Have another look at the John Bone rhyme for ideas.
  • Can you create your own accompaniment to fit the melody of The Furry Dance so that it sounds like a tune that the brass band might play? Why not make some instruments of your own out of junk or recycling items?
  • Can you design your own outfit to wear on Flora Day?

Cornish Anthems

We are so lucky here in Cornwall as we have such an abundance and variety of our own local songs, known to us here but perhaps not as well known outside the county. These songs are steeped in history, usually linked with specific feasts and festivals or places and have often been sung for many many years by people here in Cornwall.

The beautiful Roseland

Today I thought we would focus on one type of song called an ‘anthem’. An anthem is a rousing or very uplifting song that is associated with a particular country, or team or group. It is a musical form of identification!

The Cornish anthem we are going to look at is called ‘Trelawney‘. Have a listen to the song here below. The song is not sung ‘in full’ as it contains three verses and a chorus.

Activities Trelawney

Pulse and Beat V Rhythm

Pulse or Beat

When we sing, play or listen to music there is always a steady ‘heartbeat’. We feel this ‘heartbeat’ when we tap our feet to a piece as we listen.

  1. Can you! Chant the lyrics of the Trelawney chorus whole you tap your feet and step in time.

The chorus has a very steady ‘heartbeat’. This is called the pulse or the beat.

Can you! Bounce a ball to mark the ‘heartbeat’ of the chorus. How many times will you bounce the ball in the chorus? (answer 8) Can you sing the words out loud only when you bounce the ball and for the rest sing them in your heard (internalising)

2. Heartbeat Song. Chant the words of the ‘Heartbeat Song’ in the two grids below. March to the pulse or beat as you go!

Heartbeat Song

Can you! March in time to the pulse or beat but only say out loud the word in the first box on each line. Say the remaining words in your head.


  1. Can you! Say out loud the lyrics of the Trelawney chorus and clap so that the words and the clapping are exactly at same time? We are clapping the Rhythm. Rhythm is a pattern of short and long sounds that match the syllables of the words.
  2. Can you! March the heartbeat or pulse and at the same time clap the rhythm of the words of the chorus?

3. Let’s now focus on the rhythm of the chorus of Trelawney and use the rhythm of the words to compose a short repeating pattern to accompany our singing. Here is a new word to learn that describes a repeating pattern: Ostinato

An ‘ostinato’ is a repeating pattern found in music. An ‘ostinato’ can be rhythmic or melodic. Let’s compose a rhythmic ‘ostinato’.

Looking at the Trelawney chorus, are there any phrases that ‘stand out’ for you? For me, this one does here below, let’s clap the rhythm:

4. Can you! Clap the rhythm of the words above as an ‘ostinato’ pattern while singing the chorus?

5. Can you! Create your own ostinato rhythm pattern by using other rhythms found in the Trelawney chorus, or in the verse?

St Mawes castle

6. Can you! Compose your own ‘marching song’ using ideas from Trelawney and add a rhythmic ostinato to accompany your song?