PhD Research

Cornish Carols: Heritage in California and South Australia

Kate’s PhD was based at Cardiff University’s School of Music with co-supervision at the Institute of Cornish Studies at the University of Exeter. The project was supported by the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, thousands of Cornish families left Cornwall to work in the colonies and new worlds, resulting in the establishment of ‘little Cornwalls’ in America, Africa and Australasia in addition to elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Existing scholarship has shown that these ‘little Cornwalls’ retained many cultural characteristics and practices from home. Through examining musics of Cornish migrant communities, her project documented Christmas carolling traditions of Cornish diaspora in Grass Valley and California, examining how the performance of carol repertoire and the heritage narratives associated with them developed and evolved from their appearance in the 19th century towards contemporary practice.

The research involved several international research trips, including two visits to Kernewek Lowender (South Australia’s biannual Cornish festival),  singing with Grass Valley Cornish Carol Choir at Cornish Christmas, and a five month fellowship at the Library of Congress. Kate employed a range of methods to approach the study, developing historical ethnography from archival sources, musical manuscripts and historical newspaper reports, while developing richly textured thick descriptions of contemporary practice through extended fieldwork, interviews with tradition bearers and participant observation.


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