Philip Knight Uncovers Omdowl Morek, His Cornish Language Album.

Plus: Newgrange by Tina Negus and Corrina Hewat CDs

We have Philip Knight on board this week as he explains his reasons for creating a Cornish language album. I also attached an ‘artwork’ I did to further support the importance of such musical release. We have a great wealth of musical talents from Cornwall.  You will know more about it as you read further. It was fun catching up with Phil. He’s been in Spain lately bringing us the Spanish sunshine and giving us a glimpse of what’s in  his own and Cornish music in general.

•  Omdowl Morek is an album composed of melodic songs all in Cornish. How long did it take you to complete the album?

The album is the culmination of over thirty years of writing and performing songs in Kernewek. It’s a selection of the best of my own compositions, a combination of contemporary music and folk. I aimed to blend lyrics carrying traditional folk themes with those with a personal and modern flavour. Since the album comprises contemporary themes, I wanted to update my treatment to avoid a dated sound and be sure that the songs were suitable for the 21st Century. The whole process of adapting to these constraints and recording them took the equivalent of a month of concentrated recording of my vocal and instrumental work. The arrangements took a further three months of careful editing, special effects and production.

•  I like the crisp production that your son Paul Knight-Malciak has achieved. I understand he also arranged, engineered, mixed and mastered this album. How was the working experience with him?

As Paul is my son, he has a knowledge and insight regarding my love of Kernewek, my style of material and my musical aims. In view of his acumen, I was flattered that he had long pressed me to make a high-quality album. He has had ample experience with a top-flight band of both making music, arranging it and recording it and has worked with several leading technicians and producers. As a result I was more than confident in his abilities to direct, arrange and offer me advice. We trusted each other’s abilities and our working relationship was surprisingly civilized! Paul spent a further three months finalizing the results of my recordings, consulting with me once he had a draft album at the ready. We never once fell out during the process and I hope this shows in the finished product of which I am extremely proud.

•  All of the songs in this album are in Cornish but there is a corresponding translation to English in every song. It must have been a challenge putting everything in detail on the liner notes.

The difficulty in making an album purely in Cornish was that my potential listenership was bound to be limited as it’s a lesser-used Celtic language. With the lyrics playing such an important part in my songs, I wanted them accessible to as many as possible. Thanks to MAGA (the Cornish Language Partnership), I was able to provide an accompanying booklet in parallel translation, Cornish alongside English. Unfortunately, any such lyrics booklet proved too bulky to include in the CD. I was advised that outlets would be likely to place the album with a separate lyrics booklet in literature sections rather than music. MAGA helped me overcome this by creating a webpage where the lyrics could be accessed, whilst they also have available hard copies for distribution. I owe a debt of great thanks to them for that and their part in helping me to make the album.

•  How is Cornish music different from Irish or Scottish music in terms of melody and delivery?

Well, every language has its own lilt, cadence and rhythm and such is the case with Kernewek. It all comes down to the position of the stress, the type of the consonants and the length of vowels. In general, Cornish words are stressed on the penultimate syllable (e.g. Kernewek ). Often the most important part of a Cornish sentence tends to be placed first but there it also has great variety and subtlety of meaning according to the word order. These facts tend to dictate the way Cornish music sounds, particularly if we are talking about traditional, folk music. I suggest that Irish and Scottish music have their own distinct qualities for this reason but, in view of the many grammatical structures inherent in all Celtic languages, there are also many similarities. All the same, my own music is an attempt to bring a contemporary sound to Kernewek as a modern yet authentic, revived language. I have paid close attention to its non-English pronunciation but I hope the melodies will appeal also to English-speaking ears. The melodies of my self-penned English songs definitely have a totally different quality from my Cornish ones and only one of the songs on this album could also be sung in English (Track 5 – Karoryon Porthgwarra). In spite of that, Paul feels this is his favourite track, maybe because it is the least English-sounding, and a quirky, though folksy, tune.

• is selling your recording. I understand it also represents the best in Cornish music.

I have nothing but praise for Kesson (Harmony) as an excellent portal for all Cornish music, whether in English or Cornish. Its creator, Kit Davey, himself one of an accomplished Cornish family of active musicians and Cornish speakers, offers a professional outlet but does not seek to run the site purely on a commercial basis but rather to promote all Cornish musicians and music. He makes Cornish artists’ material available on a non-profit-making basis and, according to their requirements, offers albums as CDs or as downloads or both. Perhaps, readers might find the answer to the last question re Cornish music by trying a few samples on the Kesson website.

. Are you planning to tour your music?

I have no plans as such. The whole purpose in making this album ‘Omdowl

Philip: This was a beat group I sang and played the single-manual organ with (I’d have looked silly sitting on a tree, holding my organ!) back in about 1969-72. They were called the Velvet Touch and were Devon Pop Poll Champions.

Morek’ was to record to the best of all my creative powers with the help of my son Paul ‘s technical know-how a handful of my Cornish language songs. I have been a very active musician pretty well all my life since my teens in a wide variety of music, whether as a drummer, organist, guitarist vocalist. I have been folk singer, played in rock bands and beat groups, sung in a male voice choir, taught music to primary school kids, played in Country Dance bands. In a Cornish language capacity, I have been performing since the early eighties. With this album, I didn’t want my music in this vein to die and felt that, in some humble way, that it would be of benefit to the Cornish language world if it were to be there for all to be able to hear and access, and make their own. It is important for a revived language to be “sexy” so that young people want to take it up so it was important that the sound should appeal across age groups and, I hope, have a timeless quality. Otherwise there is always the risk that the language will become moribund and confined to traditional folk modes. It would not be to my liking to do a karaoke job of singing my songs to backing tracks though I obviously have these. I would need a band to reproduce the songs on stage as I might like. In the studio, I could form instrumentation as full as a whole band and, where vocals are concerned, multi-track my voice or even be a male voice choir as I was on the last track ‘Spyrys Agan Tir’.

. What are your major musical plans for this year?

Given funding, ideally I’d like to record a further ten or twelve songs that I’ve written in Cornish but, more than anything, I’d love to record a polished, updated, digital version of a song that I wrote for the Pan Celtic Festival in Galway, 1991, and which won Kernow first prize in the Pan Celtic Song Contest of that year. It was called ‘Deus Y’n Rag, Dolli’ (Come on, Dolly!) and was an attempt to create a Cornish language equivalent of ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, whereby I hoped to resurrect the language with a rocking appeal to Dolly Pentreath to come alive again. She was the then-supposed, last-recorded native speaker of Kernewek in about 1770, and she berated an English philologist, called Daines Barrington, who was searching Cornwall for surviving Cornish speakers, in true fishwife style by calling him ‘Ty gronek hager du!’ or ‘You ugly, black toad!’.

If I can once more enlist the recording and producing expertise of my son, Paul Knight-Malciak, this will be my project, together with an upbeat ‘b-side’ ofanother of my songs, ‘Hunlev an Omsettyans’ (Nightmare of the Invasion), which recalls the reprisal raid on Dolly Pentreath’s village of Mousehole by a section of the failed Spanish Armada.

Bolonjedhow a’n gwella/Very best wishes,
Phil Knight

Well there you have folks. Another fine addition to our ever growing musical exploration. Be sure to visit kesson and if you like Phil’s new album, have a copy yourself.

1. Men Selevan (St Levan’s Stone) 00:00
2. Tamsin (Tamsin) 03:35
3. Maria Wynn a Gernow (Blessed Mary of Cornwall) 06:46
4. Dhe Vlamya yw Hi (She is to Blame) 10:43
5. Karoryon Porthgwartha (The Lovers of Porthgwarra) 13:49
6. Dehwelyans an Marner (The Sailor’s Return) 18:50
7. Myrgh an Mor (Daughter of the Sea) 22:59
8. Kyns ty dhe vos (Before You Go) 26:56
9. Spyrys agan Tir (The Spirit of our Land) 31:14

For bilingual lyrics and more information about the artist, go to…

All songs written and performed by Philip Knight

Produced, arranged, engineered, mixed and mastered by Paul Knight-Malciak

Recording generously funded by MAGA

To purchase the CD album, mp3s, and lyrics booklet go to


Today in pictures: Newgrange by Tina Negus watercolour/ink/pastel/waxed crayon 2007.

I love mixed media. This is an amazing painter by Tina Negus. My friend Paula brought this to my attention. We both love nice pictures and I found this heart warming. The colors are really vibrant and it is very Celtic. More interpretation can be found here:


What’s Playing: Corrina Hewat


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