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Match Day Music at The Pirates

Posted: April 26, 2018
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During March, I recorded an hour with Coast FM on the subject of ‘Match Day Music at The Pirates’. My draft notes read as below, whilst to listen to the hour please simply link to: https://yadi.sk/d/euDviOMU3U2Afq

This is Phil Westren from the Cornish Pirates, once again not with my regular weekly update, but for an hour with a difference, concentrating on the theme of ‘Match Day Music at The Pirates’.

To start this hour we must rightly go back to the Pirates of Penzance & Newlyn RFC’s historic first ever game, played at the Mennaye Field against Guy’s Hospital, the then leading Hospital Cup winners, on Saturday the 22nd September, 1945.

It was a memorable day, a new club having been formed, not without some reservations, by the union of two keen rivals, Newlyn and Penzance, who were about to play at a new ground, with a new name, and with strong ambitions.

The weather was fine, with the crowd of 3,000 gathered early to enjoy the civic preliminaries, including the official opening by the Mayor of Penzance, Alderman R. Thomas.

Barrie Bennetts, an England international in 1909 who had played for Penzance, kicked the game off, with a ball that had been autographed by players who had opposed each other in the Scotland versus England ‘Calcutta Cup’ match played in 1939.

Now, listeners might ask what was the music played that day? – well, the choices are not known, however what we do know is that it was Penzance Silver Band who had paraded from the railway station to the ground on the day – and a popular piece of band music, at the time often played, was likely ‘The Cossack’, composed by William Rimmer.
The Cossack…….

Over the years the Pirates Supporters Club played an important role, and in its infancy provided so much to help the Pirates progress, including in 1947-48 the installation of what was termed a ‘Public Address Unit’. The innovation was considered an undoubted success and it was also confirmed at the time that ‘The Policeman’s Song’ from the Gilbert & Sullivan opera, the ‘Pirates of Penzance’, would herald the entry of the team onto the field for all matches………. Well, I don’t know how long that lasted for, however, I feel confident to say that it wouldn’t quite work today!

Either way, it’s certainly worth a listen and, in the context of this music hour, is clearly a must play!
The Policeman’s Song……

My early memories from nearly 60 years ago recall that it was band music that was generally played, and in 1962 the Pirates Supporters Club built their own small hut in the old ‘Western National’ corner of the ground. Leading members of the time included a former teacher of mine at the Humphry Davy Grammar School, the hugely respected Ben Batten, and there were other stalwarts such as the Wolfe brothers, Arthur Thomas, Garfield Edwards, who was our family’s milkman – and Harold Carr.

Over time several individuals did the PA announcing and played music, which is a role that I have undertaken for the past 30 odd years.

Initially based in the Supporters Hut, I would soon move to work from a new smaller, but actually more convenient one, at the Penzance end of the main grandstand. It had been for many years a hut from where our volunteer ladies sold refreshments.

As our crowds grew, especially into the 1990s, a wider choice of music was introduced, and at the infancy of a new Millennium one of our players, Welshman Steve Evans, suggested that I should also play try snips – just for those scored by our team – which was given the ‘green light for go’ after our CEO Martin Scrase agreed the purchase of a mini-disc recorder.

Liaison was also had with Saracens to check the format they used, which revealed that they also played music snips after successful kicks at goal – we have never done this – and when a player is sin-binned, which we have occasionally, playing ‘Bye Bye Love’ or ‘Go Now’.

So, it’s time perhaps for another piece of music – and a good opportunity to go with ‘Go Now’ by the Moody Blues. Formed in Birmingham in 1964, the groups other major hits included ‘Nights in White Satin’.

Playing ‘Go Now’ is also timely, as in December it was confirmed that The Moody Blues would this year be inducted into the Rock & Roll ‘Hall of Fame’ this year. Frontman Justin Hayward has also lived in St. Ives and was a friend of former Pirates player and official, and Moody Blues Fan Club member, the late Dave ‘Bezzy’ Berryman.

Go Now………………

We had previously played music just before the game, but now introduced chosen music when the teams ran out on the field just before kick-off. ‘Nowhere To Run’ and ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come’ were choices for the visitors (all in fun! – but not used nowadays) whilst we ran out to the immensely popular ‘Sandstorm’ by Darude, as we still do today. Suggestions have been made at time times to change it, but such comment has quickly been slammed down! Are you ready for kick-off? We are ready to rollllllllllll – Here it is….

Sandstorm…………

Many will remember that the try snips in particular created a right old furore. Indeed, over a period of several weeks the ‘Letters’ pages in ‘The Cornishman’ saw us accused of playing this ‘awful music’, of ‘introducing Americanisms’, and of ‘diluting Cornishness and importing alien cultures!’ Hey, everyone has a right to an opinion but most ‘complaints’ were actually made by people who weren’t even supporters!

A benefit was that all of this provided extra free publicity, and ‘The Cornishman’ eventually decided to send a special reporter along to a match, to gauge opinion. Their Max Channon certainly picked the right game, as in a cakewalk for the Pirates we won 76-24 against Clifton on the 16th March 2002. We actually scored 11 tries in the match, so the celebratory music was played thick and fast, including on three occasions the ‘Rocky Theme Song’ – when winger Richard ‘Rocky’ Newton scored a hat-trick. Another popular try-snip, as many are by ‘Queen’ is ‘It’s a Kind of Magic’ – which works perfectly when present day squad member Marlen ‘Magic’ Walker scores

‘It’s a Kind of Magic…………

It is impossible to suit everyone, however by this time the ‘Pop Music’ debate at the Pirates had been drawn out long enough, and there was no doubt that in general the music we played was given a thumbs up, with supporters saying that it added to the atmosphere and made everyone happier, which can’t be bad!

My final paragraph from a letter I wrote to ‘The Cornishman’ said: “To finish, we know that many people never like change or things new but having closely supported the Pirates and Cornwall for 40 years (now nearly 60!) it is my firm belief that what we have at present creates just about the right balance.” In my mind little has changed since.

Before continuing, I must also mention the support given me by Mikes Uren and Richards. When our first mini-disc player system was introduced, it was me only about, when from my viewing point I had to run quickly around to the PA Hut when a try was scored, to then follow with the name of the scorer. It created a little pressure, but somehow still worked – I don’t know how!

Having volunteers Mike & Mike give their support, as they did also at Kenwyn and at Camborne, led to us incorporating a mini-disc player system that has been so much easier to work.

Over the years we have hosted the occasional county game, and Cornwall KO Cup finals, plus we have played international matches against Spain in 1974 and Fiji in 1998, whilst an extra special weekend was back in April 2000 when we proudly hosted two 16 Group internationals for England A versus Wales A, and England versus Wales. Taking place on a Friday and Saturday, they were occasions when national anthems had to be played – ‘God Save the Queen’ for England – and the always stirring Welsh National Anthem which on this occasion I wouldn’t dare endeavour to pronounce! I can’t speak for the majority, however whenever I’ve been to watch England play Wales at Twickenham or Cardiff, it is singing of the Welsh anthem only that raises the hairs on the back of my neck. Perhaps it’s a Celtic thing!

‘Welsh National Anthem – ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’………….

Yes, what a stirring selection it is, as is the case with my next piece of music.

The Pirates have for many years supported The Royal British Legion, and at a home match near to or on Remembrance Sunday we have so often played Edward Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’ which is so very moving.

Elgar composed the Enigma Variations between October 1898 and February 1899. It is an orchestral work comprising fourteen variations on an original theme. ‘Nimrod’ is always played at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday and an adaptation of the piece appears at the ending on the 2017 film ‘Dunkirk’ as part of the score.

‘Nimrod’…………….

We also of course play a ‘Happy Birthday’ snip of music at virtually all of our games, to express birthday wishes to named supporters, and in the last week of December ‘Old Lang Syne’. Mentioning early try snips, many will remember ‘Our Zimbabwe’ also being played when our former Zimbabwean international Victor Olonga scored a try, as he so often did!

Other Pirates-associated brief music pieces include ‘Hoist up the Pirates Sail’ ……let’s have a quick listen.

‘Hoist Up the Pirates Sail’………………….

And next there is a very brief piece that always lifts the tone, ‘Give us a P’ (Give us an I, Give us an AARRGH!). It even draws chuckles from visiting supporters and players.

‘Give Us a P’…………………………………

Now, the rest of this hour will play some of the general favourites blasted out over the tannoy system in recent years, starting with ‘Every Breath You Take’ by English rock band ‘The Police’. Written by Sting, the single was the biggest US and UK hit of 1983, and despite being 35 years old it is still timeless.

‘Every Breath You Take’’……………………..

Often, before the start of each season, choices of music to play at our home games is given consideration, with players and coaches consulted. A favourite introduced a few years ago by our then Kiwi ‘High Performance Manager’, Chris Stirling, was our next piece to listen to, it is ‘Conquest of Paradise’ – by Vangelis.

‘Conquest of Paradise’……………………….

In total, we have well over 100 recordings available on mini discs to play, some having to be a little quieter to play well before kick-off. One song that is certainly lower key but is also always popular is Paul Simon’s ‘Diamonds on The Soles of Her Shoes’ – from his 1986 ‘Graceland’ Album, the song features guest vocals from the South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

‘Diamonds on The Soles of Her Shoes’…………………………………

Mentioning player choices, theirs are often of a higher tempo to play when they come onto the field to warm up. An good example is ‘Pompeii’ – by English indie rock band ‘Bastille’. Not all choices are liked by supporters, but few could surely complain about this number which reached No. 2 in the UK Charts back in 2014.

‘Pompeii’……………………………………….

Picking three to finish is not easy, however because we are Pirates another must play is
‘Yo Ho’ (A Pirates Life for Me) – which is the theme song for the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions at Disney theme parks. Its origins are, apparently, loosely derived from Robert Louis Stevenson’s sea-shanty ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ found in his 1881 novel Treasure Island. The upbeat version we play is by Jonas Brothers.

‘Yo Ho’ – A Pirates Life for Me’………………..

Because we are fortunate to have the popular Cadgwith Singers support us on match days, led by former Falmouth & Cornwall player Dave Muirhead and Mike Nunn, the match day entertainment concludes in the marquee after every home game, with everyone joining in with their rendition of ‘‘South Australia’. It is a sea shanty, and as an original worksong it was sung in a variety of trades, including being used by the wool and later the wheat traders who worked the clipper ships between Australia and Britain.

‘South Australia’…………………………………

And, finally, two immensely popular songs to finish with are both Graham Hart’s – firstly his upbeat version of ‘Trelawny’ and then a song that is always played after the final whistle of every game – ‘This One’s for The Boys’. Thanks for listening everyone, I hope you’ve enjoyed the hour, from me, Phil Westren.

‘Trelawny’………………

‘This One’s for the Boys’……………………………………

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