“Let their fortune ne’er decay…”
After the success story of The Decent Rogues, the Music is Life team were keen to explore music theatre writing and production again. Discussions began shortly after the London run of Rogues in March 2012. Inspired by personal connections with Cornwall, its history and the lure of a rousing sea-shanty, the tale of Pencoweth began to unfold. Storyline, script, song and scene-work took up most of the remainder of the year. Workshops of the new material took place in Bath with an assorted collection of the talented members of The Decent Rogues. Casting and rehearsals began in early 2013 and following major sponsorship from BMI Bath Clinic, the stage was set for previews and the world premiere in September 2013 at the legendary Rondo Theatre, Bath. Following its premiere run, Pencoweth received NODA nominations for ‘Best Musical’ and ‘Outstanding Choral Singing’. Plans were then drawn-up for a transfer to the world-famous Minack Theatre in Cornwall. On 5th May 2014 as part of a bank holiday special season the original cast of Pencoweth performed to a sell-out Minack audience receiving a standing ovation and universal acclaim. Pete Readman, who had orchestrated Rogues, was drafted in again to enlarge the score for a full orchestra. The original cast were reassembled to record the cast album, engineered at the studios of Sedge Moore, bass guitarist for the legendary Somerset cider-swillers, The Wurzels. Pencoweth was officially released for general performance in January 2017. The Music is Life story continues…
“None have prayed as hard as those who’ve gone to sea…”
Pencoweth, Cornwall. 1851. A fishing village welcomes its men safely home from the stormy winter seas. Excitement is high since there is to be a double wedding but the boys have suspicions over their fiancées constancy during their times at sea and devise an outrageous plan to prove it. What follows is a series of events that no one could have foreseen and tests not only the couples but the whole village. Pencoweth is a lavish new musical portraying passion, mistaken identity and a community’s struggle against the power of nature.
“’Tis the perfume of the ocean…”
Life in Victorian times was certainly hard but no more so than in the isolated fishing villages of Cornwall. The residents didn’t harvest the ocean for reward, they did it for survival. Of great importance were the seine fisheries. A style of fishing that, if done successfully could bring in a single catch of many thousands. The whole village would be involved – from the lonely ‘huer’ watching on the cliff tops, to the men who would leap into action at his excited cry of ‘Hevva!’ When the fish were spotted afar, the men would take to their seine and tuck boats rowing hard to the huer’s careful instructions. The whole village including the local minister would greet the returning men to the shore, ready to load up their baskets and barrows. The fish would then be taken to the salting cellars where the women would begin the ornate ritual of salting and stacking the fish, pressing them and arranging them with great skill into the hogshead barrels ready for storage or export. The smell of pilchard or ‘train’ oil would have filled the village air as blood would have drained along the streets’ gutters. The likelihood of men not returning from the sea was a daily reality and their safe homecoming was always a time of great celebration. Meanwhile daily life continued – romance, heartache, gossip, right down to the weekly Sabbath visit to the barbers ready for Church! The lives of these unsung heroes is captured beautifully in the paintings of Walter Langley, Stanhope Forbes and other artists from the ‘Newlyn School’. ‘Among the Missing’ by Langley echoes many aspects of the Pencoweth story.