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Morvran members sit on a grey sofa playing the fiddle and the bouzouki.

Morvran, E.P. – a review

Morvran's new EP provides a wonderful, if not all-too-brief, guide to the traditional songs and tunes of Cornwall. Gavin McNamara roves out.

Release Date
1 April 2023
Plymouth's Morvran craft a Celtic-powered experience with just a bouzouki and violin. From ancient Cornish tunes to lively dances and ocean-inspired melodies, their EP takes listeners on a captivating jaunt in under 20 minutes. Hannah Sharp and Steve Hunt are expert tour guides in this transportive musical journey.

It’s amazing quite how transportive four tracks of beautiful instrumental music can be, really. Plymouth’s Morvran take two instruments – a bouzouki and a violin – and use them to fashion a Celtic-powered vehicle, one that’s able to convey the listeners from the bottom of the British Isles, via France, then right to the top in the twinkling of an eye. 

Both Hannah Sharp (violin) and Steve Hunt (Bouzouki) are part of the Cornish session scene; regulars in pubs, providers of music for ceilidhs, they are, clearly, used to wrestling attention from noise. She has a classical grounding; he sees the world in more folkish colours. 

‘Delkiow Sevy/Oll An Gerriow e’en Beaz’ are a pair of very old Cornish tunes. ‘Delkiow Sevy’ is reckoned, by some, to be the oldest surviving Cornish song, although the original version, collected in the 17th century, lacks a tune. The one that Morvarn give it is light, high and made for tapping toes. It also highlights the fact that Brittany is nearer to Plymouth than London is. There’s a circular melody that wouldn’t be out of place in any Bal on the Northern coast of France. It speaks of sunshine and lazy, hazy days, of fat bumblebees and plucking strawberries straight from their runners.

‘From Night ’til Morn’ is an 18-century dance tune derived from ‘Wine Cannot Cure’ and unfolds just like the day. Opening with gently plucked strings, Sharp’s violin takes a drowsy start and turns towards the rising sun. Soon Hunt’s bouzouki helps to throw arms in the air, the two of them effortlessly combining to welcome a glorious summer’s day. This is music of the golden fields, of squinting into the sunshine, of the warmest of smiles. Just as the tune starts with plucked strings, so it ends in the same way. A perfect circle.

The second set of this EP pulls together two reasonably familiar tunes. ‘Margaret’s/Scott Skinner’s Compliments to Dr MacDonald’ matches a waltz to a march and, once again, works a kind of transportive magic. ‘Margaret’s’ is otherworldly, the violin sweeping in childlike memories of the Bagpuss soundtrack, and then ‘Scott Skinner’s…’ kicks up its skirts with Scottish vigour, the violin whirling around the room. All the time Hunt’s bouzouki tethers the exuberance, steady and insistent, guiding the dancing feet.

The final tune on this, all too brief, EP is ‘Kerfunken’, named after a Brittany village and, literally, infused with the sea. Crashing waves and a solitary bird call make way for a measured, stately jig. The violin drifts lazily above the ocean, pushed and pulled by the tide while the bouzouki creates the immovable cliff edge, strong and steadfast. The feeling of being transported to a different place is complete as the waves continue to wash against the shore. 

These four tracks last slightly less than 20 minutes – not so much a journey, more a jaunt – but Sharp and Hunt prove themselves expert tour guides. 

Morvran’s E.P. was released on April 1st. It can be ordered from the duo’s Bandcamp page.