American composer

An extraordinary coincidence in Cornwall puts the American composer on the right track for an international festival

As the singing world prepares to descend on Cornwall for the first international ‘live’ male choir festival since the pandemic, it has emerged that an extraordinary Cornish coincidence has inspired an American composer to pen her winning entry for the this year’s event.

Kari Cruver Medina, from Seattle, was in Cornwall celebrating a previous festival win when she and her sister spotted a picture of a steam locomotive on the wall of the Rising Sun pub in Truro.

Upon closer inspection, their jaws dropped when they realized that this train – called the Town of Truro – was built by their own ancestor chief mechanical engineer George Jackson Churchward in 1903.

Read more: The Rising Sun in Truro produces the best pub food in Cornwall

The ‘Churchward Locomotive’, built for Great Western Railway (GWR) at the Swindon works, is best known and celebrated as the first British steam locomotive to exceed 100mph on a run hauling the Oceans Mail train from Plymouth at London Paddington on May 9. 1904.

George Churchward’s younger brother was the sisters’ great-grandfather, James, who emigrated to the United States in the late 19th century to establish the American branch of the family.

The coincidence tickled Kari so much that she investigated the family connection when she returned home via her aunt Frances Shirk who knew the whole story – and ultimately inspired her to write her choral arrangement Tale of a Train: The City of Truro – now the £1,000 winner of the 2022 Cornwall International Boys’ Choir Festival Composers Competition.



Truro Town Steam Train

Speaking from Seattle, Kari said: “On a poignant note, Aunt Frances, the amazing family genealogist whose George Jackson Churchward research note binder I received and to whom I dedicated the music , died recently at the age of 103.

“I’m so grateful that I was able to show her the performance before she passed. It meant to the world that her genealogy work could be continued, and it was fitting that at the end of her life she could see her efforts passed down. in such a fresh and unexpected way.

“So there you have it – the tale of a train’s story: the city of Truro, inspired by remarkable serendipity. I am also delighted that it is being sung at this magnificent festival in the city which has inspired both the train and song.

Kari’s composition, with its breathy, breathy locomotive-inspired undertones, will be performed by the specially formed choir The Truro Manse Group at the 10th biennial Cornwall International Male Choral Festival – the largest event of its kind in the world – which will take place from April 28. to May 2.

More than 50 choirs from around the world, the UK and Cornwall itself will meet for the first time ‘in person’ since 2019 after the global pandemic forced the 2021 event to take place online.

“Our wonderful festival will be a pivotal moment for choirs around the world,” said artistic director Gareth Churcher. “People can’t wait to come together again and sing their hearts out in a celebration of the men’s choral movement as it seeks to innovate and grow into the future.”



Kari Cruver Medina and his sister Lauri Cherian with photo of Truro Town Steam Locomotive
Kari Cruver Medina and his sister Lauri Cherian with photo of Truro Town Steam Locomotive

Although there is still some travel uncertainty as countries open up at different paces after Covid, international choirs plan to attend from Ivory Coast, Canada, Switzerland, Germany and – for the first time – Iceland.

The final ‘in-person’ festival in 2019 was a huge cultural and economic success for Cornwall with over 3,000 singers of all ages and nationalities performing for over 30,000 people in venues ranging from the Minack Theater to St Michael’s Mount and from Mevagissey to Bude.

This year, in addition to major concerts and competitions at Truro Cathedral, the festival is also making a welcome return to the newly restored and refurbished Cornwall Hall.

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A precursor “warm-up” to the festival will take place at Truro School on Saturday, February 12, with daytime workshops and a 5 p.m. concert focusing on barbershop and acapella singing. Details available by emailing [email protected]

Full details of the Cornwall International Male Chorus Festival 2022, including festival films and photos from previous events, can be found at www.cimcf.uk

Concert tickets can be purchased on the festival site or directly via www.hallforcornwall.org.uk

You can watch the “virtual” composer competition awards ceremony and hear the winning performances, as well as interviews with the winning composers, including Kari Cruver Medina on the festival Youtube channel.