I spent last week in France, at a folk music festival in Brittany (physicists have a life too). Originally a piping festival, the annual Festival Interceltique de Lorient is probably the largest celtic music festival in the world, with parades, concerts and performances from pipe bands, music groups, dance troupes from all the great celtic nations.
Le grand defile, Dimanche
The sheer scale of the celtic world could be seen from the number of delegations – from Asturias (Spain), Galicia (Spain), Brittany (France), Cornwall (England), Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Acadia (Canada), Australia and the Isle of Man. There were concerts every day in the afternoons and evenings, not to mention the Nuit Magiques, chereographed performances on a giant scale in the local football stadium – some say the Lorient Nuit Magiques were the inspiration for Riverdance.
Some the most enjoyabe events were the smaller gigs in venues representing each celtic nation, from virtuoso Acadian violinist Dominique Dupuy to the local Fest-Noz (you can get a flavour of the Dupuy gigs on youtube here).
Dominique Dupuy in action with her band in the Acadien tent
On top of all this, there were sessions in some of the local pubs, with Irish, Bretons and others swapping tunes into the early hours (where yours truly comes in). The sessions were a treat for any musician, with tunes in Quay St orThe galway Inn, not to mention monster sessions with performers fresh from their gigs at the Pub Glen late into the night. This was the best part for me, as I enjoy playing music with musicians from slightly different traditions. I think folk music has an edge over other types of music when it comes to this sort of jamming – and if there is one thing better than a lively Irish session, it’s a session where there is a mix of cultures and traditions. Also, it’s very moving to hear a tune/song you’ve known your whole life played in a more minor, modal key – an older, deeper version that makes your version seem like a pale modern echo. (It’s less moving if some idiot is playing it on the bombard at 10 o’clock in the morning).
Fast tunes and sad songs with Brian Comb in Quay St
Yours truly has the last tune in the Pub Glen.Thanks to Gerard for the photos -you can see the full collection here
Early on in the week, a few of us were lucky to have a quiet afternoon session with some French Canadian musicians. It was only later we realised they were members of distinguished Acadien band Ode a l’Acadie. Sadly, accordion player Isobel Thierault seriously injured her foot the very next evening so didn’t see much of them for the rest of the week, although they gave a great concert at the Grand Theatre. You can find out more from the Ode a l’Acadie website and download clips of the band
Ode a l’Acadie
Overall, this is a great international music festival – a feeling of an inheritance that is shared, yet different. I’m constantly amazed at the sheer diversity of European culture and its effect on the world…there’s a nice discussion of this on the festival website.
What a great week…and nobody mentioned the problem of the cosmological constant once.