I spent last week in Brittany, France at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, the largest celtic music festival in the world. The festival was as good as ever, with parades, concerts and performances from pipe bands, music groups and dance troupes from all the great celtic nations.
Le grand defile interceltique
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.
- Nuit magique at the Stade Moustoir
Best of all were the sessions in some of the local pubs, with Irish, Bretons and others swapping tunes into the early hours (this is where 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.
Fast tunes and sad songs with Brian Coombe in Quay St
In the thick of it in the Pub Glen.
This year I was asked to do a short solo gig, in a beautiful old mill by the river. It was really good fun to do, and the practice I had to do left me on top form for the sessions. Nothing quite like sitting in a session with friends new and old when it suddenly goes supernova. Not to mention the wired social life when the musicians finally down their instruments…
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