Thursday, July 25, 2013

Festival de Cornouaille

I spent two days in Quimper this week, at the fantastic Festival de Cornouaille. I watched a few bands on the outdoor stages, followed a marching bagad, saw the Breton dance classes for children and adults, learnt how the local dentelle biscuits are made and went to a conference on costumes from Pays Bigouden, an area close to my heart.

The highlight was the Barzaz concert in the theatre last night, for which I had a precious ticket. This seminal group (with the best chanteur in Brittany, Yann-Fanch Kemener) had enormous success in the late 80s/early 90s and recorded two albums before splitting up. This year they have reunited for a 25th anniversary series of concerts. I've only ever heard them on disc before but they are truly scintillating on stage, such depth of musicianship and the compelling voice of Kemener always driving the gwerziou. This is not world sound, not Celtic fusion, not fuzzy folk - this is Breton music in a pure tradition.
After the concert, I walked back through the centre at nearly midnight, head fizzing with excitement. But what struck me was the good order that still holds in Brittany. This is a huge festival and no-one was drunk or loud, the streets were calm, and cheerful goodnights came from all I passed. In Place St-Corentin there were still a few hundred people of all ages dancing in the round to the rhythm set by a pair of sonneurs on the stage. Everyone was happy. Such is life here.

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