Friday night in Plougasnou

by Annalise on March 13, 2010

la Creche We’ve enjoyed this past week of relative quiet. Robin is catching up on school work, David and I reading, running and planning for the upcoming big walk, and, all of us doing some local sight seeing from the comfort of ‘la Creche’ – a small cabin we’re in. The French country side in Brittany is, well, ‘post-card’. It is gorgeous just as you’d imagine it: rolling countryside with farmland separated by hedges and trees, old villages about every 3-7 kilometers each with its original narrow-laned centres and some still with their grand old churches; cafes, creperies and patiseries on every block, old stone buildings with their tall chimneys atop white washed sidewalls, windy beaches and very friendly people. Both Dave and I noted that when we’ve gone out for our runs, the locals inevitably yell out words of encouragement… well, we think it is encouragement. Our French remains rusty. Robin jokingly asked if they were yelling “Courez, grosse course d’homme!” We’re definitely at a disadvantage!

the Creche
Over the week we’ve also been busy trying to get Robin connecting with pipers in the region. Brittany is known for its celtic culture and we read that there are over 5000 pipers in this part of France though they seem a bit illusive. Perhaps it is too common and so the locals can’t imagine a boy from Canada coming here specifically to top up on piping experiences while we travel. We asked at tourism offices about the bagadou (local bagpipe bands) and received some contact information there. We’d also heard from our hostess that there is a Tuesday morning market in the town where Robin might want to play but that we should maybe check with the tourism office. And so back we went. It was a bit of a comical progression of inquiries from there. From the tourism office to town office to the town’s Chief of Police (but we understood they liked the pipes!) who felt he was not the right authority, to ultimately, the town’s Cultural Officer. Yup, their Cultural Officer! It is a volunteer position but nonetheless.

Dave and Robin went to meet Robert (please pronounce with the appropriate accent) in his office and he felt the market was not a good idea; the vendors preferring a quiet, tranquil environment for their customers. He visited with the guys for a bit and then took our local cell# promising he’d be in touch. Not even an hour later he called Robin to invite him to play at that evening’s Britton Dancing Practice. Not something he’d ever done before but why not! So last night, with Robin in kilt and kit, we all set out for the Plougasnou Community Centre where we had a very fun Friday night.

Robin’s pipe repertoire is predominantly march tunes with just a few jigs, slow airs and other time signatures that might work for dance. Undaunted, he introduced himself (and us, the embarrassingly unilingual) and listened as the leader of this group of mostly middle-aged country dancers described the type of pieces they were after. They demonstrated a few of their dances, performed mostly in a moving circle and to recorded music of pipes and accordion. The steps were quick and the group clearly knew what they were doing. As I emailed to Robin’s piping instructor in Canada, Robin said he’d cringe to hear what Robin had done to some of the usual tunes to help make them more dance-able but the dancers were delighted by his playing and efforts. They continued to work with him through the evening to find timings that would work for many more of their dance steps. After only the first few rounds, they had pulled me in to the fray, one gentleman cautioning me to keep the steps subtle as the dancing lasted for 3 hours! I did the best I could… By the end of the evening even David was in the dance circle. It was such fun!
Britton Dancers
So now there is talk of a performance at a club next week sometime, Robin’s invited to play at the local school on Thursday and he was encouraged to play at an open market tomorrow morning in the larger, neighboring town. Apparently the bank manager in town also pipes so one of the dancers from last night promised to introduce the two so they can get together. And tomorrow afternoon we’re off to Ploumeur to watch a Grade II Bagadou competition. Robin and I saw a band from Brittany when we were in Scotland with the Ogden Legion Pipe Band a couple of years ago. It will be great to see their unique costumes again as well as hear their very energetic form of piping.

That’s what we came for!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

carla March 14, 2010 at 4:56 am

looks like they do things differently there.. here we have square dancing..there it’s in the round… Good job Robin for fitting in!!!

Shirley Robertson March 24, 2010 at 4:59 am

Sounds fabulous. That is a part of France I have not been to but now I am intrigued.

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