Thank you Plougasnou

by Annalise on March 21, 2010

For your charm, warmth and welcome in this fantastic 2 week experience.

It started with Debby Gamble and her welcome of us to la Creche sur 10 rue de Kerdalidic, her Gites. Her warm and inviting emails left us feeling as though we were in for a visit rather than a just a stay. It continued with the tenacity and enthusiasm of Robert the town’s Cultural Officer and then the interest of the Breton Dancing Group on our first Friday here; the invitation to play for the Breton Speaking Club on Wednesday night where Jean-Francois also entertained us with his excellent performance on the illeam pipes; Debby’s arrangement for a visit to the school on Thursday; a phone call from Louis the other know piper in town; the visits with and encouragement of local newspaper’s reporter/photographer who appeared at most of these these playing opportunities; and finally, the large crowd at Fest Noz in Plouézoc’h last evening.

In the afternoon Louis, the former manager at the local bank and a piper, called Robin to invite us to a music event. We didn’t know much more than the time and place but it was enough. Once there we learned that it was a community recital of musicians, mostly kids, on their traditional Breton instruments. There were about 30 kids on accordion from very young to teen-aged, some kids on Bombard, harp, stringed instruments and a few sets of small pipes. As the groups took turns at performing these lovely ancient melodies, everyone in attendance was of course on the dance floor. The program was well defined with a listing of playing groups, instruments and the type of dance associated with the music. Between his own performances as a master musician in the community, Louis shared a bit of his vast knowledge on the history of Breton music. By the time we had to make our way out some hours later, he was telling Robin of the merits of various types of reeds for piping and new developments in the same.

It had been suggested at one of Robin’s playing opportunities during the week that he should come out to the ‘Fest Noz‘ to play. We saw the posters announcing this spring dance event all over town. When there however, Robin heard the other performers and saw the size of the dance crowd at well over 200 people, and he began to wonder if he was up to it given the extraordinary performances; he was tired. In the end Pascal the emcee cajoled him into playing his pipes for just a short set. He played wearing his jeans and a t-shirt. Pascal introduced him as an unscheduled guest to just a short set as the purpose of a Fest Noz is dancing of course. Robin was placed in front of a microphone which he politely refused – his volume is sufficient without. He was then asked to stand in the middle of the dance floor where he played his first few tunes. Like at the school, the crowd quickly circled around and clapped in time enthusiastically, some taking photos and some dancing as they enjoyed his play. 5 minutes were up too quickly and they wanted to hear another, actually booing Pascal when he suggested they had to proceed. He was given time for one more great jig before Pascal laughingly insisted that the scheduled performers should resume. It was another high note.

The cultural environment of Brittany is something to witness – the dance night, an event held weekly in the summer, was all to live music and singing. The crowd was a mix of all ages and felt a bit like a prairie country dance with almost everyone on the dance floor almost all the time. The musical instruments were the Breton small pipes usually accompanied by Bombard – both with a strangely middle eastern sound. At times a pair of unaccompanied singers lead with their fast lyrics in sort of a vocal relay, one to the other – their endurance in these was extraordinary. One such act was performed by two of three famous brothers, both in their 80s; the region’s famous Brest brothers (the third, the eldest has only recently had to retire from the stage). They’d clearly be a significant draw for the event and how those gentlemen still sing and keep the dance alive! What a blast!

We’re danced out, piped out and warmed up, and ready for our walk. So Plougasnou, Merci Beaucoup!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Colleen March 22, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Congratulations Robin! You have inspired my day!

LeeAnne March 23, 2010 at 8:52 am

Bravo Robin! What a lovely visit you have all had – glad it was so enjoyable.

Debby Gamble March 23, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Thank-you for your lovely comments. My aim is always that my guests have the holiday they want…be it quiet and relaxing or be it wild and adventursome (is that a word?). Anyway glad it was all you had hoped.

Shirley Robertson March 24, 2010 at 5:16 am

Your walk will seem very quiet after all this entertainment. I will be thinking of all 3 of you as you make you way on the Way.

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