Bretons & Co. in Concert

What: An Arts on Q Production
When: Thursday, May 8, 2003
Where: Veteran's Hall
60 Main Street
Cooperstown, NY
How Much: $15 / $12 seniors

If you travel as far west in France as you can, you will reach a peninsula just across the sea from Ireland, Wales and Cornwall. You've arrived in Brittany -- Bretagne in French, and Breizh in the Breton language, a Celtic language related to Welsh, Manx, Cornish, Scottish and Irish Gaelic. Despite strong pressures from Paris for cultural standardization in France, this Celtic region has never abandoned its incredibly rich tradition while adapting all the tools of a modern technology.

The music of Brittany is unique, and features unusual instrumentation. Some of the instruments you will hear in this concert are the veuze, bagpipes from upper-Brittany; bombarde; recorders; rustic clarinet; gaita, bagpipes from Galicia, Spain; mandocello; fiddle and diatonic accordion. The tunes have irregular time signatures and unusual melodic lines, though they are still traditional and pleasing to the ear.

In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the traditional music of Brittany. Breton music today, while preserving basic forms and melodies, has also borrowed from the musical styles and instruments of other cultures, primarily Irish and Scottish. There is a great affinity between Breton musicians and those from other Celtic regions, and they have each sought to explore musical adventure on each other's shores. Many of the instruments used in Breton music hail from the medieval and Renaissance periods. The biniou kozh is a simple double-reed bagpipe with a goat skin bag specific to Brittany. The biniou is most commonly paired with a bombard, the Breton version of the shawm, which is a precursor to the oboe. The bombarde, also a double-reed wind instrument, is has a very strident sound, its name being a rather descriptive allusion to its tonal quality. The biniou and bombard have been used for centuries to accompany dances in Brittany. Breton dances and weddings often had several hundred participants, so it became necessary to design instruments that could be heard above the noise of the dancing. Since the biniou, the smallest of all bagpipes, could not be made any louder, they made it very shrill, so that its sound would carry.

Bretons & Company was founded by Alain Leroux, who sings, plays fiddle and mandocello, and is the primary composer with the band. Alain co-founded Ad Vielle que Pourra, a legendary band playing Breton & French country-folk music on the North-American folk scene during the late 80's and the 90's. Born in Nantes, Brittany, Alain started his Breton music career in Europe in the late 60's and has been playing with many different groups for four decades.

Hervé Connan also sings and plays the biniou, bombarde, diatonic accordion. Hervé was born in Tregor area of Brittany. During the late 40's and early 50's Hervé Connan studied the two traditional Breton instruments (biniou and bombard) and the techniques of singing in Breton language. During this time, there were few teachers still practicing because Breton music & culture were nearly extinguished. Hervé emigrated to Canada, and has been musical director of Triskell, the Montreal-based Breton folk dance troupe, for thirty years.

Born in Qu=E9bec, Gilles Plante sings and plays the veuze, bombarde, recorders, rustic clarinet, and gaita. Gilles is renowned as a specialist and collector of odd and ancient wind instruments in Canada. Founder and leader of the thirty year old Renaissance music band Ensemble Claude Gervaise, he has also been playing traditional music from Brittany and other parts of France for many years. He was also a member of Ad Vielle que Pourra.

For more information and/or reservations, contact Sandra Bernegger at 315.858.1434

(Sandra Bernegger)

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