Brittany is a land steeped in culture, history, and earthy rhythms. Ferns, flowers and green forests with ivy-covered trees enveloped us as we cycled along the towpath of the canal on the Nantes to Brest route across Brittany.
We cycled into Pontivy for the harp competition and en route I listened to Alan Stivell on my iPod—the perfect soundtrack for my introduction to this magical and majestic land.
It was in Brittany that I was struck by how much the land, people, history and traditional music are so intertwined. Breton music has an earthy rhythm and sound that seems to come straight from the earth. As a child in Minnesota, I never felt connected to the Scandinavian, German or popular American folk songs. If I were raised in a country with strong cultural ties to that land that I shared, it wouldn’t have taken me so long to find my voice and the Celtic and Jewish music that I love.
The Concours Dasson an Delenn (“resonance of the harp”) 2015 lever harp competition was held on the 23rd and 24th of May at the new Conservatory of Music and Dance in Pontivy. The town of Pontivy has been a driving force behind the revival of Breton culture and a perfect location for a competition to promote Breton harp music. The Conservatory had plenty of practice rooms, a concert hall, rooms to display harps and easy parking. Camac had a room filled to the brim with harps and many of the students chose to use harps provided by Camac. There was a featured display of the new carbon fiber/ wooden hybrid model, Ulysse as you walked in the door. I will buy one. It is
just a matter of when and how. The lightness and durability of carbon fiber combined with the tone from a wooden sounding board. Yes! The touring harp of the future. Bravo Camac!
The competition was divided into 4 groups by age with the highest level up to age 21. The majority of the kids were in the younger categories and accompanied by proud and supportive parents. The winners were announced after each category and presented with certificates and prizes, which kept the excitement alive during the weekend. On Sunday evening the first-place winners gave a short performance and there was a reception with local Pontivy VIPs. To read more of the details, visit Camac’s blog for the 23rd and 25th of May http://www.harpblog.infohttp://www.harpblog.info
It was an honor to be one of the five judges. Three of the others were
professional harpists who perform and teach Breton music. The president of the jury, Lisardo Lombardia organizes one of the largest Celtic music festivals in Europe, the Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival. I was the wildcard. Although I have performed and judged Celtic music, I am not a Breton player. My rusty French came in handy, but I wish I had been a better French student in school!
Camac Harps treated the judges and professional harpists to gourmet
dinners across the street from the Château des Rohan (local castle). I can still close my eyes and taste the caramel. Spending time away from the harp and getting to know other professional harpists and musicians is invaluable. I have some new friends in the Breton harp world. I downloaded Clotilde Trouillaud’s beautiful CD into my iPod. I look forward to listing to the music of Gregory Cappoen and Tristan Le Govic. Thank you Jakez for treating us all as VIPs!
I will be seeing Jakez Francois and Tristan soon at the Somerset Folk Harp Festival in New Jersey. It is truly a small harp world.