Breton Music

Breton Music

Hey everyone,
I’m just getting into breton music at the moment. I’ve done a lot of listening to bands like Kornog and Pennou Skoulm etc. Are there any other good bands/players that I should be listening to?? Also, can anyone tell me what the Breton equivalent is of the irish jig, reel, hornpipe etc?? I’ve worked out that a Gwerz is a slow air. Does anyone know of any summer schools specialising in this type of music?? And are there any big collections of tunes, like the O’Neills in irish trad?? Any help or answers to these questions would be much appreciated!!! 🙂

Re: Breton Music

“Does anyone know of any summer schools specialising in this type of music??”

Try La Chapelle Neuve, Stage de la Musique Traditionelle.

“ Also, can anyone tell me what the Breton equivalent is of the irish jig, reel, hornpipe etc“

That’s a strange question. There are no equivalents. Gwerz is an equivalent to air only in that it is a song with free rhythm, but gwerz is a lament, and I’m not sure if all airs are. The closest you can get to a jig is cercle circassien, because it was probably (or so I heard) imported from Scotland. But it still has a different accentuation. The only equivalent I can think of is the Breton mazurka, which is the equivalent of Irish mazurka.

Do not think about Irish music when playing or analyzing Breton tunes, because you will fall into the “Lunasa trap” and play Breton dance tunes in Irishy style. Rather, go to a few fest noz and learn the dances - they are quite easy to learn and fun to dance. Cost ar c’hoad is a bit more difficult, plinn requires a bit of stamina, but an dro, hanter dro and ronde de St. Vincent are dead easy, and so are many others. After a few such bouts you will have a good understanding of the pulse.

“Are there any other good bands/players that I should be listening to?? “
There’s plenty, both in more traditional approach and more “reworked” styles. Judging by your selection, I’d add the following:

Startijenn (currently en vogue)
Hudel (they did just one CD, but it’s worth listening)
Hamon Martin Quintet
other stuff by Mathieu and Erwan Hamon
other stuff by Jannick Martin
Jacky Molard
Jean-Michel Veillon
Jean-Luc Thomas
Sylvain Barou
Le Jossec / Quemener duo

and many many others

Happy hunting.

Re: Breton Music

Just on the side, Stage de la Musique Traditionelle in La Chapelle Neuve is a spring school, not a summer school.

Re: Breton Music

Kornog or Pennou Skoulm are among the famous breton bands, with some of the greatest breton musicians, you can also listen to :

Carré Manchot (band)
Ar Re Yaouank (band)
Skolvan (band)
Jean-Michel Veillon (Flute)
Jean-Luc Thomas (Flute)
Sylvain Barou (Flute)
Yann-Fanch Kemener (Singing)
Annie Ebrel (singing)
Soïg Siberil (guitar)
Barzaz (band)
Triskell (band)…………. but there are many others bands or musicians you could listen to :

A good website about breton music :

What are the breton equivalent of jigs, reels…. ?

Well, Breton music is also related to dances, and I can’t name them all. But there are : An Dro, Gavotte, Plinn, Hanter Dro, Laridé, Kas a Barh, Ridée…

Re: Breton Music

You don’t say where you live, but if you are in the UK I can recommend that you go to the Bampton (Devon) Free Folk Festival (Friday, 26th October to Sunday 28th October 2012 this year).

This festival is always attended by a party of visiting Breton musicians and dancers. They’re are an extremely friendly bunch, and they would certainly be able to tell you a lot about their music and answer any of your questions.

Re: Breton Music

“A good website about breton music :”

Bran Ruz, that’s a great resource and I should’ve posted this in the first place. Just by listening to excerpts of tunes from various CDs which are available on the front page of this site you can get a decent idea of the types of Breton dance tunes.

Some more information:

A number of tunes come in suites, and this is also related to the dance routine: Plinn, Gavotte are usually played in three-piece suites (sorry for a bad pun) with a “relaxing part” called ‘Bal’ in the middle - the first part is called “ton simpl”, the middle part is “bal”, and the third part is “ton doubl”.
Laridees are finished with a slow part called “Riquenee”.

Before playing a pageant dance (plinn, ridee 6 temps, gavotte), the musicians traditionally perform a “call to dance”, i.e. they play the basic phrase slowly and a tempo once, to give the dancers time to get together in a pageant (like here:

As I said, it is useful to take a few workshops in Breton dances, it helps greatly to see the reason behind the practice.

Breton music is extremely interesting in terms of rhythmic and phrase patterns, and time signature changes are not infrequent - a great way to train your brain.

Re: Breton Music

Don’t forget the bombarde!!! When that instrument comes in on an arrangement, the dancers rejoice ~

Re: Breton Music

Bombarde … rejoice sometimes deafened always 😉
Where do you live Matt and what do you play ?

Re: Breton Music

And Hurdy gurdy! Usually if you can find a gurdy gathering, you’ll find plenty of French dance music.

Re: Breton Music

As for Breton music collections - the biggest I know of are Polig Monjarret - Toniou Breiz Izel volume 1 which has something like 2300 tunes. It came out in a limited run of 3400 or so printings so it may be quite hard to find. I bought mine in Brittany back in the day. Volume 2 is still available I believe and has 2000 tunes. Hill’s Compendium of Celtic music Vol 3 has some 900 tunes though I no longer see it for sale online.

Hope this gets you started lol.

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Re: Breton Music

🙂, bazouki dave….and button accordeon, too, Gertie.
A good festival if you are located in northeastern North America, Matt, is the Chants de Vieilles in Quebec, Canada originated by members of Le Vent du Nord (including hurdy gurdy player Nicolas Boulerice). Daniel Thonon, Gilles Chabenat and others have given master classes there and participating musicians always include a Breton tune for their Sunday march down the main street of Calixa-Lavallee.