Pipes of peace

SCOTS Heritage Magazine - - Books -

This Au­gust at The Lo­ri­ent In­ter­cel­tique Fes­ti­val in Brit­tany will again be ‘The Year of Scot­land’. I’ve been lucky to have at­tended and per­formed at the an­nual Lo­ri­ent In­ter­cel­tique Fes­ti­val on seven dif­fer­ent years and as well as mak­ing a huge im­pact on my mu­si­cal de­vel­op­ment, it also pro­foundly im­pacted my per­sonal view of the world.

The Lo­ri­ent In­ter­cel­tique Fes­ti­val was founded in 1971 and is ded­i­cated to pro­mot­ing the cul­tural tra­di­tions of the Celtic na­tions and peo­ple from Brit­tany, Gali­cia, As­turias, Ire­land, Corn­wall, Wales, Scot­land and now the en­tire Celtic di­as­pora from Canada to New Zealand. Each year, a dif­fer­ent coun­try has the hon­our of be­ing the main fo­cus of the fes­ti­val and this year sees Scot­land as­sume this hon­our for the first time since 2007. From small be­gin­nings the Lo­ri­ent

I KNEW A COU­PLE OF I DIDN’T IR­ISH TUNES BUT EVEN KNOW PIPES BRIT­TANY WERE PLAYED IN

fes­ti­val has now grown to over 750,000 vis­i­tors to see 4,500 per­form­ers over ten days. The Lo­ri­ent In­ter­cel­tique Fes­ti­val is known to have been a tremen­dous in­flu­ence to many pipers over the years in­clud­ing Gor­don Dun­can and Fred Mor­ri­son as well as well-known groups such as Caper­cail­lie and The Old Blind Dogs.

My first time at the fes­ti­val was in 1995 where as a raw 16-year-old Scot­tish piper I was in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in what was then ‘The Ma­callan’ Pip­ing Tro­phy (now The McCrim­mon Tro­phy), a very pres­ti­gious in­vi­ta­tional com­pe­ti­tion for only 12 pipers com­ing from the Scot­tish, Ir­ish and Bre­ton tra­di­tions. It is a uniquely chal­leng­ing com­pe­ti­tion where each piper has to play three times in three dif­fer­ent styles - a Scot­tish March, Strath­spey and Reel, an Ir­ish med­ley and a Bre­ton med­ley.

At that time, I was es­sen­tially fo­cused on Scot­tish com­pet­i­tive solo pip­ing and al­though I knew a cou­ple of Ir­ish tunes from Terry Tully’s mu­sic books, I didn’t even know there were bag­pipes be­ing played in Brit­tany and I’d never be­fore heard any Bre­ton mu­sic. Ir­ish mu­sic and Scot­tish mu­sic were in most ways sim- ilar in tech­nique and id­iom but Bre­ton dances were com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

To pre­pare for the com­pe­ti­tion, the fes­ti­val or­gan­iser gave me a cas­sette tape of a typ­i­cal Bre­ton med­ley around four weeks be­fore and I did my best to learn it by ear. I turned up at Lo­ri­ent that Au­gust and was in­tro­duced to a Bre­ton piper who sub­se­quently told me I was play­ing it all wrong. Too late to change now I com­peted in the three dif­fer­ent con­tests and I can’t re­mem­ber ex­actly how I did, but I certainly didn’t win the com­pe­ti­tion or even place in the top four.

How­ever, I did win an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of ten days of to­tal im­mer­sion in mu­sic and cul­ture from around the world. I learned new tunes and played with pipers from Gali­cia, As­turias, Brit-

tany and Ire­land – I’d never even heard the Gali­cian Gaita be­fore. I learned that most of my Scot­tish tra­di­tions were in fact shared tra­di­tions with sim­i­lar peo­ple from across the world and I learned that al­though we all came from dif­fer­ent coun­tries and spoke dif­fer­ent lan­guages, mu­sic and bag­pipes brought us all to­gether in har­mony. As a young 16-year-old from Falkirk, my eyes had been opened to the world. As peo­ple we had much more in com­mon than dif­fer­ences and we should cel­e­brate and ap­pre­ci­ate our dif­fer­ences.

In re­cent years, we’ve seen the bag­pipe scene be­come even more in­ter­na­tional and di­verse and one of the things I love about the whole bag­pipe world is that it doesn’t mat­ter how much money you have or how big your house is, pipers are judged only on how well they can play the tunes.

At a time in our his­tory where pol­i­tics are driv­ing na­tions apart, I re­ally wish the whole world would learn to play the bag­pipes.

Lo­ri­ent In­ter­cel­tique Fes­ti­val - 4-13 Au­gust 2017

IF YOU HAVE EN­JOYED THIS IS­SUE OF SCOTS HER­ITAGE MAG­A­ZINE THEN WHY NOT TRY OUR FULLY IN­TER­AC­TIVE VER­SION ON POCK­ET­MAGS.COM WHICH HAS VIDEOS, IN­TER­AC­TIVE GAL­LERIES, TRACKS TO SAM­PLE ON OUR MU­SIC RE­VIEW PAGES, EXTRACTS FROM OUR RE­VIEWED BOOKS, IN FACT MUCH MUCH MORE IN EV­ERY IS­SUE.

Image: At Lo­ri­ent 12 se­lected pipers have to play a piece of Scot­tish, Bre­ton and Ir­ish pipe mu­sic.

The Lo­ri­ent Fes­ti­val is a pip­ing melt­ing pot that at­tracts 4,500 pipers from dif­fer­ent tra­di­tions Words Stu­art Cas­sells

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