Canada star attraction at French Celtic music festival

2nd August 2004, Comments 0 comments

LORIENT, France, July 31 (AFP) - Fiddles, accordions and even cabaret from Acadia take centre stage at the Interceltic Festival in Lorient, western France, as it celebrates the 400th anniversary of when French settlers first arrived in Canada.

LORIENT, France, July 31 (AFP) - Fiddles, accordions and even cabaret from Acadia take centre stage at the Interceltic Festival in Lorient, western France, as it celebrates the 400th anniversary of when French settlers first arrived in Canada.

The 10-day gala which began Friday bills itself as the largest festival in France, as more than 600,000 fans of Welsh, Scottish, Galician and of course Breton tunes - in short, all things Celtic - are expected to show up through August 8 on the Atlantic coast of Brittany.

Bagpipe and pipe band competitions. Andalusian songs. Irish rock and folk groups. Celtic-tinged jazz from France. And anyone wanting to dance well into the wee hours can check out the traditional Breton spectacle known as Fest Noz.

But Acadian music and culture is one of the highlights.

Ten years ago, artistic director Jean-Pierre Pichard first showcased music from the Maritime Provinces of eastern Canada - Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island - when he saw how well groups from Quebec were exporting their music, while Acadian culture appeared more like the little-loved stepbrother.

In addition to keeping the Celtic tradition alive, Pichard said he has always seen the festival as an opportunity for "an exchange of cultures" among people who are often a minority within their countries.

In Prince Edward Island barely five percent of the population speaks French, where the language faces a similar uphill battle as the Breton tongue does in France.

And while there are efforts to boost that number, many recognize that Acadian culture has been about adapting since the French first set foot in today's Canada in 1604.

"Our music is about the marriage of cultures that is going on in the Maritime (Provinces)," Megan Bergeron, the 24-year-old keyboard player in the three woman, two man band Vishten, told AFP by telephone from Canada before leaving for Lorient.

She said Irish and Scottish influences were especially strong on Prince Edward Island, which is how one of the group members came to play the bodhran, a round and flat handheld Irish drum.

An 80-strong delegation from Acadia is at the festival to show off instruments, host cocktail and cabaret parties and entice a few people to check out "l'Acadie" for themselves.

There is even a "kitchen music" competition - the kitchen is where most Acadian songs are born - in which participants get five to seven minutes to impress a jury with their improvisational skills.

All in all, around 4,500 singers, dancers, sculptors and even filmmakers from dozens of countries are at the 34th Interceltic Festival, in which the city streets, squares, parks and dozens of bars and restaurants resound with Celtic music.

"If you let him, (festival director) Pichard would find Celts in Siberia or Mozambique," quipped the French newspaper Le Monde.

© AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article