Blog on performances at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient 2014
This year, the Festival Interceltique de Lorient was hit by the biggest Manx delegation yet, where a multitude of Manx talent stormed the city and made sure that the Bretons wouldn’t forget us in a hurry. And rightly so: in 2015 the Isle of Man and Cornwall will celebrate their very own year at the Festival, which demonstrates the strength and recognition of Manx culture in recent years. With 800,000 festival goers over 10 days, this is a huge opportunity to display the culture of the Island.
I performed at the 2014 festival both with my own group and also with the Norwegian-Manx Collaboration (Erlend Apneseth, Tomas Callister, Ruth Keggin, David Kilgallon, Margit Myhr), which was formed in February 2013. The Norwegian-Manx collaboration gave a special concert at the Palais de Congres and performed to an audience of around 500 people. Keep your eyes peeled for our reunion in Mannin this winter… that’s all I’ll say for now!
I gave a number of performances with both my full band and as a duo with singer and flautist Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin; the very
first concert I gave was with Eoghan in a gigantic, ancient, disused water reservoir at the Enclos du Port. It had incredible natural reverb which lasted for several seconds and we performed a selection of Manx songs for two voices, and wooden flute and voice. Here’s a short video of one of the songs: ‘Mylecharaine’ taken by Christy De Haven on her iPhone; thanks Christy!
Next up, on Tuesday evening I performed a programme of Manx Gaelic songs at the Eglise St. Louis in Lorient with David Kilgallon on the organ, followed by my own group where we performed a selection of Manx Gaelic carvals (religious vernacular songs). It was a recent foray into the organ and voice duo for David Kilgallon and I, but we enjoyed it immensely.
Part of the ethos of the festival is to provide outreach concerts to communities in Brittany; Dave Pearce and I performed at two retirement homes in Hennebont, and I used my very best A-level French to tell the residents all about the Isle of Man, as well as about the songs!
On Thursday evening, I performed with my band in a ‘Femmes Gaeliques’ concert to an audience of around 2,000 people. Julie Fowlis took to the stage first with her band, then it was my turn to finish off the first half of the concert. Here’s a super-happy green-room snap from backstage!
Five dancers from Ny Fennee joined me on stage for my final song and danced brilliant solo jigs – thanks girls for helping to make that experience so special!
There is a snippet of my performance filmed by the festival in the video above, coming in at about 1 minute 30. Mary Black, Frances Black, Róisín O and Aoife Scott performed in the second half of the concert – some seriously impressive vocal power at those ladies!
Another feature of the Festival is the annual Trophée Loïc Raison, for the best new band. In 2011, my University-formed folk group Nish As Rish won the trophy, and last year Eoghan won it with his band Skipper’s Alley (Ireland). We were selected for the final of the competition after our semi-final heat during the week, and were delighted to come third overall with the other finalists being from Brittany. Seeing friendly faces in the audience, and huge Manx flags flying from Ny Fennee was great support – gura mie eu ooilley my chaarjyn!
The Manx and the Cornish shared a prominent corner of the Quay des Indes – where you can find the pavilions of all the Celtic countries. Where the Cornish had delicious pasties and clotted cream teas, the Manx dished out hundreds of servings of succulent queenies and Bushy’s beer. Yum! The art of making ‘Bumbee Cages’ from rushes was also demonstrated to delighted Bretons. Undoubtedly the best area of the two pavilions was a shared stage. A full programme of free performances from all Manx and Cornish groups participating in the festival led to an electric atmosphere with thousands of people crowding round the tent, eager to hear vibrant live music. Here’s to next year – the year of the Isle of Man and Cornwall!!