Greetings from Brittany! Every August I aim to physically leave London and check out a new environment, to strip daily life down to the basics and renew an old interest, or to learn something new!
This year I find myself for a few weeks in Brittany before flying off to see my dear teachers at their home in Woodstock, NY.
Yesterday I found myself at the interceltic festival in Lorient, a town not too far from my base in the Breton countryside. I’ve never been a fan of the bagpipes, but sometimes life brings you to the right place at the right time. The interceltic festival is listed in the guidebook as one of the top ten things not to miss in Brittany in August, so I felt a traveler’s responsibility to at least drop in to show some support to my Celtic cousins.
Ironically, one of my plans this August was to renew my sorely neglected relationship with my guitar which has been packed into storage for a number of months…and prior to that, shoved into a corner for a number of years.
So there I was at the interceltic festival with a little bit of a headache, ambivalent feelings to the enormous bagpipe presence, and a son who was not exactly feeling ‘it’.
In a last ditch effort to find some splendor among the kilts, whisky stands and Guiness-loving crowd, we approached a relaxed atmosphere in a small garden square. There we encountered an eclectic mix of musical instrument makers, who were happy to guide us through the basics of playing their special creations.
After handling an accordion and a few wind instruments, it was the sound of the Chalumeau Re that captured my attention and my heart. Having never heard of the instrument before (and not ever having played a wind instrument bar the recorder in grade school), I figured I could find a book on the instrument and even a teacher back in London, where you can find pretty much anything. On a whim, the purchase was made, and last evening my facial muscles had never felt so stretched.
What I have learned from some digging around on the internet, is that this little gem is the Barok predecessor to the clarinet. Also called a ‘pocket’ clarinet, most websites call it the ‘easy to play child’s entry to the clarinet’, putting me to shame. Much to my dismay, there are no books or ‘how to’ manuals, with the only teachers up in Yorkshire.
To my delight, the initial sound that captured my attention was that of a jazz instrument, and I have found some delicious examples of what I might aspire to some day.
I’m not expecting to announce concert dates anytime soon, but I am having some fun along the way getting lost, making a lot of noise, and occasionally a note or two that sounds like music. After all, what is August for if not to try something new and remember something old?