Gortoz a ran / I wait

One of the reasons that I write this blog is because most people in the U.S. have never heard of the Breton language or Brittany, and I want to spread the word. So any time that Brittany or the Breton language is in the mainstream English-language media—something that only seems to happen very rarely—I’m thrilled. This is one of those times.

Millions of Americans heard part of a Breton song on TV the other day. Did you know that? I didn’t either. Pretty cool. It would have been even cooler, perhaps, if they’d been aware of it, but I suspect they weren’t. The song in question was on an episode of South Park, on Comedy Central. “I Can’t Fix You” is the name of the episode, and this clip has the bit of the song that they used. The song starts a minute in.

It’s quite a haunting tune. The name of the song is “Gortoz a Ran” (I Wait), and the recording is by Denez Prigent and Lisa Gerrard. Denez Prigent is one of the best-known singers of traditional Breton music, and this song is on his 2000 album Irvi. (Available in all the usual places.) It’s actually not the first time Americans have been exposed to this song–it was featured in the movie Black Hawk Down. I haven’t seen the film, but I had read about that at some point. Here’s the official video of the song on YouTube, with film scenes interspersed with video of the singers:


And because I don’t really watch animated TV programs, this South Park episode is not something that I would have come across by chance. Thanks to the internet, I read about it in this article in Le Ploermelais, a small (French-language) newspaper in Brittany. Did any of you happen to see the episode? Have you heard this song before? Let me know in the comments below.


Breton music in Boulder / Sonerezh breton e Boulder

Philippe Le Gallou and Nolwenn Monjarret, the Breton musicians performing in Boulder this week.

While things have been quiet here on the Blogging Brittany front, I’ve been working on a number of projects as well as my regular job. One of those projects has been bringing some friends of mine who are Breton musicians to Colorado to perform and to share a bit of Breton culture through their music. And now they’re here!

Nolwenn Monjarret is a singer of traditional Breton songs and a friend of mine. When I returned to Colorado this past year, I suggested she should come and perform in Colorado. She took me up on the offer, and now she–and guitarist Philippe Le Gallou–are on a mini music tour of the Front Range. I have never organized concerts before. It’s been quite a process, finding venues and getting the word out. It’s exciting to see it all finally come to fruition this week.

Nolwenn’s lovely voice, deep knowledge of traditional Breton song, and engaging presence make her an ideal ambassador for Breton music. Last night, Nolwenn and Philippe performed at a house concert in Lafayette, a few miles east of here. It is my first time seeing Nolwenn and Philippe perform together. Despite the jet lag, they blended so smoothly: I’d heard their album, Son Elena, already, but it was an electric experience seeing them perform live. (For a taste of Son Elena, click here.) And of course, for me, one of the best parts is hearing the Breton language here in Boulder! Nolwenn is singing in Breton, Gallo, French, English, Galician (and probably other languages, as well) this week.

I wish all of you could see them perform here in town this week. For those who are in Boulder/Denver, here’s a list of their remaining performances in the area. Each event is going to be different. Today’s is a concert-lecture, here on the CU Boulder campus, and it will include music from many Celtic nations.

Wednesday, April 11 at 4:30pm, University of Colorado Boulder

A Celtic music concert and lecture, featuring traditional songs performed by Nolwenn and Philippe from a variety of Celtic lands. Nolwenn will also give a short talk about Celtic music, and about her family’s pioneering work to preserve and promote traditional music in Brittany.

Free. Center for British and Irish Studies, 5th floor, Norlin Library.

Thursday, April 12 at 7:00pm, Boulder

An evening of Breton music and dance. Nolwenn and Philippe will perform traditional songs from Brittany in Breton, Gallo, and French. In addition, Nolwenn will be teaching some simple Breton folk dances.

$10 donation at the door. First Congregational Church, 1128 Pine St. Boulder.

Friday, April 13 at 6pm, Denver

An evening of Breton and Celtic music. Nolwenn and Philippe will perform traditional songs from Brittany in Breton, Gallo, and French, and songs from other Celtic lands as well. In addition, Nolwenn will be teaching some simple Breton folk dances.

$15 at the door. The Crossroads Theater, 2590 Washington St. Denver. Co-sponsored by Denver Sister Cities International and the Alliance Française of Denver.


Oh, and here is their facebook page, if you want to keep up with their concert schedule: