88th Festival Cornouaille, Quimper, 19th – 24th July 2011
Monday 18th July
Bright and early at 01:00 hrs, 31 band members departed from Edinburgh Academy by coach to begin the long journey south to Plymouth. Arriving at 1:00pm we boarded the Ferry and after a smooth crossing, landed at Roscoff. A couple of hours later and we arrived at our accommodation for the duration of the Festival; Le Likès, 20, place de la Tourbie – a school dormitory building just 5 minutes from the citycentre.
Tuesday 19th July
The early birds were up for Breakfast, served at Restaurant Brasserie Le Panoramix, two minutes walk downhill from the school gates. After a quick exploration of the town we reconvened at the school, and after a quick dress and tune up, headed back down to undertake our first performance. Club Gradlon was a large marquee set up on the south side of the river Odet which flows through the city. Here, sponsors of this year’s festival were treated to a taste of what was to come and at 12 noon we gave them a 20 minute performance. Afterwards, a short walk across the river took us to Le Chapeau Rouge refectory where we would eat lunch and dinner pretty much every day.
After a leisurely meal we then formed up outside and undertook one of several parades which we would walk during the festival through the city, ending up in the shadow of the Cathedral of Saint-Corentin, a Gothic-style church constructed between the 13th and 16th centuries. Along the northern banks of the river a line of square tents and stalls had been pitched selling everything from souvenirs to food. And it was here the band spent some time enjoying the start of the festival. With nothing else scheduled for the day we were free to wander the streets and watch the many shows already underway with most of us staying up late into the night.
Wednesday 20th July
Wednesday dawned bright and early with an outdoor performance at Place Terre au Duc. The cobwebs of last night were hastily blown off and lunch was followed by the same street march as we undertook the previous day.
There was time in the afternoon to explore or siesta and then after dinner we converged on the famous Ceili Pub, haunt of many a festival-going Celticer to perform as part of an evening’s street entertainment. The pub owner manoeuvred a semi-trailer into place across the street which doubled as a full amped and lit stage and after a couple of pints relaxing in the bar, we tuned up and got stuck into our 40 minute set. It was a very convivial and informal affair and the sort of night time entertainment we were going to get used to at this venue. Finished by about 10:00pm we settled into a long night of partying before retiring as dawn broke.
Thursday 21st July
Thursday was thankfully a quiet day. Most people enjoyed the festival atmosphere and sunshine. In the afternoon there was the junior solo piping competition, similar to the Lorient event, where the competitors played a Breton dance, a Scottish MSR and an Irish medley. With the competition running into early evening the band then opted to eat out at a local restaurant after which a few tunes were had. Most people got an early night in advance of the main events of the weekend yet to come.
Friday 22nd July
It was an early morning performance again on Friday with a street parade starting this time at the Cathedral of Saint-Corentin and finishing up at Le Chapeau Rouge with a brief performance en-route. After lunch we then did the same parade but in reverse, finishing up at the Quai en fêtes, next to the Cathedral to enjoy a couple of beers in the afternoon sunshine.
Then an afternoon of competition with a couple of our drummers entered into the McLeod solo drumming contest held on a bridge over the Odet and then two pairs entered into the musical duet competition held onstage in the Espace Saint Coretin. And it was at the Espace most of us stayed to enjoy the evening’s entertainment Fest-Noz – non stop traditional Breton dancing and live music.
Saturday 23rd July
The band eased into Saturday with a free morning before undertaking a street parade after lunch. We then hoped onto the coach and drove a short distance across town to perform at the local St Andrew’s Bar located on the south bank of the river. It was a glorious summer’s evening as we performed outside and were handsomely rewarded with some ice cold beers.
And after dinner there was time to watch some of the evening’s entertainment with some band members heading to the Theatre de Cornouaille to watch our friends in Bagad Moulin Vert participate in a special concert celebrating the music and history of Brittany.
Sunday 24th July
And with perfect timing, the run of exceptional weather broke today for the main parade of the Festival. We formed up at 10am for our part in the pinnacle of the festival, a lengthy parade from the south bank, through the centre and up into the historic town. Crowds of spectators lined the way despite the rain and luckily for us, as we were about to set off, the rain stopped and we enjoyed a dry, if slightly cool, march through Quimper.
Once completed, we headed for lunch before returning to Espace Évêché, a marquee-d stage behind the Cathedral where we performed as each band and Bagad took a turn entertaining the crowds. The sunshine returned and it turned out to be a beautiful afternoon listening to some of Brittany’s finest Bagads. By mid-evening the band was in fine form as we formed up for our last parade through the town. With a slight change of plan, instigated by an impromptu street concert, we about turned and paraded back to the Ceili Bar where the rest of the Bagads had just arrived after their own massed parade. Here, the night was spent, enjoying good company and saying farewell. Few people got much sleep that night as at 5:00am, the coach left for Roscoff to take the band home.
We owe a huge Thank You to Lena Bernard and the members of the Bagad Moulin Vert – Lena did a lot of behind the scenes work to get us to Quimper and her fellow band members made us all feel very welcome. Thanks also to our guides Pierre Colombo and Sara Hulné who along with Lena and our other good friend, Tanguy de Jaquelot, ensured we were where we were supposed to be every time!