Various Artists

French Blend: Celtic Music's French Odyssey

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France isn't the first place one thinks of when the subject of Celtic music comes up -- Ireland and Scotland, certainly, but not France. But in fact, a prolific source of Celtic music was Brittany, a French province to which Celts from Scotland and Wales started migrating around 450 A.D. (when they were trying to get away from invading Saxons). The Breton music that developed in Brittany was quite interesting -- the lyrics were often in French, but the melodies and harmonies were clearly akin to those coming from the British Isles. A great place to explore acoustic Breton music is French Blend: Celtic Music's French Odyssey. Material by San Quilmas Consort, Margaret Knight, Magpie Lane, Finistere and others reminds us that while Breton music has a lot in common with Irish and Scottish music, it has a definite identity of its own. The San Quilmas Consort's material was written in the 1990s, but many of the other pieces are traditional and go back centuries. "Diougan Swenc'hlan" (recorded by Julie Murphy) has lyrics dating back to the fifth century A.D., while "La Magdalena" (recorded by Finistere) goes back to the 1500s. Those who have enjoyed Irish and Scottish recordings would do well to explore Breton music as well and treat themselves to this enriching and fascinating CD.

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