Island students in Brittany

A concert we all performed at learning Breton dancing
A concert we all performed at learning Breton dancing

Last month students from Lews Castle College’s HNC Music course and NC Traditional Music and Gaelic course, along with three tutors, took part in a Cultural Exchange between traditional music students from the Conservatoire de Brest, in West Brittany, France.

Throughout the week the students sampled the great Breton hospitality and took part in workshops, music sessions, Breton Cèilidh’s called (Fest Noz), learned about Breton music, song and dance as well as teaching and performing some traditional Scottish dance, song and music. They were given guided tours of different parts of western Brittany with visits made to museums, a Breton theatre and Breton medium school. A visit to the ‘Pagan land’ saw them singing and dancing with local Breton speakers – a truly memorable experience.

Breton music has many parallels with the music of Scotland in that the music is heavily dependent on the song tradition with the Highland Bagpipes and Bombard as their most popular instruments. It was very interesting for the students to experience a different culture and see the similarities and differences between the two cultures. One student commented: “I learnt to look at music from different parts of the world from a whole new perspective.”

Course leader Anna-Wendy Stevenson said: “This is a great example of community and college partnership working, as this cultural exchange was instigated and organised by Ceolas - Uist’s music festival. Our students have had a wonderful learning experience which helps to build on the profile and research capacity of the college and of UHI itself. We are very grateful for the support provided by the UHI student development fund and the ‘European Youth in Action’ scheme which made the whole venture achievable.”