Recording reviews

Recommended recording: Noëls Celtiques - Celtic Christmas Music from Brittany

One might easily assume that a disc of “Celtic Christmas music” would feature Irish or Scots or maybe Welsh folk music. But the Breton language is another Celtic tongue, closely related to Cornish and Welsh. The Breton people emigrated from Cornwall and Devon to Brittany beginning in the third century, to escape Anglo-Saxon invaders; Brittany is sometimes called Less, Lesser, or Little Britain. This unique Christmas recording captures some of the heritage of Brittany.

A few songs on this album have known Welsh or Cornish ancestry, some are identified simply as “traditional,” and a few are more recent compositions. All of them are sung in Breton by the L’Ensemble Choral du Bout du Monde (the “World’s End Choir”). Formed in 1977 and directed by Christian Desbordes, the choir unites singers from across North Finistère for the purpose of promoting the Breton language and culture. Accompanied by flutes, accordions, bagpipes, guitar, and organ, the soundscape is unlike any other recording in my collection. This disc has become a bit like a holiday desert in our home every Christmas.

Here is one of the cuts from the recording, a traditional carol called “Joyful Mysteries.” Its five verses briefly portray the Annunciation, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, the Nativity, and Mary’s searching for her lost son in the temple. The last two lines are “Your Son remained at the temple, Mary, don’t cry any more.”