Alan Stivell

A lasting local legacy

Picture 1 Alan Stivell

Alan Stivell’s musical career, now spanning half a century, may be a puzzle to some. But despite this longevity, the Breton icon’s music has not degenerated into all froth and no substance. On the contrary – the star continues to marry the Celtic tradition with a modern, universal style of music. How long must we wait for an Alan Stivell festival?

A career spanning almost fifty years… And studded by so many priceless gems, rolling stones gathering moss as they head off towards other musical horizons, standing stones that point proudly up to the greatness and uniqueness of Breton culture. With such an amazing body of work, Alan Stivell deserves, if not a Grammy, then at least his own festival. He has even earned the title of universal citizen, with his Celtic pop so closely interwoven with a humanist philosophy of brotherhood.

Home is where the heart is

However, Alan’s musical journey did not start from the cradle of a Celtic village, but from the slopes of an Auvergne volcano. A child of Breton emigrants, it was at the foot of a Puy de Dôme crater that Alain Cochevelou began his search for the inspiration that would eventually lead him to the lofty peaks. The sparkling notes and words of immortal Morbihan held inside the heart of a little man. Does absence make the heart beat stronger? His instrument-maker father played upon the sensitive strings of Alan Stivell’s heart, intensifying his love for Breton music by reviving the Celtic harp from its centuries of slumber.

An Alan day 

Singer and multi-instrumentalist, this artist has no equal when it comes to marrying musical mismatches, switching with ease from bombard to bagpipes, from tin whistle to electric or electronic harp. From Harpe Celtique (1964) through to Emerald (2009), his discography is a bit like a never-ending Arabian Nights. Collaborations, too, both the predictable (The Goadec Sisters, Glenmor) and the unpredictable (Kate Bush, Idir, Simple Minds), add yet another hue to the wide spectrum of his musical career. Just look back at the early 70s, when his album Reflets kick-started a musical phenomenon that was to revolutionise (and still is revolutionising) Breton culture. Young generations are still proud to see their own reflection in these Reflets, whose ripples have spread well beyond the Breton borders to fill the stadiums of Europe and elsewhere. Not for nothing does ‘Stivell’ mean, in Breton, ‘a gushing spring’! An ‘Alan day’ in Brittany this year would be a fitting reward for such a worthy artist.