Monday, January 3, 2011

Lord Nann

So, some days you just can't find a Breton melody.

Last year, as part of my Kalamazoo paper, I did some work on Tolkien's "The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun", his reworking of the traditional Breton ballad Aotrou Nann hag ar Gorrigan ("Lord Nann and the Corrigan"), which comes from Vicomte Hersart de la Villemarque's BARZAZ-BREIZ. One of the things I found interesting was that in the first English translation of Villemarque's book, by Tom Tyler,* Tyler's wife Laura (a talented composer in her own right) had included as an Appendix to the book as a whole a page of sheet music for most of the songs contained therein, including "Aotrou Nann (The Lord Nann)" (p. 222).

Unfortunately, I've never been one who could hear music just by looking at the score: I have to actually play it to find out what it sounds like. And being woefully out of practice on the clarinet (my embouchure is shot), and without access to a piano, meant that I still don't know what the original tune to this piece sounded like.

That's when I found a reference to a French edition of the book (BARZAZ BREIZ: CHANTS POPULARIES DE LA BRETAGNE), which came with a cd of people performing the original songs. Accordingly, I ordered this -- only to find when it arrived from France that the accompanying cd, while it covers a dozen pieces, didn't actually include the one I was looking for.** Alas.

So here's a query for folks: does anyone out there have, or know where I could find, a recording of "Lord Nann" in the original Breton?

Oh, and Happy Tolkien's Birthday, everybody

--John R.

*better known today as an early editor of PUNCH and the author of the play OUR AMERICAN COUSINS, which Lincoln was watching when he was shot.

**it's still well worth having, of course, since it does include sheet music for twelve bars of the "Aotrou Nann hag ar Gorrigan" melody in the back (p. 536), which shows that Laura Tyler adapted the melody slightly to match the English translation.

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Druss said...
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