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Loire-Atlantique (Department, France): cultural flags

Last modified: 2003-07-05 by ivan sache
Keywords: loire-atlantique | quadrille sevre-et-maine | vertou | cross (black) | grapes: 2 (green) | tree: yew (green) | ermines: 15 (black) | bagad naoned | nantes | ship |
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Bagad Naoned (Nantes)

[Bagad Naoned]by Raphaël Vinet

A bagad (plural bagadou) is a Breton music band. Bagadou were created recently on the model of the Scottish pipe bands. The first informal bagad was constituted in 1947 in the 71st Infantry Regiment, stationed in Dinan (Ille-et-Vilaine), when several pipers met during their compulsory service. The first civil bagad was created in 1949 by railwaymen in Carhaix (Finistère). Since then, more than 100 bagadou have ben formed.

A bagad is conducted by the penn soner (chief piper) and is made of three sections:

  • biniou braz, highland bagpipes, conducted by the penn biniouaer;
  • bombardou, bombards, conducted by the penn talabarder;
  • taboulinou skeltz, snare drums, and toumperezh (percussions), conducted by the penn tabouliner.

Guest musicians (guitarists, bassists, accordionists) and singers may appear on some pieces played by bagadou.

Every year, musical contests allow the bagadou to be ranked into five musical categories according to their musical skills. There are currently twelve bagadou in the first category. The final of the bagad championship usually takes place in the Moustoir Stadium of Lorient (also the place of the renowned Inter-Celtic Festival) and is one of the main cultural events in Brittany.

The bagadou played a major role in the recent revival of Breton cultural traditions. Song and music were traditional arts in Brittany but their transmission was mostly oral. Types of songs and dances are different according to the different regions. Fortunately, a few amateur musicologists have been gathering those songs since the end of the XIXth century. Legendary singers, such as the Goadec sisters, could have been recorded before their death.

The repertoire of the bagadou is extremely wide and several of them gained international recognition. The most famous of them is probably Bagad Kemper, located in Quimper (Finistère), who won 15 times the bagad championship. During the contests, bagadou have to play traditional songs but must also create new ones. Bagad Kemper and its three successive penn soner, Hervé Le Meur, Erwan Ropars and Jean-Louis Hénaff have enlarged the Breton repertoire by creating pieces based for instance on Bulgarian and Greek dances, as well as an adaptation of Changes by the defunct rock band Yes. Johnny Clegg asked Bagad Kemper to join his musicians to record Emotional Allegiance.
The bagad Men Ha Tan, conducted by Pierrick Tanguy, made two records with the jazz bassist Henri Texier (Doué Lann, a kind of musical picture of the small port of Dollan) and the Senegalese master drummer Youssou N'Dour (Dakar), respectively.

Each bagad has its specific costume, often black and white. Bagadou can play during street parades, and march in such cases behind the Breton flag or their own. The bagad of Nantes (Bagad Naoned) was created in 1968. It uses a flag based on the historical flag of the Duchy of Brittany (black cross on white). The canton includes the main element of the coat of arms of Nantes, i.e. a sail boat with sails ermine sailing over green water (the river Loire) on a red background. The three other quarters are charged with five black ermine spots which recalls the ancient naval flags in Nantes and the five "Breton" departments. This last item is revendicative, since the current Region of Brittany includes only four departments (Finistère, Côtes-d'Armor, Ille-et-Vilaine, Morbihan), whereas Loire-Atlantique, including Nantes, the historical capital city of Brittany, was placed into the Region Pays de Loire. The "reunification" of Brittany is a common revendication of the Breton cultural associations.

The flag of the Bagad Naoned was designed by Raphaël Vinet.

Source: Bagad Naoned website

Ivan Sache, 10 November 2002

Quadrille Sèvre-et-Maine (Vertou)

[Quadrille Sevre-et-Maine]by Raphaël Vinet

The Quadrille Sèvre-et-Maine is the Celtic Circle of the city of Vertou, located in the outskirts of Nantes. A Celtic Circle is a cultural association promoting the Breton culture. The Vertou Circle was founded in 1973 as the Cercle Celtique Saint-Martin, St. Martin being the patron saint of Vertou. The Circle was later renamed Quadrille Sèvre-et-Maine, the Sèvre nantaise and the Maine being the two rivers which water Vertou. The Quadrille has about 80 members and is affiliated to the Kendalc'h, an association of Celtic Circles. The Kendalc'h organizes every year a contest with different categories. The Quadrille is currently ranked in the fourth category.

The Quadrille is specialized in the traditional dances of the Pays de Nantes and Upper (Eastern) Brittany. The dancers wear the traditional costume and headdress of Vertou. The Quadrille also takes part to street parades, during which the dancers and musiciens march behind the flag of the Quadrille.

This flag is based on the historical flag of the Duchy of Brittany, the Kroaz-Du (black cross on white). The canton is yellow, with in the middle the impressive Vertou yew, said to have been planted by St. Martin. The yew is flanked by two green grapes, recalling the Vertou vineyard (Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine) and two diagonal green waves recalling the rivers Sèvre and Maine. The three other cantons are charged with five ermine spots, which recall the ancient naval flags of Nantes and the "five" Breton departments (see above).

The flag was designed by Raphaël Vinet, who is also the regular standard bearer of the Quadrille.

Source: Quadrille website.

Ivan Sache, 9 November 2002