Alizé: Le Canard perdu

Alizé's focus is the traditional dance music of Brittany and Central France, which reaches back to the Middle Ages.  The alizés are the trade winds that helped blow this wonderful music to the New World.  Alizé has been playing together since 2006 and we are delighted to present you with our first recording.

Why Le Canard perdu? 
In the song “Sur le bout du banc,” there are these mysterious lines: “Derrière chez nous y-a-t'un étang / trois beaux canards s'y vont baignant / y'en a un noir, y'en a un blanc…”  (“behind our house there is a pond / three beautiful ducks swim there / a black one and a white one...”)  We began wondering: What happened to the third duck?  So Gordon wrote a tune for the lost duck (le canard perdu), and you can see one of his feathers on the cover, and his tracks wandering around beneath these notes.

About the music
Brittany is a peninsula of Western France where Breton, a Celtic language related to Welsh, is spoken, and where the traditional instruments include the bombarde (a folk oboe) and the biniou (a high-pitched bagpipe).   Breton dances are mostly done by long chains of dancers holding hands or pinkies.  In Central France, the hurdy-gurdy (vielle à roue) and cabrette bagpipe play bourrées and other couple-dances.  Our main instruments are flute, guitar, fiddle and Swedish nyckelharpa (a relative of the hurdy-gurdy played with a short bow instead of a wheel), but you’ll also hear a bit of bombarde, oboe, Irish pipes, percussion and hurdy-gurdy on this CD.  In our arrangements, we often trade off and overlap the melody between different instruments or voices; this is a style known as kan ha diskan (“call and response”) in Breton and tuilage (“tiling”) in French.  Breton dance tunes are often quite short, and several are usually played in a medley or suite for a particular type of dance. If the music makes you want to dance, then we’ve done our job right!
“Absolutely extraordinary CD! Virtuosity on all fronts!”
--Tom Hodgson, guitarist

"I'm really enjoying your group's sound and the arrangements you've created. One thing that sets you apart is that you don't try to force it into the pop scene, or jazz everything up -- you let the music, in its natural simplicity and complexity, speak for itself. I particularly like your arrangement of the Gavotte (paired with Marche de Skelton). I look forward to hearing your next album when the time comes!" -- Susan Wadel

“What makes Alizé stand head and shoulders above others is the accomplished musicality of their arrangements and their performance. Listening to them is a joy, and this recording is sonically excellent.”
--Jim Murphy

“What great music and what colorful sound you all have. A very special combination of folks - a real treat!”
--Debra Moree, professor of Viola, Ithaca College
Branle-des-chevauxMari-LouizGavotte-from-KornogSuite-PlinnClick on the triangle above to hear 4 short excerpts from the CD.
Gordon Bonnet - concert and Irish flutes, soprano recorder, vocals, percussion
Laurie Hart - fiddle, Swedish nyckelharpa (tracks 4,7,11,14),
hurdy gurdy drone (tracks 2,7)
Julia Lapp - guitar, vocals, percussion 

and special guests
Laurel Sharp - oboe (track 8), bombarde (tracks 3,11)
Nick Whitmer - uillean pipes (tracks 4,8,9)

Produced by Alizé
Recorded by Will Russell at Electric Wilburland Studio,
Newfield NY in 2007-2008
Carol Bloomgarden - cover art
Kathy Morris - photography

Annotated Track List

1.  Suite Plinn – The Pays Plinn (lit. “flat country”) is a region of Brittany. We begin slowly with a traditional “call to the dance.”  The first two tunes are tons simples, the first by Daniel Faon.  In the middle is a bal, a tune with slow sections to give the dancers a rest.  Finally we play a fast ton double.  Breton tunes are termed ton simple when the A and B parts are of equal length, and ton double when the B part is twice as long as the A. The dans plinn is a type of gavotte done with a steady tread and the feet close together, traditionally danced to flatten and compact the earth for a new building site or to soften plants for animal fodder. 

2.  Joli mois de mai (Lovely Month of May) - a 15th century song from Auvergne, lamenting the practice of conscription of fighting-age men by the gendarmes, who are “worse than wolves.”  

Il était trois filles sous un pommier doux 
Là! dit la première, je crois qu’il fait jour
Joli mois de mai quand reviendras-tu?

Là! dit la deuxième, j’entends le tambour
Là! dit la troisième, ce sont nos amours
Qui vont à la ville combattre pour nous
Contre les gendarmes qui sont pire que des loups
S’ils gagnent bataille auront nos amours
Qu’ils perdent ou qu’ils gagnent les aimerons toujours
Contre les gendarmes gagneront un jour

There were three young women beneath a sweet apple tree
There! said the first, I think the day has come
Beautiful month of May, when will you come again?
There! said the second, I hear the drum,
There! said the third, those are our lovers
Who will go to the city to fight for us
Against the gendarmes who are worse than wolves
If they win the battle, they will have our love
Whether they lose or win, we will love them forever
And against the gendarmes they will win one day

3.  Le Canard perdu / Hanter dro / Tam Lin – The first is a schottische (or scottish as the French write it) for the Lost Duck written by Gordon; the second, a Breton hanter dro, or half-circle dance; the third, an Irish reel by Davy Arthur.  The reel refers to a pan-European folktale of a man, named Tam Lin in the Scottish version, who is enchanted by elves, and of his lover who rescues him.

4.  Prend garde au loup / Bourrée tournée à quatre – Bourrées in Auvergne in Central France can have 2 or 3 beats (temps) to a bar.  These are two bourrées à 3 temps; the first means “Watch Out for the Wolf” and the second probably refers to two couples dancing the bourrée together in a square.

5.  Tarantelle sicilienne / Dérobée de Guingamp / Méthode Yann Dour – Inspired by the beautiful solo playing on the albums of the Breton band Kornog, Gordon and Laurie offer you two solos followed by a duet, all in 6/8 time, as might be heard in Brittany for a cercle circassien dance.  Laurie learned the tarantella from a Pete Seeger recording, of all places!  Gordon plays Irish flute on a Breton dérobée (lit. “concealed”).  The final tune is from the repertoire of Breton accordionist Yann Dour.

6.  Entre le boeuf et l'âne gris / Allons bergers, partons tous – a pair of Christmas carols, the first (“Between the Ox and the Gray Donkey”) dating back to the 16th century, and the second (“Come Now, Shepherds, Come Away”) from the 17th.  The first seems to have been sung in many areas of France, while the second is from Béarn region of Gascogne (Gascony).

7.  Péh trouz zou ar en doar / Lorsqu'en la saison qu'il gèle / Gavottes des Montagnes – a pair of Christmas carols, the first sung in Breton (“What Noise on Earth?”) and the second from Bourgogne/Burgundy (“In the Season of Frost”), followed by two tons doubles and two tons simples from Brittany.

Péh trouz zou ar en doar, péh kan a gleúan me
Na kaeret er boehieú e za lein eun né
Eled, laveret d’emb eit petra e kannet?
Peneú éted ar zé e zou arriú er bed?

Arnet eúe genemb kannet pobl ag en doar?
Ewan de laret d’ho eun né úèted hemb par
Eur mabig beniget roué a Jerusalem
E zo gannet eit-ho ér gér a vethléem

What noise on earth?  Who is singing for me and who am I hearing?
How I like these voices who sing in the skies
What do they say in their song?
What has happened on earth?

We hear the people sing on earth
I come to tell you that in the sky there is something beyond compare
A small blessed child, King of Jerusalem
And who was born for them in the town of Bethlehem


8.  Conset y peipar coch / An dro – We play the Welsh “Red Piper's Conceit” as both a baroque chamber trio and a French waltz. This tune is also known as Morfa’r frenhines (“The Queen’s Bog”). The second tune is a Breton an dro (circle dance), played quite slowly, inspired by a recording Julia heard where it was played on an oud (a Middle Eastern lute).

9.  Sur le bout du banc (On the edge of the bench) – This song has been dated to the 15th century or earlier in western France, and hundreds of versions have been collected in French Canada as well. We’ve heard this Breton version sung for two kinds of dances: ronde de St-Vincent and an dro.  The lyrics are full of symbolism… but of what?  You decide…

Derrière chez nous y a-t-un étang 
Sur le bout du banc ma mie m'attend
Trois beaux canards s'y vont baignant 
Su'l'bout su'l'bout su'l'bout su'l'bout 
Sur le bout du banc ma mie m'appelle 
Sur le bout du banc ma mie m'attend

Y'en a un noir y'en a un blanc
Le fils du roi s'en va chassant
Avec son beau fusil d'argent
Visa le noir, tua le blanc
O fils du roi tu es méchant
Tu as tué mon canard blanc
Par dessous l’aile il perd son sang
Un paquet d’plumes s‘en vont au vent
Par ses yeux sort des diamants
Et par le bec l’or et l’argent

Behind our house there is a pond
On the edge of the bench my sweetheart waits for me
Three beautiful ducks swim there
On the edge, on the edge, on the edge, on the edge
On the edge of the bench, my sweetheart calls for me
On the edge of the bench, my sweetheart waits for me

There’s a black duck and a white one
The king’s son came hunting
With his fine silver rifle,
Aimed at the black one, killed the white one
O son of the king, you are wicked
You have killed my white duck
Beneath its wing it loses its blood
A tuft of feathers flies on the wind
And from its eyes come diamonds
And from its beak gold and silver


10.  Mazurka de Monique / Le Bouquet de ma mie (My Love's Bouquet) – Laurie's friend Monique Lebossé taught her the first tune, and the second is a mazurka-valse from the Massif Central region.

11.  Suite an dro – a medley of two Breton circle dances, also learned from Monique Lebossé.

12.  Mari-Louiz – a song in Breton on a timeless theme: an intrepid young woman dresses as a man so she can enlist and follow her soldier-lover.  We sing only the first few verses; it turns out they serve together for seven years without his recognizing her (!), but she finally reveals her identity as they walk home together, and all ends happily.  The tune is a Breton gavotte des montagnes, and we had fun mixing two different versions of the melody, from Yann-Fanch Kemener and the Irish band Clannad.

 Partiet eo Mari-Louiz, ur pennad gant an hent bras 
'C'hentañ hagn 'deus rankontret oe ur c'hapiten bras 

"Aotrou Kapiten," emezi, "Na c'hwi m'emgagefe 
'Velt un den yaouank kontant da souten an arme?" 

Engaget eo Mari-Louiz vit mont d'ar rejumant 
Ba'n ur memes corps de garde 'sambles gant he galant 

Mari-Louiz a gane en palest ar roue 
Ha ganti un habit paotr; Hagn 'bet he anave 

Bep da toste d'he seizh vlé Mari lares un dè : 
"Aotrou Kapiten," emezi, "Skrivet din ma c'honje..." 

Marie-Louise left one day on the main road
The first person she met was a great captain
“Captain,” she said, “will you sign me up
As I am a young man who wishes to support the army?”
Marie-Louise was signed up to go with the regiment
In the same troop of guards as her lover
Marie-Louise sang at the king’s palace
Dressed as a young man, and no one recognized her
As she was reaching her seventh year of service, Marie said one day
“O Captain,” she said, “write for me my dismissal...”


13.  Gavotte / Marche de Skelton – two Breton tunes.  The first is a Kornog tune from the village of Cloître-Pleyben (population 536), that Julia learned from a friend in Oregon, and Gordon was taught the second by John Skelton, the inimitable flutist with The House Band.

14.  Branle des chevaux (Horses' Branle) – a 16th-century branle (lit. “shake” or “swing”), a dance for couples in either a line or circle.

All tunes are traditional to the best of our knowledge unless otherwise stated.
© 2008

Un grand merci to Will, Laurel, Nick, Carol, Dave, Kathy, Nikki, and Pat!

Thank you for not making copies, which undercuts the livelihood of the musicians.  Please tell your friends to buy their own.