I was born in the middle of the sea…
So begins an autobiographical poem of the same name, in English translation.
Its Breton author Yann-Ber Kalloc’h (Jean-Pierre Calloc’h) was born on the island of Groix in 1888. He died in 1917, as a French soldier.
Brittany’s second largest island is just a few kilometres from Lorient.
Groix is now “quaint”, a popular destination, served by frequent ferries.
Kalloc’h’s most celebrated poem depicts the much harsher reality that he and his parents lived – obscure, without glory.
Then, Groix’s men fished dangerous waters, its women grew potatoes in poor soil.
Click here to read the poem’s original Breton version, plus translations into English and Scottish Gaelic.
Julie Fowlis is very possibly Scottish Gaelic’s finest living singer; she hails from the Outer Hebridean Isle of North Uist – an even wilder, “midst-ocean” place than Groix.
I cannot imagine a finer musical rendition/translation of Kalloc’h’s words.
As always, Julie Fowlis sings accurately, naturally, eschewing melismatic overkill and melodrama; her regular band accompanies her.
Eamon Doorley plays bouzouki, Tony Byrne acoustic guitar, Duncan Chisholm fiddle. Irishman Eamon (also of the Irish band Danú) is Julie’s spouse.
This is an absolutely “live” performance, from the 2011 Julie Fowlis album Live at Perthshire Amber:
All of Julie Fowlis’s recordings are warmly recommended, but most especially her “live” album.
As I type, hew new album is eagerly awaited; to date, on record, she has almost always sung in Gaelic; I believe that this will not be the case on Alterum.
Julie Fowlis is blessed with an effective Australian distributor.
Footnote: the suitably wild shore atop this post is not in Brittany; I took the photo on Cape Dombey, at Robe on the southeast coast of South Australia (Photo copyright Doug Spencer, 27.11.2016)