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Wed, 02 Nov 2022

Over 20 children enjoyed this year's Bree workshops in Manx music, song, dance and drama in St Johns last weekend (Sun 23 - Mon 24 October). Organised by Dr Chloë Woolley, Manx Music Development Officer for Culture Vannin, and tutored by fellow musicians and dancers Jo Callister, Caroline Helps, Paul Rogers, Greg Joughin, Mera Royle, Caitlin Bennett and student helper Hannah Hayhurst, this was the 16th annual Bree weekend. There was an 'Inter-Celtic' theme this year, celebrating the Isle of Man (Mannin) and its relationship with the other Celtic nations; Scotland (Alba), Ireland (Éire), Wales Cymru), Brittany (Breizh) and Cornwall (Kernow); culminating in a showcase concert for family and friends.

The 12 strong dance team opened with the “Six Nations Dance”. Featuring distinctive steps and movements from each Celtic country, this dance was choreographed by Manx dancer Grainne Joughin in 2018 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Cornish Celtic festival Lowender Peran, with music composed by her Welsh husband Jamie Smith. Folk group Dusty Strings & Whistles took to the stage next with a beautiful slow arrangement of “Y Mheillea” (The Harvest); a Manx tune also known as the song “Bacach Buidhe Na Leige” (The Yellow Beggar of the League) in Ireland, played on harps, whistles, violins and guitars. They were followed by The Bree Singers who performed the Manx/Hebridean song “Birlinn Ghorree Chrovan”, then “My Island, My Home”. This song is an adaptation of a Cornish favourite often performed by shanty choirs called “Cornwall, My Home”. The new Isle of Man themed lyrics had been composed by Keith Horne for the Peel-based choir, Gobbag Groove.

Some of the musicians then performed a new jig called “Bee-shiu er nyn dwoaie” (basically meaning ‘beware’!) which they’d composed over a ‘Kiaull Cooyl’ backing track created by David Kilgallon for a Culture Vannin ‘Treisht’ lockdown project. They were followed by a folk group called Gaelg Aboo who performed the Manx lullaby “Bee dty Host”. The songwriters then entertained everyone with "The Making of Mann"; a new song inspired by the story of a battle between two giants, where the Irish giant threw a clump of soil after the retreating Scottish giant, and the Isle of Man was formed when it fell into the middle of the Irish Sea!

A nod to our Celtic cousins in Brittany came next, with the use of a Breton polka to accompany the Manx dance “Car ny Rankee”. The un-named tune (see KMJ transcription of the month) is very similar to the Manx tune, so the Bree dance band made an arrangement using both versions and added a minor version too! A third folk group called The Breegles then took to the stage to play a set of variants of the Manx washing song; “Arrane ny Niee”. In Ireland and Scotland, this melody is known as “The Eagle’s Whistle” and “Gol Na MBan Ar – The Women’s Lament in Battle”. The drama group then performed "A Celtic Extravaganza" - an alternative version of the ancient White Boys' Play, but instead starring the Celtic Saints; St Maughold (IOM), St Patrick (Ireland), St David (Wales), St Andrew (Scotland), St Piran (Cornwall) and St Corentin (Brittany)! Penned by Jo Callister, this amusing play was followed by the dancers performing the traditional “White Boys Dance” (tune: “Creg Willy Syl)” but with a very impressive 12 sword star at the end! All of the Bree students and tutors then performed an adaption of “The White Boys’ Carol”, but with the chorus: “And we wish you a merry Bree weekend, we’re glad you here…”!

Chloë said: "This year's Bree weekend was fantastic - we had children from all over the Island and of various abilities taking part, and the audience of family and friends were amazed at how much they'd achieved in such a short time. It's great to watch the children be inspired by Manx culture, whilst having a good time and making new friends. And it was particularly special that some of our tutors had been Bree students themselves once upon a time". Bree meet once a month for informal sessions and workshops, and is open to musicians aged 10 - 18. More info

Bree pics online:



Watch the video of the concert:

The Bree Weekend Manx Concert 2022 on Vimeo