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Watch: The beautiful performance of the Welsh and Breton anthems

11 Aug 2023 3 minute read
Mari Mathias from Wales (left) and Morwenn Le Normand from Brittany (Credit: S4C)

Two Celtic musicians have joined forces to perform a gorgeous version of the Welsh and Breton national anthem at the Interceltic Festival of Lorient.

Mari Mathias from Wales and Morwenn Le Normand from Brittany duetted on the anthem which shares the same music at the festival – the largest in Brittany and France.

The performance was recorded for S4C’s arts and culture show Lŵp.

Lorient Interceltic Festival has been running for more than 50 years, attracting an average of 750,000 visitors and spectators each year, as well as more than 4500 artists – including musicians, dancers, visual artists, and film-makers.

For 10 days at the beginning of August, the annual event brings together Celtic nations including Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man and Brittany.

The Brittany national anthem Bro Gozh ma Zadoù – has the same tune as the Welsh national anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. And for good measure, the Cornish anthem, Bro Goth Agan Tasow, is also sung to the same tune.

Breton is the Celtic language of Brittany, and in Breton the anthem’s title is the same as the Welsh version – Old Land of My Fathers.

The Breton lyrics were the creation of François Jaffrennou in 1897, and the music was courtesy of James James, from Pontypridd – the composer of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.

The Breton national anthem is also often played during major sporting events in the French region – including at all Rennes home games.

When Spurs player Joe Rodon signed on a season-long loan to Rennes last year, little did the Welsh international defender realise that every time he stepped out at the French club’s home ground, Roazhon Park, he would hear a very familiar tune.

Rennes is the capital of Brittany in north west France and the Ligue 1 club’s anthem, which is also the national anthem of Brittany, is played at every home match.

It’s thought that the tune was chosen as the Breton national anthem to celebrate the friendship between the Welsh and Bretons at a Congress of the Union Régionaliste Bretonne held in Lesneven in 1903.

And it’s not just the anthem – there are also a number of other similarities between the two cultures.

Welsh and Breton are Brythonic languages and so are also linguistically similar.

There are many Welsh towns twinned with towns in Brittany:
Carmarthen with Lesneven.
Aberystwyth with Saint-Brieuc.
Towyn and Kinmel Bay with Guidel.
Dolgellau with Guérande.
Caernarfon with Landerneau.
Harlech with Riec-sur-Belon.
Pontardawe with Locminé.
Fishguard with Loctudy.
Newport, Pembrokeshire with& Plouguin, Finistère.
Crickhowell with Scaër.
Llanidloes with Derval.
Mumbles with Hennebont.
Rhuthun with Briec de l’Odet
St. Asaph with Begard.
Llanfairfechan with Pleumeulec.
Brecon with Gouesnou.
Cardiff with Nantes. (Nantes was historically part of Brittany, but is now the capital of the Pays de la Loire région of northwestern France).

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11 months ago

You mention that “Nantes was historically part of Brittany, but is now the capital of the Pays de la Loire région of northwestern France)” I think it’s a fun factoid to add that this removal of part of Llydaw was carried out under France’s occupation by a certain Austrian painter and that, after its liberation, France decided that some Nazi ideas were actually okay. I have seen some argue the Bretons deserve it for collaboration. I understand that, in the same way, Churchill took a hard stance against Finland’s independence. Yet it’s hard to see how Finland, Russia, and Europe… Read more »

Peter Roberts
Peter Roberts
11 months ago

Soon after Aberystwyth and St Brieuc were officially twinned some 50 years ago the Breton town hosted Aber’s rugby club. Both teams were lined up for the national anthems before the kick-off. After Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau finished they repeated the tune for the Breton players. One of my fellow front-rowers turned and complained: Why are they playing it again? There’s only one Hen Gwlad…….”

11 months ago

Ah Celtic – a Term invented to house nations the worlds academia didn’t wish to study History about. Wales specifically were added so that they stop being called British in order to open the term up to the Anglo. This worked to perfection because of the amount of Forced English, and how easily and willing the British were when adopting the term Welsh.

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