One contributor to Ailie Robertson's Scottish Harp Anthology is Tristan Le Govic. Tristan is one of the most interesting young Celtic harp players around today. Born and trained in Brittany, followed by further studies in Ireland, he is now living in Scotland and "I expect I'll travel on to somewhere else, at some point", he says.
In English, you always have to choose between the words "lever" and "Celtic" harp. French always calls a lever harp "une harpe celtique", but in every language you can still discuss whether "Celtic music" is a real genre or not. "I don't see why not", Tristan argues. "The music of all the Celtic lands - Brittany, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall - is linked together, just as there is a family of Celtic languages. We refer to "classical music", although it also comes from different countries, and to "Breton music", although there are many regional variations within traditional Breton music. I would be more inclined to alter the second part of the term and call it "Celtic musics", than take issue with "Celtic." I studied Celtic harp and Celtic harp teaching in Brittany; I did a masters about the development of the Irish Celtic repertoire at University College Cork; and I moved to Scotland with a similar idea to get to know Scottish traditional music and musicians."
Tristan is active as a performer, teacher and composer alike. He has released several CDs and published three books of music, two of which are accompaniments to his CDs, and all of which reflect his broad experience throughout the Celtic lands. Two new projects reveal even broader fusion: a trio with e-bass and percussion, mixing Celtic, jazz and world music, and a duo with a Swedish singer, blending Scandinavian and Celtic influences. "My existing publications are for advanced players, so I'm also working on publishing more for beginners."
"Living in Scotland has taught me a lot. The Celtic music scene is really active. Scotland has two big cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, very close together, and especially in the winter there are many places to play, and many festivals. I go back to Brittany every summer to perform in the festivals there, but Scotland has been my home for four years now. Teaching in Scotland is also very different to in Brittany. Where I come from, most pupils learn the harp in a specialist music school, so they tend to be highly motivated from the beginning. Teaching in mainstream schools - now I teach in Scottish primary and secondary schools, as well as giving private lessons and a lot of workshops - is a different art. I have had to change my approach, as well as think hard about how to order my priorities.
Whether traditional music should be taught aurally or with printed music is always a matter of debate. I studied classical music and composition as well, so I do write everything down. I can arrange tunes by ear, but in any case music has to be written down for publication. I don't think it really matters which method you prefer, nor does it matter what music - musics! - you want to learn. Everyone needs a sound technique, but beyond that it's much more about the teacher recognising what it is you came for, how you feel music, and how you can learn to breathe and be at one with your instrument."
Tristan plays a Concert Melusine harp, which is equipped with a pickup on each string so it can function as an acoustic or as an electric instrument. In fact, he has two; one in Scotland, and one in Brittany.