December 31, 2003

Polig Monjarret dies

Polig Monjarret, considered to be the modern father figure of Breton piping, has passed away in Lorient, France.

Though unknown to most Highland pipers, Monjarret is directly responsible for saving Breton pipe music and for establishing the Breton “bagad” pipe band concept in the 1940s.

Monjarret collected over 3,000 traditional compositions during the occupation of France from 1940-’45. At that time, Breton pipe music was on the verge of extinction. It was Monjarret who realized that, if the music was to survive, it would have to adopt elements of the Scottish-style pipe band.

Monjarret’s solution was the “bagad,” a unique ensemble of Highland pipes, pipe band drums and Breton bombardes. He was a founder of the Breton Pipe Band Association (BAS), which today is directly responsible for training generations of bagad band members, and traditional pipers playing in the “sonneurs de couple” duo format.

Monjarret published a collection of music, and a second volume was unveiled in the summer of 2003 at the Interceltic Music Festival in Lorient.

Hundreds attended Monjarret’s funeral, where the famous Breton piper Patrick Molard played the Uillean pipes — an instrument Monjarret loved. His casket was placed in the town square of Larmor Plage, where massed pipers played “An Hini Garan,” Monjarret’s favourite Breton air.




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