Biography

Transverse music and Celtic fusion

Alan Stivell introduced the concept of Celtic music as a genre and was responsible for popularizing it.
Alan wants to re-popularize songs that were once popular in Brittany and other Celtic and English-speaking countries. He used to hear these songs in his youth but they had almost been forgotten in his country. He has brought them back into the public eye and hopes they will catch on again.
Nevertheless, the general public’’s understanding of Celtic music is restrictive, despite its richness. The term “Celtic music” is very dear to Alan but it does not encompass all aspects of his music. Alan is definitely a believer in “cross-over” music. He does and has always believed in blending cultures and musical styles.
While Alan Stivell is best known for his popularization of modern Breton and Celtic music he is widely considered to be one of the forerunners of several musical genres : folk-rock, the ambient movement and world music; styles which he has continued to develop since the release of seminal album Reflets in 1970.

  • As of 9 years of age, Alan Stivell began giving recitals before enraptured audiences at UNESCO, the Cathedral of Vannes and the Olympia Concert Hall.  His performances brought about a rebirth of the Celtic harp in the public eye.
  • Alan Stivell soon became deeply interested in Celtic civilization and music, which he conceptualized, modernized and popularized.
  • At an early age, he designed his first electric harps, wrote a symphony and began recording his Celtic harp pieces shortly before the Celtic rock movement began to take hold.
  • In 1966, he began his career as a singer.
  • The next year, he signed his first international contract with Universal (formerly Philips).
  • His first recitals cause his influence on contemporary Celtic music to grow.
  • His album “Reflets” (Reflections) launched his career permanently.  It was also a manifesto for a type of music inspired by many cultural sources, later known as “World Music.”
  • His third album, entitled “Renaissance de la harpe celtique” (The Rebirth of the Celtic Harp) and recorded in 1971, inspired thousands of people the world over to take up playing the harp.
  • Pop-Plinn,” a rock-Breton fusion, was followed by a concert in February 1972 and a live album recorded at the Olympia concert hall.  Over 2 million copies were sold.  The “Stivell Phenomenon,” as many people were calling it, changed the image of Brittany.Â-Following performances in Italy, Ireland and London (Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1968 alongside the Moody Blues), his international career would flourish as of 1973 throughout Europe, the United States and Australia at rock festivals and on television.
  • Alan Stivell performed regularly at the recently inaugurated at the “Festival Interceltique of Lorient (International Celtic Festival), of which he is an enthusiastic supporter.  His Celtic Symphony was featured in 1979 and 1980 at this annual event.
  • However, Alan did not find much solace in his celebrity status.  During the 1980s he released the pieces he was most attached to.  He became even more demanding with the music he produced and continued performing abroad, in Italy, the United States and Canada.
  • After recording the albums “Legend” and “The Mist of Avalon”,  he re-released, in 1993, his most famous songs (featuring Kate Bush) on the album “Again,” which was an immediate hit.  Stivell’s ensuing concert tour in 1994 was equally successful.  As many as 1000 CDs a day were sold.
  • By this time, Stivell’s fan base was composed of both the general public and younger generations.  A masterpiece work was then produced by Martin Meissonnier “Brian Boru.”  Youssou N’Dour, Jim Kerr, Paddy Moloney and John Cale are all guest artists in “1 Douar.”
  • 100,000 albums are sold every year (until the worldwide slump in record sales occurred)
    The beginning of the 21st century witnessed the appearance of his anniversary album “Au-delà des mots” (Beyond Words), his book Telenn, la harpe bretonne (Telenn, the Breton Harp) and his DVD “Parcours” (My Life and Work), which went gold in just a few months.  Then he released the album “Explore” and his latest “Emerald.”
  • Yesterday and today, Alan Stivell always plays to a full house.  His concerts are very different from one year to the next.
  • His approach to his music is characterized by:
    – openness to new influences
    – unprecedented blending of different styles of music
    – a continual quest for research and innovation and new technologies
    – an attachment to his own cultural roots
  • From the outset, Alan Stivell has sought to blaze new trails in music:
    –  when he designed the “harps of the future,”
    –  when he electrified his first bardic harp (he now performs with his latest prototype)
    –  when introducing new instruments used in rock music or world music.
    –  when mixing his first electronic and hip hop music with Breton sounds.
  • While his musical research goes on, Alan Stivell continues to sing with his unparalleled, original phraseology, naturally mixing languages and styles.