My latest Celtic Connection article
Wednesday July 9, 2014
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Things are warming up here on the left coast, both weather-wise and musically-speaking! There are three concerts of Celtic music at The Rogue in the next few weeks which - I promise you - will be amongst the best you'll hear all year. On Thursday July 10th Tony McManus & Laura Smith perform at The Rogue at St. James Hall (3214 West 10th Ave.) Tony McManus is widely regarded as the finest guitarist in Celtic music these days. Born and raised in Glasgow, he is self-taught, and his most recent CD consists of classical music selections played on the steel string guitar; surely a first in this genre! He is best known for his Celtic guitar, though, and his transcriptions of complex pibroch / Ceol Mor bagpipe pieces are truly stunning. Laura Smith from Nova Scotia is best known for her memorable reinterpretation of My Bonny. Her latest CD consists of several trad. Scots ballads as well as several original songs. Tony teamed up with her a year or so back, at first to record with her, and this led to concert performances across Canada and at the recent Folk Alliance in Kansas City - which were met with ecstatic reviews from all who witnessed them. Tony will accompany Laura's set and will also perform a solo set. We are thrilled to be able to present them in concert at The Rogue.
The following Monday (July 14th) The Rogue takes over The Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island for a double bill featuring New Zealand / Scots trio Pacific Curls and the incredible piping duo Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson from Scotland. This theatre is air-conditioned! It will need to be, for this concert will surely feature some of the hottest music in town that night! Ross and Jar recently released their 2nd CD, Air-Fix, which showcases their versatility as well as their incredible skills as pipers. Jarlath, who is a practising MD when he's not piping, specializes in the Irish uilleann pipes and Low D Whistle, while Ross plays Border pipes and various low whistles. They will be joined by Ali Hutton on guitar and vocals. We saw them at the Edmonton Folk festival last Summer, and Tony Montague of the Georgia Straight witnessed them at a trad. festival in Edinburgh last month. We agree that this is some of the most amazing piping that we have heard!
Pacific Curls have visited our shores three times over the past few years. Their remarkable blend of Celtic fiddle tunes with Polynesian rhythms and soulful songs in Maori, English and Rotuman - backed by guitar, ukulele, and cajon is beautiful and exhilarating at the same time. Their vocal harmonies are glorious and they bring together their respectively disparate worlds in a most enjoyable way!
Students of Scots history will be aware of the 18th century Scots presbyterian preacher Norman McLeod, who first led his congregation across the Atlantic to settle near Baddeck, N.S. (The site of their settlement is now the Gaelic College at St. Anne's, and is the HQ of Cape Breton's wonderful Celtic Colours festival which takes place every October.) After a few years he decided this wasn't quite the ideal new location for his flock, so he led them even further this time, first to Adelaide, Australia and then to Waipu on the north island of New Zealand. Little did he know that Pacific Curls would retrace much of those journeys 250 years later - albeit in a much more comfortable and more musically fulfilling way!
Margaret & I went to Celtic Colours last year and had an amazing time there. The most impressive new band we heard there was Coig, whose name means five in Gaelic. These five are fiddlers Chrissy Crowley from Margaree and Colin Grant from Sydney NS, fiddler / singer Rachel Davis from Baddeck, pianist Jason Roach from Cheticamp on the French west coast of Cape Breton, and multi-instrumentalist Darren McMullen from Hardwood Lands, NS, whose mastery of all things stringed was the most impressive feature of David Francey's backing band at his sold out show at The Rogue last fall. This stunning band has just released its first CD - I'm currently awaiting delivery by Canada Post - but all 5 have released solo and collaborative albums in the past few years, most notably Crowley's Last Night's Fun and The Departure CDs and Davis' solo CD, Turns. You might have seen Colin Grant at the Celtic Festival in recent years too. He has his own band and is also a member of Sprag Session, a contemporary Celtic combo from Sydney. Individually they are amongst the very finest young musicians in Cape Breton; collectively they are the most exciting new trad. band to come from that island since the Barra MacNeils and the Rankins emerged 25 years ago. Coig are every bit as good as the best of those two esteemed bands, and their approach is even more traditional. Come and see them on August 14th at The Rogue at St. James Hall. You will be blown away!!
Cindy Church is a wonderful signer originally from Halifax. For many years (notably at Expo 86) she was the backing singer in Ian Tyson's band. Sylvia Tyson used to be married to him, of course, and Ian & Sylvia were amongst the leading bands in the folk revival of the early 1960s. Sylvia is still going strong, still writing and singing in that crystal-clear voice. They are joined by Caitlin Hanford and Gwen Swick (who used to play fiddle in the trad. band Tamarack) to form Quartette, and this renowned Canadian combo makes its Rogue debut on August 15th.
You may have noticed that Shore 104fm has now become LG1040, and its format is now "Classic Rock". Fortunately they still broadcast Coastal Blues every night from 9pm to midnight, and they continue to sponsor the music before the fireworks during the annual Celebration of Light (July 26, July 30 and August 2 this year.) The Rogue teams up with LG1040 to present Shorefest at the Sunset Beach Stage again this year. It's FREE, and there are six bands, including Jim Byrnes & The Sojourners, Jon & Roy, Current Swell, Scarlett Jane, Locarno, and Spirit of the West. Spirit Geoffrey Kelly does double duty on July 30th with Locarno (featuring Tom Landa and Kalissa Landa-Hernandez of The Paperboys) and SOTW. Geoff was one of my main sources of inspiration and music when I got started at CiTR in 1985 and I remember trying for years to get them booked at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. Then AD Gary Cristall repeatedly insisted that if he wanted a Celtic band he would get one from Scotland or Ireland. I feel he completely missed the point about the early SOTW: they were a Canadian band with strong Scots roots, playing the music they grew up with and attaching it to the songs of their Canadian experiences. While the Celtic influence is less noticeable these days, the Spirits can still rock and reel with the best of them, and I will always be indebted to Geoff for introducing me to such great bands as The Batties, The Tannies, Touchstone, The Bothies, and so many more.
For Celtic music fans, the pick of this year's festivals has to be Edmonton - with Harrison coming in as a highly respectable runner-up. Edmonton (August 7-10) has Donal Lunny & Andy Irvine, Lunasa, Sharon Shannon, and a new quartet with Niamh Parsons, Ron Kavana, Paddy Keenan and Siobhan Peoples. Plus Dublin rockabilly sensation Imelda May (who was featured on The Chieftains' Rock of Ages CD last year.) The Harrison Festival has the likes of Tony McManus, Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson, Pacific Curls, English duo Gilmore & Roberts, and the amazing new combo North Atlantic Trio (Celtic harp, dobro and bodhran / cajon.)
On September 19th The Rogue teams up with North Van's Centennial Theatre and Nanaimo's Celtfest to bring back Galician piper Carlos Nunez and his fabulous band, who made such a huge impression on us all at The Rogue in February. Don't make any travel plans for the weekend of November 15 / 16! New Irish supergroup The Gloaming plays The Chan Centre at UBC on Saturday November 15th, and English guitarist / singer Martin Simpson plays The Rogue the following night. Check out The Gloaming. This remarkable new band stars Clare fiddler Martin Hayes and Afro Celt singer Iarla O'Lionaird amongst others. Their beautiful debut CD came out on Realworld Records earlier this year. To hear the best of Martin Simpson, try to track down the bonus disc version of his latest CD, Vagrant Stanzas. The extra tracks are incredible! (So are the others!)
For all the latest news and to hear music by upcoming performers - and many more on our Radio Rogue internet "station", visit www.roguefolk.bc.ca