Highway's Song

OB Series Kicks Off Season with the Tannahill Weavers

Tannahill Weavers: John Martin, Phil Smillie, Roy Gullane, Lorne MacDougall

Tannahill Weavers: John Martin, Phil Smillie, Roy Gullane, Lorne MacDougall

Poet Robert Tannahill

Poet Robert Tannahill

The way Larry Bausch sees it, the Celtic music revival has its place as an important turning point.

And he should know. When he is not overseeing the spiritual needs of his parish at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Ocean Beach or enjoying time at said beach catching a few waves, Father Bausch is immersed in Celtic music. He probably possesses one of the larger record ollections in the genre in San Diego County. Well-timed trips overseas has allowed him to be in the audience at some famous festivals, including a highly regarded folk gathering in Cork, Ireland. His own parish has served as a showcase for entertainers from Ireland and the UK, many of them returnees who consider Ocean Beach one of the highlights of any upcoming North America itinerary. On October 9, Holy Trinity begins its 18th season, hosting the Tannahill Weavers, a band Bausch holds in particularly high regard.

How did the revival come to be? Bausch is happy to explain; “As to the premier bands, there were arguably four in Scotland and four in Ireland who led the revival in the ’70s, all becoming internationally known: The Scottish bands were, in order of origin, the Tannahill Weavers, the Battlefield Band, Silly Wizard, and Ossian; the Irish bands were Clannad, Planxty, the Bothy Band, and DeDannan.

“As to the why for the revival, I’ll start with the folk revival itself. In the 1950s, the U.S. led a major revival in folk music, which led to a similar movement in Great Britain, and, to a lesser extent in Ireland (think Martin Carthy, Ewan McCall, and the Clancy Brothers).
During the ’60s, the next phase was the various instrumental developments adding to the tradition, once again starting with the U.S. (the Byrds, etc) and expanding to the U.K. (Pentangle, Fairport Convention, etc). What constituted the Celtic revival in the ’70s was really a combination of all that had gone on in the previous decades: rooted in traditional songs, tunes, and instruments but willing to add other elements (the Tannies were the first significant folk band to incorporate the highland bagpipes, which had previously been either a solo instrument or in a pipe and drum band), often emphasizing either instrumental prowess or harmony singing, which were more concert-oriented than either dances or session playing. Many of the musicians were greatly influenced by rock ‘n’ roll and often brought an energy and passion to the traditional presentation that made the music more accessible to a young generation accustomed to such, including internationally. Indeed, some have argued that it was the Celtic revival in the ’70s and after which gave rise to the spread and popularity of all sorts of traditional folk music across the globe (“world music”).”

Tannahill Weavers veteran member Roy Gullane acknowledges the influence of rock. “We all grew up listening to the likes of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, the Who, etc. Certainly a golden era for rock ‘n’ roll. Just like today, you’re force fed that genre of music; there’s no escaping it, so some of it must rub off,” said Gullane. “Guitars are not a traditional Scottish instrument, so someone had to get that ball rolling. I suppose listening to rock music was a good start, it did have the necessary energy. When we added the bagpipes into the lineup it had never been done before, so we had a sort of carte blanche approach to it. There was no standard way of accompanying them with anything other than drums. Add the guitar and bouzouki, no rules. Lovely. As far as I’m concerned, for rock read enthusiasm.”

Gullane will be joined on stage by another founding member, Phil Smillie (flute, bodhran, and whistles). The famous pipes of the band will be played by Lorne MacDougall and John Martin will be performing on the fiddle, cello and viola. The band’s name comes from Scot Robert Tannahill, who wrote poems depicting the labor class of Scotland.
Like so many other Scottish poets, his work has been overshadowed by the better known Robert Burns, who still has dinners named in his honor in Scottish communities around the world. “It wasn’t really his work that was the inspiration, it was simply that his name was so linked with the town of Paisley, which is the birthplace of both Robert Tannahill and the band,” Gullane explained. “Add to that the fame of Pete Seeger’s Weavers and there you have it.”

With 17 albums under their belt, ambitious touring itineraries, and memorable appearances on A Prairie Home Companion (Garrison Keillor: “These guys are a bunch of heroes every time they go on tour in the States.”), the Tannahill Weavers is one of the few bands still standing from the Celtic revival, Any explanation for the longevity? “I could tell you it’s good healthy living,” said Gullane, “but people know us better than that, although nowadays I’d describe the band’s life style, in the words of Emo Phillips, as ‘My body is not a temple, but a reasonably well run Christian boys club.’ The biggest contributory factor to our longevity, I’m happy to say, is that people still want to see us play and we, most definitely, still want to play to people.”

Rounding out 2015 at Holy Trinity will be two more concerts. Songwriter Gerry O’Beirne performs on November 20. Piper Eric Rigler (featured on the Titanic and Braveheart soundtracks) and Dirk Freymuth will present a Celtic Christmas show on December 18.

Tannahill Weavers Sample Glossary

airts: directions
breeks: trousers
chevalier: Bonnie Prince Charlie
doon: down
een: eyes
flooer: flower
gae: go
hame: home
ken: know
leal: loyal
mailin: tenant farm
noo: now
o’: of
pawky: cunning
sinder: to part company from
tends his vows: proposes marriage
winnae: will not
yon: yonder

Holy Trinity concerts presents the Tannahill Weavers on October 9, 7:30pm, Betheny Lutheran Church, 2051 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. in Ocean Beach. Admission: $25. For reserve seating please email CKAEMMERER@SAN.RR.COM with your name and number attending in your party.). Tickets will also be available at the door.

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