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The Tannahill Weavers are a popular band which performs traditional Scottish music. Releasing their first album in 1976 they became notable for being one of the first popular bands to incorporate the sound of the Great Highland Bagpipe in an ensemble setting, and in doing so helped to change the sound of Scottish traditional music. In 2011 the band was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame.
In the late 18th and early 19th century Scotland was in a turmoil of change. Highlanders were being driven from their lands and into the burgeoning Lowland factory systems. This brought two quite distinct cultures together, the mystic Celtic culture of the North and the old Anglo/Scots culture of the Lowlands. They were married by the double barreled shotgun of necessity and the Industrial Revolution. But this forced union brought forth a cultural heritage which, thanks to people like Robert Burns and Robert Tannahill, outlasted the worst of the Industrial Revolution. It married the mystic beauty of the Celtic music to the coarse, brawling, but vitally human music, poetry and ballads of the Lowlands. It is precisely this strangely moving yet lustily stirring quality that the Tannahill Weavers have captured in their arrangements of the traditional music and songs of Scotland. All of their material is traditional, but as good musicians should, they have transformed it and brought it into the modern world, vitally alive and kicking.
As they approach their 50th anniversary in 2018, the Tannahill Weavers are one of Scotland’s premier traditional bands. Their diverse repertoire spans the centuries with fire-driven instrumentals, topical songs, and original ballads and lullabies. Their music demonstrates to old and young alike the rich and varied musical heritage of the Celtic people. These versatile musicians have received worldwide accolades consistently over the years for their exuberant performances and outstanding recording efforts that seemingly can’t get better…yet continue to do just that.
The Tannahills have turned their acoustic excitement loose on audiences with an electrifying effect. They have that unique combination of traditional melodies, driving rhythmic accompaniment, and rich vocals that make their performances unforgettable. As the Winnipeg Free Press noted, “The Tannahill Weavers – properly harnessed – could probably power an entire city for a year on the strength of last night’s concert alone. The music may be old time Celtic, but the drive and enthusiasm are akin to straight ahead rock and roll.”
Born of a session in Paisley, Scotland and named for the town’s historic weaving industry and local poet laureate Robert Tannahill, the group has made an international name for its special brand of Scottish music, blending the beauty of traditional melodies with the power of modern rhythms. The Tannahill Weavers began to attract attention when founding members Roy Gullane and Phil Smillie added the full-sized highland bagpipes to the on-stage presentations, the first professional Scottish folk group to successfully do so. The combination of the powerful pipe solos, Roy’s driving guitar backing and lead vocals, and Phil’s ethereal flute playing breathed new life into Scotland’s vast repertoire of traditional melodies and songs.
Three years and a dozen countries later, the Tannahills were the toast of Europe, having won the Scotstar Award for Folk Record of the Year with their third album, The Tannahill Weavers. Canada came the next summer, with thousands at the national festivals in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto screaming an approval that echoed throughout the Canadian media. The Regina Leader-Post wrote, “The Tannahill Weavers personify Celtic music, and if you are given to superlatives, you have to call their talent ‘awesome’.”
Since their first visit to the United States in 1981, the Tannahills’ unique combination of traditional melodies on pipes, flute and fiddle, driving rhythms on guitar and bouzouki, and powerful three and four part vocal harmonies have taken the musical community by storm. As Garrison Keillor, the host of “Prairie Home Companion”, remarked, “These guys are a bunch of heroes every time they go on tour in the States”.
Over the years the Tannies have been trailblazers for Scottish music, and their tight harmonies and powerful, inventive arrangements have won them fans from beyond the folk and Celtic music scenes. In 2011 the band was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame, and in 2014 they are joined by innovative piper Lorne MacDougall. Lorne comes with a high pedigree, having arranged and performed pipes for the Disney Pixar movie “Brave”, along with a long list of other accomplishments.
With their impending 50th anniversary in 2018, the Tannahill Weavers are firmly established as one of the premier groups on the concert stage. From reflective ballads to footstomping reels and jigs, the variety and range of the material they perform is matched only by their enthusiasm and lively Celtic spirits.