Saturday night, the Friends of Old Time Music and Dance kicked off their 38th season with the joyful sounds of The Tannahill Weavers.
The Tannahill Weavers (the first band to make regular use of the Highland Bagpipes) had the audience’s feet tapping the entire time, as well as bursting into waves of laughter in between songs at front man, Roy Gullane’s anecdotes about back home across the ocean.
Collectively, three generation of fans gathered together to see this final show of the band’s 50th Anniversary Tour. The first song set the tone for the night, greeting the audience with a light and cheerful tune with the fiddle and flute, leading to a driving crescendo when the bagpipes joined in. Hardly into the first song, heads bobbed and feet started tapping.
Lively, but technical, the band played in perfect unison, even as the tempo increased to shocking speed.
Gullane sang Scottish traditional songs with a clear and spritely air to his voice, not unlike the guitar he was playing. When beginning the set, he lauded the State of West Virginia and engaged the audience by teaching them the choruses of several songs and inviting them to sing along.
John Martin, the band’s fiddle player, played his instrument like he was dancing with an old friend.
Driving many of the songs with his intricate melodies, and switching between haunting melodies of lost love and foot stomping ballads of times gone past, he and the rest of the band were a true pleasure to watch.
One of the songs told the tale of a man who was “transported,” a bygone punishment for everything from small misdemeanors to large infractions. The Transportation Ballad, or “Farewell to Glasgow,” painted a melancholy and wistful picture. The ballad gave one the feeling of a man standing at the bow of a ship and looking out across a vast, gray ocean, looking toward the future, while sending prayers back to his loved ones at home.
Gullane joked that the band had achieved a “Scottish Grammy” — the highest award one can achieve in Scotland — by having one of their songs played on television during a beer commercial. Perhaps the three part harmonies, intricate trills of the whistle, driving beats from the Bodhran (a traditional Scottish hand drum) and the unique tone of the Highland bagpipes had something to do with this?
After the intermission, Will Roboski (dance director at Davis & Elkins College) surprised everyone by coming out and performing a riverdance on stage, adding a cherry to the top of what was a memorable and exciting concert.
From their tongue-in-cheek humor to the lively ballads performed by these four men, this show was all around a great experience. This being the seventh time that the Tannahill Weavers have performed in a FOOTMAD concert, hopes are high that the will return for another show.