The Tannahill Weavers have been performing for 55 years. Dozens of musicians have come and gone over the years, but the two consistent members have been Roy Gullane on guitar and lead vocals; and Phil Smillie on various woodwind instruments. Saturday night at the Old Town School of Folk Music, they were joined by Malcolm Bushby on fiddle and Iain MacGillivray, who rotated between woodwind, fiddle, and bagpipes.
The Weavers have recorded some modern music over the years, but this concert consisted primarily of traditional Celtic songs - mostly from their native Scotland. Some of the music was written in the past century, but it still had a classic feel to it. They played jigs and ballads and reels, alternating between instrumentals and vocal compositions - many of which showed off the band's tight harmonies.
Roy Gullane took center stage, singing lead on most songs and chatting with the audience. He joked about the pleasantness of bagpipes and his younger romantic self. But it was MacGillivray who stole the shoe with his impressive bagpipe playing. This was the first time I had seen a bagpiper up close, and his melodies and rapid finger impressed me.
The show felt more intimate than most shows at the Old Town. The band performed in Szold Hall, which is much smaller than Maurer Hall, where most visiting artists perform.
Other bands have worked to keep Celtic music alive, but few have done so as long or as well as The Weavers.