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Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar - An Introduction

To find a unique voice on so ubiquitous an instrument as the acoustic guitar is quite an achievement: to do so within a centuries old idiom where the instrument has no real history is truly remarkable. In little over ten years as a professional musician Tony McManus has come to be recognized throughout the world as the leading guitarist in Celtic Music. From early childhood his twin obsessions of traditional music and acoustic guitar have worked together to produce a startlingly original approach to this ancient art. In Tony’s hands the complex ornamentation normally associated with fiddles and pipes are accurately transferred to guitar in a way that preserves the integrity and emotional impact of the music.

Self taught from childhood, initially through listening to the family record collection, McManus abandoned academia in his twenties to pursue music full time. The session scene in Glasgow and Edinburgh provided the springboard for gigs around Scotland and a studio set for BBC Radio, frequently rebroadcast, began to spread the word.

In a relatively short time Tony’s music has come to define a new role for the guitar in Celtic music. He has come to represent Celtic music in the guitar world, making regular appearances at guitar specific events where just a few years ago jigs and reels would be unheard of. He is now invited annually to the Chet Atkins Festival in Nashville, has appeared at Guitar Festivals in Soave and Pescantina, Italy; Frankston, Australia; Issoudun, France; Kirkmichael, Scotland; Bath and Kent, England; Bochum and Osnabruck, Germany and has taught at five of Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Kamps in Maryville, Tennessee. He recently appeared at the famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville in the “All Star Guitar Night” featuring Steve Morse, Bryan Sutton, Muriel Anderson, Béla Fleck and Victor Wooten and headlined by the legendary Les Paul.

His ability to reach audiences unfamiliar with traditional music is remarkable- he is quite comfortable at predominantly classical events such as the Dundee and Derry Guitar Festivals (appearing six times between the two) and even The Bogotá International Guitar Festival where he followed virtuoso Eduardo Fernandez.
Today his live work ranges from intimate solo performance through various duos with friends.

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    Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar - An Introduction

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    In this lesson Tony McManus shows that, even at an introductory level, there's much more to Celtic music than the slow airs and O'Carolan harp tunes that are so frequently arranged for guitar. With a bit of work the student can quickly be engaged in the core music of this repertoire. Tony takes us on a gentle but detailed exploration of the ornamentation- rolls, grace notes, triplets etc.- needed to really get inside this music. 

    Much of the Celtic idiom is dance music and is defined by the contrasting rhythms of reels, jigs, slip jigs etc. The Lark's March is a great example of a simple yet attractive Irish jig. Tullochgorum is likewise a well known Scottish Strathspey (a dance unique to Scotland). Often overlooked is the Celtic music from outside of Ireland and Scotland and here Tony teaches us one of his favorite Breton tunes; a Wedding Gavotte - the structure of which is very common in the music of this region. 

    Not to be overlooked, of course, are the slow airs and O'Carolan tunes! Turlough O'Carolan's (1670- 1738) music forms a unique facet of the Irish repertoire. All that survives of the harpists work are single line melodies so the harmonic accompaniment is a blank slate. Here we are shown a very accessible arrangement of what is thought to be his first composition - Si Bheag Si Mhor. Also included is the enigmatic air Paddy's Rambles Through The Park- a tune from the Donegal fiddle tradition associated with Johnny Doherty, a key figure in that music. 

    By working through this material the student will have a grasp of the variety and beauty of music that has been played in an unbroken chain for centuries. 

    Titles include: Paddy's Ramble Through The Park, I'm Asleep, Don't Awaken Me, Si Bheag Si Mhor, The Lark's March, Tullochgorum, Breton Wedding March and The Butterfly 

    104 minutes • Level 2 • Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD

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