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.
In this second lesson on Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar, Tony McManus explores all the dance rhythms of Scottish music, with its pipe-marches, strathspeys, single and double jigs, slip jigs and reels. Three unusual tunings are presented: CGCGCD, CGDGCD and DAAEAE. These tunings are used to better maintain the integrity of the music and Tony has been notably successful in translating the complex music of the highland bagpipes to the guitar. The idea and playing of sets is presented as well as further exploration of ornamentation techniques.
Titles include: CGCGCD TUNING: Irene Meldrum's Welcome to Bon Accord, Hecla, The Ramnee Ceilidh. CGDGCD TUNING: Bidh Clann Ulaidh (The Clan of Ulster). DAAEAE TUNING: The Seagull, Breizh
68 minutes • Level 3/4 • Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD
Review: John Renbourn has called Scottish musician Tony McManus the best Celtic guitarist in the world, and he may well be right. McManus is a triple threat on the instrument. He can flatpick highly ornamented jigs and reels at the lickety-split tempo of a wild seisun; his inventive arrangements and sensitive backup have made him a favored accompanist with fiddlers such as Alasdair Fraser, Johnny Cunningham, and Kevin Burke; and he is a splendid fingerstyle interpreter of Scottish and Irish tunes. His new Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar According to Tony McManus instructional videos provide ample evidence of his prowess in adapting tradiional fiddle and pipes music to the six-string, combining idiomatically proper tune readings with sophisticated modern settings. Celtic tunes have been a staple of the fingerstyle repertoire ever since Davey Graham blew away the folk scene with his virtuosic D A D G A D arrangements of jigs and reels in the early 1960s. Despite masterful adaptations of fiddle tunes and harp pieces by pickers such as Pierre Bensusan, Duck Baker, and Pat Kirtley, the fingerstyle guitar world and the mainstream Irish and Scottish traditional scene have remained in separate camps. But McManus spans this gap with ease. He grew up in the midst of traditional music in Paisley, Scotland, and he learned the old tunes on fiddle, tin whistle, and mandolin before taking up the guitar. This foundation in the tradition gives McManus guitar work a depth and authenticity of phrasing often absent when the music of wind and bow is adapted for picking. McManus is particularly good at the ornamentation that defines the Celtic idiom. It s tricky on the guitar to approximate the rolls, crans, and cuts that grace a proper pipe tune, but McManus melds hammer-ons, pull-offs, and plucky prestidigitation to get it right. He is particularly adept at the triplets that are typical of Scottish fiddle bowing, and the first video devotes a fair amount of time to helping the novice picker get a handle on this devilish right-hand technique. McManus offers a brief introduction to each tune and plays it at concert tempo several times through, often varying the arrangement with each repetition. He then examines in detail several elements of each tune to provide insight into rhythm, ornamentation, and technique. Finally, he repeats the tune very slowly, with a split screen offering simultaneous close-ups of both hands. A booklet with notation and tablature is included with each tape, but McManus patient demonstrations and repetitions of thorny passages obviate the need to study the dots.The common stock of Celtic-oriented fingerstyle tunes is heavy on the Irish harp compositions of Turlough O Carolan and a bit light on the dance tunes that are the backbone of traditional music. On tape I McManus introduces some meaty jigs and reels that are welcome additions to the canon. These relatively straightforward tunes are arranged in dropped D and D A D G A D. On the second tape he focuses on the Scottish tradition and includes a challenging slip jig as well as a full Highland pipe set of march, strathspey, and reel. The tunings go further afield on the second tape, with pieces in C G C G C D, C G D G C D, and D A A E A E, and some lovely slow airs round out the collection. The arrangements are first-rate throughout, and McManus varies his approach - using simple modal drones on one piece and elaborate jazz voicings on another. McManus often capos up to higher positions to ease the finger stretches required by some of his arrangements, and the higher pitches enhance the brilliance and clarity sometimes lost with alternate tunings. McManus plays a custom 000style 12-fret guitar made by Scottish luthier William Kelday throughout the proceedings. It sounds wonderful, even on a three-inch television speaker. – Acoustic Guitar