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International Appeal of Manx Music & Dance

Wed, 27 May 2020


In the fourth in our series of articles about Manx music, this piece looks at teh link between music and food in the Isle of Man. This was recently published in the Manx Independent:

International Appeal of Manx Music & Dance

The Manx are always to be found in far-flung places, but since the covid-19 lockdown, the Island’s songs and tunes have caught the imagination of even more musicians around the world, many of whom are discovering the Isle of Man for the first time.

Glasgow-based harpist Rachel Hair has been an enthusiastic advocate of Manx music for a long while and has published two books of arrangements. Before the pandemic, Rachel was in New Zealand as guest tutor of the Port Waikato harp retreat. Over 20 students learnt Paul Cringle's “Auldyn River” and liked it so much they renamed the creek behind the camp for their final evening performance. You can watch the video on Culture Vannin’s Facebook page.

Back home, Rachel usually organises the Edinburgh International Harp Festival. When the lockdown was announced, she had to think very quickly and organise one of the first virtual festivals. One of the events was a virtual group concert of Rachel’s “Mannin Aboo” suite of Manx melodies, performed by harpists around the world.

Festivals here have also had to adapt to the lockdown, and organisers of Yn Chruinnaght Celtic Gathering announced they would be holding a virtual ‘Tannaghtyn sThie’ (stay at home) festival this July, featuring music, dance and culture from the Celtic nations.

Rushen Silver Band recently staged a virtual concert on Facebook using existing video footage and reaching fans all over the world.  The concert included “Hunt the Wren”, performed at the 2015 Lorient festival.

New followers of Manx music include the Belgian duo, Féileacán Fiddles who have been learning a new tune each day and chose “Kiark Catriney Marroo” for one of their daily challenges. It can be viewed on Facebook.

Singer and viola da gamba player Anna Tam also focused on the Island as part of her ‘Folk from the Boat’ lockdown Youtube series, performing "Arrane Saveenagh". Folksong melodies naturally suit period instruments, and also on YouTube, David Jacques from Quebec performs a beautiful arrangement of “Arrane Ben-Vlieaun” on an 1820 French children’s guitar.

Video collaborations are now a familiar form of online entertainment, and an impressive Facebook video was recently produced by the Unity Irish Dance company, featuring 35 Irish dancers performing to “Chase the Ace” by Manx band Mec Lir!

One song seems to have particular international appeal. “Ushag Veg Ruy” or Little Red Bird has been recorded by a number of international artists, including Irish singer Zoe Conway and Czech musician Terez Wrau who uses the Acapella app to accompany herself. It was also recently recorded by French musician Jean Luc Lenoir on his album “Berceuses Celtiques - A la rencontre des Fées”.

French band, Folk Stories, recently filmed a lockdown cover of Greg Joughin and Barrule's “In Search of Manannan”. This, like “She Lhong Honnick Mee”, appears on their latest album.

Manx dance attracts international interest too, and Gisele Dark, a dancer from Brazil has just launched a new Celtic dance website, which includes a Manx dance section.

Finally, congratulations to Scott Kinsey Regan, who first saw King Chiaullee perform live in Pennsylvania, USA in 2004 and became so intrigued by the Island that he has now gained an MA with his research into Manx music.

You can stay connected with the ever-expanding world of Manx music via Culture Vannin's monthly e-newsletter, Kiaull Manninagh Jiu, and access free music and dance resources at manxmusic.com and culturevannin.im - including this month’s guitar tutorial, “Cutting the Turf”.

The article is available to be enjoyed on the Isle of Man Newspapers' website.

This article links to the series of traditional Manx music arranged for guitar being released as a free download and video lesson. More information is available here.