Tony Mc Manus-The Best Celtic Guitarist In The World

In little over ten years as a professional musician Tony McManus has come to be recognised 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.

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 recognised 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.

With the loyal support of Greentrax Recordings in Scotland Tony’s first self titled recording in 1996, followed by Pourquoi Quebec in 1999 led to worldwide recognition. However, it was with the release of Ceol More in 2002 that Tony’s stature as a first class musician reached a new level. Having heard his session work on several albums Nashville based Compass Records released “Ceol More” in North America to universally ecstatic reviews. Critics hailed the focussed, spell-binding nature of the music, from the plaintive Jewish hymn “Shalom Aleichem” to the ingenious arrangement of the Charles Mingus tune “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”. Having been nominated as Musician of the Year by both the BBC Folk Awards and The Scottish Traditonal Music awards, in 2002 “Ceol More” hit the Critic’s Album of the year list in Acoustic Guitar magazine and named “Live Ireland Awards” Album of the Year.

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 Alain Genty, Bruce Molsky, and Alasdair Fraser to the quartet Men of Steel (with fellow guitarists Dan Crary, Beppe Gambetta and Don Ross). He is an enthusiastic collaborator both as a leader and as a sideman having worked with, among many others Dougie McLean, Phil Cunningham, Mairi MacInnes, Liam O’Flynn, Martin Simpson, Kevin Burke, Alison Brown, Martyn Bennett, Natalie MacMaster, Patrick and Jacky Molard, Mairead ní Mhoanaigh and Dermot Byrne, The Nashville Chamber Orchestra, John Jorgenson, Jean Michel Veillon, Catriona Macdonald, Seikou Keita, Xosé Manuel Budiño, Ewen Vernal and Andy Irvine.
He is also in great demand as a studio musician having contributed to over 60 albums. In addition to his solo output Tony has worked with both singers and instrumentalists providing his distinctive sound on many successful projects.

In recent years he has turned his hand to record production- Gordon Duncan’s amazing “Thunderstruck “ and Cathy-Ann Macphee’s reflective “Suil air Ais” (both on Greentrax) have both been hugely acclaimed for their arrangement ideas and McManus’s subtle touch. Whatever he’s called on to do, Tony provides empathy and imagination allowing the artist to shine.
Whether on a stage, recording in the studio or behind a mixing desk Tony McManus brings a deep respect for traditional music to bear on all he does. Wherever his journey takes him next it is sure to be an exciting ride.

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Sean Woods-From Builder To Classical Guitarist And Beyond

Sean pic for Blog

Sean Woods was 30 when he decided to call time on his work in Berlin as a builder but did not realise that his life had already taken a different path seven years earlier. What happened next changed Sean’s life and the youngster who had no time for school or for learning disappeared.

I can remember it as if it were yesterday. It was 1987 and I was at home watching the television when a programme called ‘My Derry’ came on. It was hosted by Gerry Anderson and in it he was interviewing a classical guitarist from the Top of the Hill called Brian O’ Doherty. I listened to Brian playing the guitar and I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard.”

Sean bought his first ever classical guitar from a guitar shop in Strabane for £32. His fervour for the classical guitar went from strength to strength and when he returned home from Berlin in the mid 1990s his wife suggested he try to build a career out of his musical talent.

Sean applied to study musical performance at Leeds College Of Music and was called for interview.  In 1998, at the age of 32, he then went on to study at Bretton Hall, University Of Leeds, where he achieved a BA (Honours) degree specialising in the classical guitar and under the direction of renowned guitarist Luigi Palombo. Sean also holds a Master Of Music degree in performance studies (MMus) 2006 from The University Of Ulster studying with Carlos Bonnell.

Since graduating Sean has worked for the Derry Classical Music Society, North West Regional College, The University Of Ulster and The Donegal Vocational Education Committee. He has passed on his love of music to hundreds of students from all over the world. He has also given many performances in the UK and Europe both as a soloist and an ensemble player. He has performed in duets and trios with Carlos Bonell, Margarita Escarpa and alongside the internationally acclaimed flautist Sarah Murphy. Many of these include broadcasts on BBC radio for the BBC Music Live Series and live broadcasts on Austrian tv.

However Sean’s insatiable passion to bring the guitar to an even wider audience in Derry/Londonderry led him to the creation of the City Of Derry Guitar Festival in 2002. Since the first festival was held at The University Of Ulster At Magee campus eleven years ago, Sean, as founder and artistic director, has managed to bring some of the biggest names from the classical guitar world to Derry.

This year’s City of Derry Guitar Festival runs from August 22nd to 25th. It’s a festival for everyone. From complete beginner to experts. The festival caters for all guitarists from complete beginners to advanced players and brings a range of eclectic styles. The artists include acoustic guitar maestro Tony Mc Manus, flamenco guitarist John Walsh, Benyounes Quartet, Sean Woods and Sarah Murphy (classical guitar and flute), and classical guitarists Pat Coldrick and Tatyana Ryzhkova. The festival also has the cream of the crop in local talent including course facilitators Eoin O’ Callaghan AKA Best Boy Grip (song writing course), Ted Lynch (Thin Lizzy Riff Library) and Ronan Kearney (beginners guitar).

Sean also owns his own successful recording studio Birchwoods Recording Studio in Ardmore. He said that his hopes for the future are to expand his work through the recording studio and to continue to improve the City Of Derry Guitar Festival.

“Music is my life – I don’t really know or want to do anything else.

I will always love playing

the classical guitar and

I suppose that’s why I am so passionate about the festival.  The festival as with my playing and teaching are a great source of gratification to me as it is what people get and take from it that fuels my passion. I suppose that is why I will always strive to make the festival the best it can be for students and audiences alike

,” said Sean smiling.

 

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