Mánran blends traditional with contemporary

2013-09-19T00:00:00Z Mánran blends traditional with contemporaryBy Gerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Members of the Scottish band Mánran managed to work in a little sightseeing on its first tour in the United States.

The group spent three weeks playing venues across America last month.

Its Facebook page is plastered with fun photos of the group riding a bicycle built for six at Lake Michigan and standing in blue ponchos at Niagara Falls.

“You see the falls so often in books and movies and things,” said accordion player Gary Innes in an interview from Glasgow. “To see it for yourself is special. I didn’t realize it bordered America and Canada. That was cool.”

After two weeks back in Scotland, Mánran returns to the U.S. this week, this time playing venues throughout Arizona and California.

The band specializes in original material, blending Scottish highland pipes and Irish uilleann pipes with English and Scottish gaelic lyrics.

Its unique take on traditional themes and instrumentation have made them a big deal in a short time. The group formed in 2010 and has already become a staple of festivals across the United Kingdom.

Mánran plays the Berger Performing Arts Center with the Tannahill Weavers on Saturday with tracks from its latest album, “The Test.”

Here are three things to know about the band and Innes.

1. Mánran is the first group to have a Scottish Gaelic song enter the UK Top 40 charts in the 21st century.

The track “Latha Math” reached the 29 spot in January of 2011, before slipping to No. 61. The song was written by the band’s lead vocalist Norrie MacIver, a native of the Isle of Lewis who sings of his desire for island life while living in the city.

“We knew we would get national press if we managed to get a song on the charts,” Innes said. “We did it very quickly. In the pace of six months, people knew our name. It was fantastic.”

2. Innes, 32, wasn’t known for his musical choices growing up.

He learned accordion from his dad and spent his days listening to the melodies of traditional bands such as Capercaillie and Silly Wizard.

“I didn’t listen to anything else,” he said. “I knew about it, but I wasn’t interested.”

His musical preferences led to plenty of ribbing from his schoolmates, as did his accordion play.

“You play guitar and drums and you get the ladies,” he said. “You play the accordion and you just get hassle”

3. When he’s not playing in the band, Innes juggles his time between firefighting and sports.

Innes is an avid fan of shinty, a Scottish ball-and-stick game, in the same vein as field hockey in the United States.

He is a forward line player with the Fort William Shinty Club.

“On the west coast of Scotland, you are literally born and bred on the game,” he said. “If you didn’t play shinty in school, then you didn’t play sport. It’s a brilliant game.”

Innes also is a volunteer member of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for the village of Spean Bridge.

He followed in the footsteps of his dad, who was a firefighter for more than 27 years before retiring in 2012.

“We did it together for a number of years,” Innes said. “It was fantastic.”

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