BRANT NEWS: Irish Rovers bringing farewell tour to Brantford
Posted on April 26th, 2016 at 7:00 pm
George Millar was 17 when he hooked up with 23-year-old Jimmy Ferguson at an Irish function in Toronto. After a night of belting out songs from their homeland, The Irish Rovers were born.
Millar had no idea that 52 years later the band would still be going strong.
“I never imagined it,” Millar said prior to the band’s concert in Markham last week. “I thought that I would do this for a year or two. Every year we thought, ‘well that was a good one, let’s give it another year,’ and here we are.”
With their rousing Irish-folk inspired tunes that grab audiences and have them clapping, singing and tapping their feet along, The Irish Rovers have built a solid resume and won countless fans around the world.
They hosted three popular television shows, produced over 40 albums in North America, more internationally, and have toured around the world.
“We said we have to keep going until we get it right,” Millar said with a laugh.
When local fans go to see The Irish Rovers for one of two Sanderson Centre performances on Thursday, Nov. 19, it will likely be one of the last times.
“This is the beginning of a farewell tour,” Millar said. “It’s going to be a long three or four-year retirement tour.”
Retiring from the international touring circuit is “bittersweet” for Millar and his bandmates Wilcil McDowell, Sean O’Driscoll, Ian Millar, Fred Graham, Geoffrey Kelly, Morris Crum and Gerry O’Connor.
But Millar won’t miss the long travels or sleeping in a different bed each night.
“It gets hard on you,” he said. “It’s a young man’s game. But we have been very lucky and we are happy at what we do. We feel blessed to have this job.”
Even though tours can be tiresome, the band is energized when it hits the stage.
“You get on stage and you forget if you have a sore back or a headache or a cold,” Millar said. “It’s like a whole other world on stage and you just get going. You can’t just go through the motions, it takes hold of you and people see right through us. They know we are enjoying it as much as they are.”
Popular hits from days past are still requested, with people asking for The Unicorn, Lilly the Pink, Black Velvet Band, The Orange and the Green and, at Christmas, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.
The Irish Rovers’ television shows helped grow the band’s fan base and members are more than happy to play audience favourites.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you have built an audience and that they are there waiting for you,” Millar said. “Music brings us laughter and love and at times it also brings a tear to your eye. It’s something you need, it fills us up and it is a very, very important part of life.”
The Irish Rovers steer away from political songs and prefer to use the stage as a means of entertainment rather than for any agenda.
“We always say that when we’ve left the stage and people are whistling a song, then we’ve done our job properly,” Millar said.
The Irish Rovers recently released a new children’s album – the band’s first in 25 years – and will also have the release The Irish Rovers, 50 Years, a triple CD set, available at the band’s Sanderson Centre performances, scheduled for 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Nov. 19.
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