Irish Rovers coming to New West
Posted on April 26th, 2016 at 6:00 pm
There were green alligators and long-necked geese,
Some humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees.
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you're born
The loveliest of all was the unicorn.
Admit it, you're singing along right now. Because, let's face it, if you managed to make it through your childhood without knowing The Unicorn, you probably didn't live on Planet Earth - at least, not the part where the Irish Rovers were famous.
Which is an awful lot of the planet for the band that started life as five lads from Ireland a full five decades ago.
The enduring and much-loved band is coming to Massey Theatre in New Westminster next week as part of its 50th anniversary world tour - with a pre-St. Patrick's Day celebration on Friday, March 13 at 7 p.m.
It's the last hurrah world tour for the band.
"This makes it 50 years of the big tours," says George Millar, one of two original Rovers - along with Wilcil McDowell - remaining in the band. In a press release, Millar notes that the band is ready to stop its major world tours. "As you get older and you're in a different bed every night, your poor old back is screaming at you. But God, no, I'm never retiring. After the world tour is over we'll still be recording, and performing at festivals, special events and short trips here and there. Better to leave those big tours to younger bands."
Millar first played with Jimmy Ferguson in 1963 when the two young Irish migrants met at an Irish function in Toronto. Soon after, George's cousin Joe Millar arrived from Ireland and joined them along with two other local boys. After a year of playing around Toronto, the two Millars and Ferguson moved to Calgary, and George's brother Will joined them, bringing along his manager, Les Weinstein.
The rest is very much musical history, as the band charted a path to untold success on both sides of the Atlantic.
Over those years, they've had three television series and two TV/DVD specials, along with more than 40 albums in North America along and more internationally.
Their hits have been plentiful - starting with their first and still arguably most popular offering, The Unicorn, the 1968 hit set to the words of Shel Silverstein. During the 1970s, they became a hit with their CBC TV show, and in the 1980s, they rocketed to prominence again with their 1981 hit Wasn't That a Party.
Over the years, they've continued to offer up traditional Irish music to appreciative audiences around the world, with tours in Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.
They found renewed popularity in 2012, when their rendition of Drunken Sailor hit a young audience on YouTube and earned them some 10 million hits - which led to a new CD full of songs of the sea.
Now they've produced a retrospective CD, The Irish Rovers, 50 Years, which is being released at the concerts on this tour. Their Canadian tour will also include the filming of their final DVD, Live on St. Patrick's Day - with some behind-the-scenes shooting at the Massey Theatre.
The band's membership has changed over the years, with Will Millar leaving in the 1990s and George Millar taking over as band leader. Along with George Millar and McDowell, the Irish Rovers Farewell Tour lineup includes multi-instrumentalist Sean O'Driscoll, vocalist Ian Millar (yes, another relative - a cousin of George), bodhran player Fred Graham, whistle and flute player Geoffrey Kelly, keyboardist Morris Crum and fiddler Gerry O'Connor.
What hasn't changed, however, is their focus on offering up rousing Irish music and entertainment for all ages.
As the Belfast Telegraph said: "These international ambassadors of Irish music have maintained their timeless ability to deliver a rollicking, rousing performance of good cheer. Their songs have become anthems of revelry and joy among generation after generation of fans."
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