For their 25th anniversary, a Celtic roots trio will bring all their influences and inspirations together in a concert of musical celebration.
Tiller’s Folly will play Nanaimo’s Port Theatre on Friday, Nov. 18, along with special guests Valdy, Gary Fjellgaard and the O’Brien Irish Dancers.
“Sometimes these situations are like lighting in a jar … you might never catch us together in this formation again,” said Bruce Coughlan, primary songwriter and guitarist for the trio, adding that the group and their special guests “go way back.”
“We started with a six-piece band … Tiller’s Folly Celtic Thunder … with eight Irish dancers at the PNE back in 1997 … Riverdance was all the rage at the time,” Coughlan said.
When they first started, he said the founder of the O’Brien School of Irish Dance, Mairead O’Brien, had been one of their original dancers. Tiller’s Folly’s fiddler, Nolan Murray “the fiddling furry,” had been touring with Fjellgaard and playing at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay when the songwriter first met him. He met Laurence Knight, the bass guitarist of the trio, in Powell River about 15 years before they started as a group.
“We just hit it off … The band is very organic that way – we’re three friends who play music together and we’ve been doing it for a long time … and we’ve had an interesting ride over 25 years,” Coughlan said.
As part of his musical process, he said he’s been singing and songwriting about Western Canadian heritage essentially since the group’s inception, inspired by true heroes and villains.
“I try to tell the story in the song, or at least allude to it … In some ways, we turn history into folklore … and that’s where it’s accessible to a lot of people. You can take something about your history, about your culture, and condense it into three minutes … a song plants a seed … and if you start studying around the stories of some of these songs, you can find a real sense of belonging in the actual place that you live.”
Coughlan also recently completed a month-long residency in Scotland to “immerse and engage” in Scottish music culture where the experience has already influenced his work in compiled ideas and concepts for future songs.
Looking to the horizon, there are several projects in the works for next year. As commissioned by the B.C. Farm Museum in Langley, the group plans to release a song about the birth of agriculture in the province.
For Friday’s concert in Nanaimo, given the history of the performers, Coughlan said he believes they could easily do a two-night performance and still keep the material fresh and the story going.
“But we only have the one night … to squeeze 25 years into … so we’ll do our best to cram all the nuggets in.”
Ticket information for the Port Theatre concert can be found online at www.porttheatre.com.