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Guitar-centered performer makes Celtic music his own

Scotland’s Tony McManus, now settled in Elora, has proven a fan favourite at Kitchener’s Registry Theatre

World-renowned guitarist Tony McManus is making his return to The Registry Theatre this weekend, bringing with him his own brand of Celtic tunes.

It is his third solo show at The Registry after moving from his native Scotland to Elora, and he says he can’t wait to take the stage again with his album Virtuosity from the Soul. He has released many other albums, including The Maker’s Mark, Ceol More, Singing Sands with Alain Genty and many more.

“The venue is a lovely size and the sound is just great,” he said, adding that concert-goers are in for a rare treat this time around. “One of the great things is that I can drive to it. I spend most of my time commuting between Elora and Pearson Airport, so there is a limit on what kinds of instruments and how many I can bring with me. But, a concert like this, I can bring out some of the guitars that I don’t get to tour with. It should be an interesting show.”

McManus is self-taught, and tries to bring influences from all over the world into his music. Though the show is being billed as a trip through classical Celtic songs, McManus says audiences will hear a little bit of everything.

“My travels have taken me all over the world and that has kind of broadened my music horizons beyond the Celtic music that I normally play, so the audience should come away with a sense of that journey, and that inquiring approach to music. They will hear some jazz influences, they will hear some classical music in my unique non-classical way,” he said with a laugh. “All my life, my ears have been wide open, just listening to music from all these places that I go to, and I end up assimilating all of those influences, even if the bulk of it is traditional music as well.”

He has dabbled in classical music as well, releasing an album of baroque music, rearranging an aria from the Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach – music that is traditionally played on a harpsichord. He managed to achieve the right sound by using a steel-string guitar.

McManus grew up with Celtic music all around him in Paisley, Scotland, and although a guitar isn’t considered to be a traditionally Celtic instrument, he makes it his own.

“It is usually played on bagpipes or fiddles or instruments like that,” he said. “But, when I was a kid, every time I turned on the television there was someone playing guitar. I thought, ‘this is the most fabulous thing in the world.’ I was obsessed with the instrument independent of what I wanted to play on it.”

His family always had a great reverence for traditional Celtic tunes, and McManus will be setting out on a U.K. tour next month to share his talents in the places he grew up, but first, he wants to share his love of guitar with Waterloo Region music lovers.

Lawrence McNaught, director of programming at The Registry Theatre, says any chance they have of getting McManus on stage, they take it. He says audiences at McManus’ previous shows have been very enthusiastic.

“I was just so amazed at what I heard. It is remarkable. You think he may be double-tracking his music, but he isn’t. It is one guy. He is so dexterous when he plays, and it is such a rich, rich sound,” he said. “So it turns out, there is a bit of an audience in this area that are fans of folks music and Celtic music and he got a wonderful turnout. I was so happy.”

McManus takes the stage on Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27 and can be purchased by calling 519-578-1570, or online at www.registrytheatre.com.

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