Have a merry time with The Irish Rovers

Before he’s even asked the first question, Irish Rovers founding member George Millar seizes the moment to ask how much snow is on the ground in Metro Moncton.

When told that we experienced the first of what will surely be many snowstorms approximately two weeks ago but that most of the snow from that storm has already melted, the relief in George’s voice is audible.

“See what you can do to keep it that way, OK?” he laughs.

The fact of the matter is, if longevity in the music business could somehow translate into having a say in the weather, The Irish Rovers would be one of a handful of acts to have an ‘in’ with Mother Natures. After 45 years of recording and travelling the world, one can’t blame Millar for wishing for some nice weather wherever he and the other members of The Irish Rovers happen to be playing.

The Irish Rovers have a new Christmas CD available, Merry Merry Time of Year, their first holiday release in more than a decade. The Rovers will perform at Mount Allison University’s Convocation Hall on Saturday night where they will be present a mix of holiday songs as well as the tried and true hits that people have come to identify with the band.

“We will definitely be doing some material from the new CD but people should count upon hearing Wasn’t That A Party and The Unicorn, among other songs in the show as well,” George says. “Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Gordon Lightfoot in concert and he sang all of the old songs that I had hoped he would sing. It helps give you a better appreciation of seeing the show as a fan, as opposed to a performer. When you think of it like that, it is easier to understand why your fans want to hear your old songs.”

George estimates that approximately 70 per cent of the material featured on Merry Merry Time of Year is new material. Thanks to the group’s uncanny ability to make their new songs sound old, he says that it is common for fans to mistake new material for songs they might have heard before. George also shares that the group recently filmed a new Christmas special that will air next holiday season on PBS.

“We haven’t been on television since 1983 when our series wrapped up and without the help of PBS, I don’t believe we would be on television at all,” he says. “It is the only station where you are going to see the likes of The Rankins, The Barra MacNeils and The Irish Rovers.”

Opportunities to see the band live will soon be a thing of the past. George notes that the band plans to hang up their travelling shoes and permanently unpack their suitcases in 2015, bringing a remarkable live career to a close. With tour dates planned for Australia and New Zealand in 2012, George anticipates that the Irish Rovers’ upcoming tour dates throughout Atlantic Canada will be the last time fans will have the chance to see them until sometime in 2014.

“I started playing music when I was 16 years old and by the time 2015 rolls around, we will have been together for 50 years,” he says. “I believe we will continue making music in some respects and will probably release the odd CD and perform at special events. But the everyday touring will definitely be coming to an end; it is the only part of the business that I can say that I truly do not enjoy. Touring is definitely a young man’s game and looking back upon our career, I think we feel that the appropriate time to bow out is coming up over the next few years.”

Asked for his feelings at the thought of perhaps never coming back to places like Sackville to perform, George says that he believes the next few years will be more than bittersweet.

“It is a little sad in a way,” he says. “We have made a good living over the years thanks to our Canadian fans and it is a little sad knowing that we most likely won’t be coming back to some of these places again. We know so many of these cities so well, we know the pubs that are open after we perform, the best places to eat and many of the landmarks. We are certainly going to miss all of that.”

When it’s suggested that travelling is probably the last thing he will want to do once the Rovers finally do come off the road, George says that he hasn’t often had the opportunity to see cities throughout the world as a tourist. The experience of travelling without nine other hooligans (as George jokingly refers to his band mates) is something that he is rather looking forward to.

“Though I don’t necessarily care for the travelling aspects of being on tour, I do like to travel and I suspect that it will be a vastly different experience travelling with my wife and plunking down in a hotel for multiple nights,” he says.

Article published in December 13, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript