The Irish Rovers are on their long goodbye tour, but George Millar promises their concert Sunday, Nov. 25 won’t be a time of mourning.
While their concert at 2 p.m. at the Empress Theatre will be the last time the Irish Rovers visit Fort Macleod, it shouldn’t be cause for any tears.
“I don’t think so,” Millar said Thursday during a telephone interview. “We’re just really retiring from the road.”
Instead of an Irish wake, the concert at the Empress will be a celebration and an unofficial launch to the Christmas season.
The Irish Rovers are touring in part to support their latest CD and accompanying DVD and Millar promises a rollicking party in Fort Macleod.
“That’s what our music is all about — fun,” Millar said.
The Empress concert will feature songs from the newly-released Merry Time of Year CD and DVD, which was filmed in pubs and on ski hills at Banff as well as the historic Capital Theatre in Chatham, Ont.
“We just thought of Canada and we just thought of Christmas. You think of Banff and Whistler and those kinds of places,” Millar said.
The Irish Rovers called on friends such as Canadian tenor John McDermott — a familiar voice to patrons of the Empress Theatre — to perform on the Christmas CD.
They also invited musical guests from Ireland such as Morris Crum, Patrick Davey and Gerry O’Connor, as well as guitarist Jason Fowler.
“It turned out better than I hoped,” Millar said.
Millar never expected to be embarking on a goodbye tour in 2012 when as a 16-year-old he formed the Irish Rovers with 23-year-old Jim Ferguson.
Both had recently immigrated to Canada from Northern Ireland and after meeting at an Irish function in Toronto formed a band, recruiting George’s cousin Joe Millar when he immigrated in 1964.
“We were really doing it strictly as a weekend thing,” Millar said of playing in folk clubs and at other functions. “We would make $25 and we thought, ‘My God, we have it made’.”
“We tried it for that first year and after that first year we said we’ll try it for another year. And here we are.”
They eventually moved to Calgary and joined up with George’s brother Will.
The Irish Rovers recorded The First of the Irish Rovers in 1966 and while it was successful it was their second album and a song called The Unicorn that rocketed the band to fame.
The Irish Rovers over the decades have become a Canadian institution, releasing dozens of records, hosting television shows and representing Canada at five World Expos.
They were invited by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to become Canadian citizens, the better to represent the country internationally.
“The love of the music is what keeps us going,” Millar said. “If you don’t like the music, and equally important if you don’t like each other, it’s not going to work.”
It helps if the fans love your music too. From The Unicorn to the 2011 hit Drunken Sailor, the Irish Rovers have delivered the music people want to hear.
That will be the case on Nov. 25 when in addition to playing Christmas classics such as Christmas in Killarney, Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer and Bells Over Belfast The Irish Rovers will perform their other hits.
It’s a formula that served the band well over the decades and will carry them through their long goodbye.
“It has been an interesting ride,” Millar said.