Piping for St. Pat’s party

Nigel Tucker and his band the Navvies play at a St. Patrick’s celebration on March 18 in Maple Ridge. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Nigel Tucker and his band the Navvies play at a St. Patrick’s celebration on March 18 in Maple Ridge.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

Nigel Tucker fingers fly as he plays a tune on his tin whistle. Indigenous to the British Isles, the simple six-hole flute emits a trill that makes your toes tingle and feet tap. It’s a sound that makes Tucker smile.

He knows these tunes about long voyages, incessant wars, love, loss and loneliness paint a picture and conjure a mood like no other.

“I believe firmly that if a country’s traditional music is lost, so is most of its history,” says Tucker, a Welshman by decent, who has a penchant for Irish ditties.

Keeping that history alive through music - be it tales about Canadians, the English, Irishmen or Scots - is much more than a task for Tucker.

It’s a passion, one that’s made him a walking encyclopaedia of folk music facts.

He can reach back into the 1950s for songs by British folk singer Ewen McColl and Newfoundland’s Ryan’s Fancy or savor the melodies of contemporary Canadian folk musicians such as Tiller’s Folly and Great Big Sea.

To stoke his passion, he must share it and that’s exactly why Tucker organizes Celtic jam sessions at the ACT and has recruited his friends to play at an upcoming St. Patrick’s day party.

“I think it’s unfortunate that young people today aren’t as interested in traditional music as they should be,” Tucker laments, adding that they perhaps don’t know what they are missing.

I guess I’m drawn to the music because it celebrates family, says Tucker whose passion for music was fanned early on by his dad.

“It’s music about people facing struggles, conquering them and sticking together through it all.”

And there’s lots of songs about drinking and having a good time.

“The main thing about traditional music is, it’s fun,” adds Tucker. “If you ignore the fun, the fun comes along and hits you in the face.”

• Join Nigel Tucker and the Navvies for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the ACT on Friday, March 18 at 8 p.m. The Mission Pipe Band will also play at the event. Tickets are $15.

The Navvies

The name “navvy”, comes from “navigators” - what scornful sailors called the Irish families who fled the famines of the 19th century, travelling as illegal aliens in the bowels of wooden ships. The Navvies, with their love of Celtic music of all descriptions, pay tribute to the dreams and daring of their ancestry.

Tam Gordy, grandson of Celtic immigrants, was first exposed to the music of his heritage along about the time he was learning to talk. Tam plays guitar, mandolin, bass, some banjo, and has been singing Celtic music of all varieties for over thirty years.

Nigel Tucker, born and raised in Great Britain, has both learned and taught the music of the British Isles for as long as he can remember. Nigel plays flute, tin whistle, bodhran drum, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and can make the rafters roar at the drop of a shillelagh.

Shelly Gordy, happened to join the group when one of the founding members left the band. She provides the occasional vocal and plays the bodran drum and other percussion.

Adrian Duncan, is the newest member of the group. He plays the flute, guitar, and octave mandolin. And sings mainly Celtic music.


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