Tony McManus releases new album Mysterious Boundaries

It is worth watching this video by acclaimed guitarist Tony McManus who has been called “the best Celtic guitarist in the world,” by legendary English guitarist John Renbourn.  In 2012, Mike Marshall, an esteemed mandolinist in his own right, challenged McManus first to learn a Bach Prelude, then a Bach Chaconne, and McManus, never one to turn down a challenge, not only learned the songs, but arranged and recorded them along with 8 other classical pieces for his June 25th releaseMysterious Boundaries. Says McManus of the album:

“’Well, learn it then!’…Mike Marshall’s blunt response to my appreciation of his Bach E major Prelude, played as if written for his mandolin. My first thought was that it was impossible given that I have no formal training, either on guitar or in music theory. My second thought was ‘What if…?’

So began a journey that has challenged me to engage with music I’d long appreciated but never before considered within my scope. Along the way were many technical hurdles to jump, and not being a classical musician, my route over them would not be the conventional one. But my hope is that whatever the path, the destination – the emotional content of the music – is the same. Maybe the boundaries between genres are more porous than might first be apparent.”

The album includes challenging pieces from composers like Francois Couperin, J.S. Bach, Claudio Monteverdi and Eric Satie and McManus, despite fighting an immense learning curve, persevered to record what he calls “a very different album to anything I’ve done before.” In fact, his approach to the music on steel string as opposed to a nylon-string classical guitar (standard practice for the genre) has rarely been done before.

Self taught from childhood, initially through listening to the family record collection, McManus began pursuing music full time in his twenties. The session scene in Glasgow and Edinburgh provided the springboard for gigs around Scotland and a studio set for BBC Radio, frequently rebroadcast, began to spread the word.

Today his live work ranges from intimate solo performance through various duos with friends Alain Genty, Bruce Molsky, and Alasdair Fraser to the quartet Men of Steel (with fellow guitarists Dan Crary, Beppe Gambetta and Don Ross). He is an enthusiastic collaborator both as a leader and as a sideman having worked with Dougie McLean, Phil Cunningham, Liam O’Flynn, Martin Simpson, Kevin Burke, Alison Brown, Martyn Bennett, Natalie MacMaster, ní Mhoanaigh and Dermot Byrne (Altan), The Nashville Chamber Orchestra, John Jorgenson, and Andy Irvine among many others. He is also in great demand as a studio musician having contributed to over 60 albums.

The upcoming Mysterious Boundaries finds Tony again carving an ambitious new path, this time for the steel string in the world of classical guitar, where he explores and perhaps breaks down some of the boundaries in the process.

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