Billed as North America’s premier Celtic event, The Tartan Terrors promise a show that is both performance and party.
The group was founded in Burlington, Ontario by siblings, Ellen and Ian Wilkes Irmisch, in 1996, but the group’s heritage begins long before that.
“My mom was our dance teacher,” says Ellen, “But it was actually when my grandmother came to Canada as a war bride in 1946.”
When their grandmother started a Canadian family it was important to keep up their Scottish heritage. The kids all took dance lessons and learned multiple musical instruments each.
“My mother just passed it on to us!” laughs Ellen.
The group started out with a show at the “Ontario Renaissance Fair” and hasn’t stopped since. Today, they travel North America playing theatres, fairs and festivals.
The group pulls into the Georgian Theatre on January 18, just a week shy of Robbie Burns Day.
“It’s gonna be a lot of fun,” Ian says. “We are Celtic comedy and music and dance featuring awesome drumming, bagpipes, fiddle, singing, bagpipes, guitar, bass, bodhran and fiddle. We want people to come out and have a great night celebrating Robbie Burns Day.”
“It’s really an interesting show,” adds drummer, Charlie McKitterick. “The crowd gets into it. There’s a lot of knee slapping comedy bits too and going back and forth with the crowd.”
The band itself is an impressive unit. Members of the band have performed on four continents, but the Terrors, as a unit, have scored award-winning Step and Highland dancers as well as internationally recognized comedic performances too.
Celtic culture has been an international concern for decades now. The boon can be traced back to the sensation of Riverdance, a show that first hit the stage in 1994. The reserved and passive experience of that show should not be confused with the Terrors, however.
“Riverdance is a great show and opened up a lot of doors for many Celtic groups across the world, us included,” says Ellen. “But our show is a very different experience.”
The Terrors consider their show a cultural celebration of the traditional ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), which is basically a huge party.
“We want to give people an experience,” she says “We encourage people to wear kilts and tartans. We have all ages come out and for all occasions too. We just had a 50th wedding anniversary at the show the other day.”
The music from the show runs the gamut as well, while sticking to the party atmosphere. Traditional music is featured but it is also mixed with music composed by members of the band. There are also popular tunes mixed in for good measure.
“There’s so much stress going on in the world right now,” says Ellen. “We really just want to get together; celebrate music, and dance.”
“Yeah, expect to have some good laughs,” says McKitterick. “There’s a certain amount of improvisation involved too.”
“We play with every audience.” laughs Ellen. “You never really know what’s going to happen once the show starts.”