Rant Maggie Rant

Rant Maggie Rant, one of Canada’s most exciting Celtic fusion ensembles, hits the road this week with their fourth annual Frost & Fire: A Celtic Christmas Celebration tour, delivering a sound as lovely as the hushed winter landscape and as rollicking as a team of horses running away with the sleigh. The concert repertoire will include traditional Christmas carols, traditional Celtic tunes, with a couple of fun surprises. In particular, two spirit-raising and dance-inducing instrumentals, perfect for the Christmas night kitchen party. Recently Celtic Life International spoke with Barry Payne from the band.

What brought the band together?
Rant Maggie Rant began as an off-shoot of another Celtic ensemble called Shaggy Haggis. We all share a love of music first and foremost and a passion for performing. While some of us had not performed strictly Celtic music, we all love listening to it and playing it. Chance meetings brought most of us together and our collective musical influences have kept us together.

Are they the same reasons that you continue to do it today?
Yes and that’s where we enter into the love of playing and performing, but now we have discovered this great chemistry that is so often hard to find. You just can’t create it with good musicianship and we all feel that while we are all accomplished musicians, what makes this band great to play in is the sum of our parts.

How has your music evolved over time, and how might you describe it today?
We all bring our individual influences, like any band. The major element in our sound and what drives it, is our drummer’s strong background in Latin and Middle Eastern rhythms. When we combine these rhythms on top of jigs and reels, it just takes our music to another level.

What have been some career highlights?
This past summer we managed, in a two week period, to cover the West Coast of Canada, Toronto, the Ottawa area, Montreal and into the Central US. Our highlights are our audiences! On the West Coast, we had a sea of people up dancing in front of the stage at the Islands Folk Festival. Another highlight for us is our annual Christmas show, which we’ve named Frost & Fire. Also we have our third consecutive St. Patrick’s Day show at Hugh’s Room in Toronto which has consistently sold out.

What can audiences expect at a Rant Maggie Rant show?
Our audiences come away energized. We play traditional and contemporary tunes from ballads to high-energy reels with a lot of surprises.

What is the response like at a concert?
Perhaps due to our Celtic label, there is a pre-conception of how we might sound. But when we present the various components, which we bring from outside of that genre, our audiences are generally caught off guard in a very positive way. It’s very rare for us not to receive a standing ovation.

Is enough being done to preserve & promote Celtic culture?
Absolutely; we see enthusiastic people, young and old, who love Celtic music, traditional and contemporary. There are a ton of Highland Games, Celtic, Scottish and Irish festivals. Ireland and Scotland have become huge tourist destinations. There have been several high-end musical productions touring all over the world. We have come a long way from there being only The Chieftons and Planxty carrying the Celtic torch on an international level. Now there are a plethora of world renowned artists upholding the tradition. However, it still has its own niche.

What can we be doing better?
Supporting all of these artists and artisans as much as we can.

What’s next on the band’s agenda?
After our 4th Annual Frost & Fire Christmas tour of Southern Ontario, we have to prepare for a show we have with the Stratford Symphony Orchestra in January. Stratford, which is home to an internationally renowned Shakespearean festival, can also claim to have an exceptional orchestra. Another of our goals is to book a tour of Newfoundland this summer.