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sister act
interview with Marie Burns


WHAT: The Burns Sisters

WHEN: Saturday, May 6th

WHERE: Main Stage, Gamble Rogers Folk Festival, St. Augustine

      The three vivacious sisters who front the Burns Sisters Band are Annie, Marie, and Jeannie Burns. The sisters are among twelve siblings in a an extended Irish family living in Ithaca, New York. It’s more like a clan who give each other moral support. Their late father, John Burns, had an impressive career in politics as Democratic State Chairman of New York State. John was also Campaign Manager for Robert Kennedy’s presidential race that tragically ended when Robert was gunned down by Sirhan Sirhan.

      The singing sisters grew up with a strong sense of humanity and love of music, which has served them well and is the foundation of their long musical career as Ithaca Records artists and touring performers. The sisters’ latest album is titled Wild Bouquet, which is their eighth studio album. Each of the sisters has also produced solo projects for Ithaca Records.

      Last Friday, I called Marie Burns to find out more about the Burns Sisters. During our conversation, Marie revealed that her daughter is a Virginia Tech freshman, and was two buildings down from the first shooting. She was locked down in her classroom and unhurt. Marie was understandably frantic when she heard about the shootings. She immediately called her daughter’s cell to find out if she was okay. Marie’s daughter came home, but was planning to go back for classes on Monday, April 23rd. It’s remarkable how such a senseless tragedy can affect so many people.

      “I’ve been perusing your website and listening to your music on Rhapsody, specifically the album Out of The Blue, which is the latest album Rhapsody has available. Man, it’s a real up-tempo recording with a full band. The drummer is especially hot. It’s rocking and tight. Do you always tour with a full band?” I asked.

      “Most of the time we tour with a full band. It depends on the gig. For small clubs we perform with five pieces with a Dobro player, I play mandolin and sing, my other two sisters sing harmony, and we have a guitarist. That is the ensemble we are bringing down to the Gamble Rogers Folk Festival,” Marie said.

      “By all appearances, the Burns’ clan is a tight knit family that have strong values that influence your songwriting. Is this a correct assumption?” I asked.

      “Yes, absolutely. We all live close to one another and we talk many times a day about everything. And, we get along really well. It’s a tradition in our Irish-Catholic upbringing to support one another. Music is the glue that holds us together,” Marie said.

      “How extensively do you tour?” I asked

      “We tour the entire United States for many dates a year. However, we come home in between gigs. But we’re on the road much of the year. When we travel, our other siblings pitch in to help out at home, which is very comforting when we’re out on the road,” Marie said.

      “Clearly, your close family association has influenced your songwriting. In other words, your life and music are one in the same. I hear this central theme in your music which covers the gamut of the human condition, but you deliver it with exuberant love,” I said.

      “Yes, we live our life with joy and put our experiences into our songwriting, which can be melancholy at times, but we overcome our problems by singing and writing music. This has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember. The family would get together and we’d all gather around with guitars and mandolins, singing with joy in our hearts. When we perform, our love of music and love of performing is picked up by our audiences. When it’s over, everyone goes home happy.”

      “We are looking forward to coming down to St. Augustine, Florida for the Gamble Rogers Folk Festival May 4-6th. It has been snowing here and we’re ready for warmer weather,” Marie said.

      Yes, talking to Marie Burns was like talking to an old friend. Her positive vibes made my day. Don’t miss the Burns Sisters, Saturday evening, May 6th, on the main stage at the GRFF. This is a class act.

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