About Tom and Mary Kay Aufrance
We grew together in music, just
as we did in life. Our music has taken us on many
roads, some of them pretty dry and dusty, like when
we were the musicians for the Nevada Gunfighters
Theatrical Acting Troupe! The Gunfighters have a
popular act, and although the bullets were blanks,
there's still clouds full of gunpowder, and we sang
through it during every show! We called ourselves
Slim and Minnie, and even found ourselves on the
front page of the Reno Gazette Journal daily paper!
Those were fun times, traveling
through Nevada and Northern California for county
fairs, Renaissance festivals and contra dance gigs.
Our musical adventures started as
a lark, when one of our friends in the Tahoe Choir
said, "Hey kids! Let's start our own Ren Faire
singing group," and soon afterwards, our 12-member
group The Motley Madrigals was booking shows at
Tahoe and Northern California faires. We added slapstick
Shakespearean riffs to elegantly lovely vocal harmonies,
and audiences responded.
Here we are having a fabulous
fun time making music as the Local Honey Band with
Vicki Hass, Norris Schultz and George Grover caller
at River School Farm Urban Farm Fest in Reno, Nevada
Thanks to ©2013
Our first CDs started as promotional items,
for sending to event directors to prove we would sing
in tune, but then the CDs sold well at events and online,
so we kept recording.
But when Mary Kay started getting into
playing the accordion, the Ren Faires were no longer a
fit. That's because the accordion wasn't invented until
about 300 years after the Renaissance!
So, our focus turned to Celtic Music,
with a change of name from the Motlies to Gairin, a Gaelic
mashup meaning "a wee bit-o laughter" or "table
margarine," depending on which Irish source you consult!
Within a month of forming Gairin, we found
ourselves on stage at the Reno Celtic Celebration, backing
up the famous Seamus Kennedy and Tempest!
We also love to play! And fast! Our "Local
Honey Band" with the fantastic and popular fiddler
Bob Kastelic, and other local musicians, played contra
dances in Northern Nevada and California.
So now, here we are with five albums,
two music books, arrangements and sheet music for sale
on Sheet Music Plus, and our music licensed by film and
radio through Getty.
Lately, we have branched out to a wide
variety of popular favorites, from Motown to Bowie. It's
Out-of-Band music on folk instruments and with blended
So, we've come a long way since our days
doing choral work, singing as Amahl (Mary Kay) and Caspar
the King (Tom) for Tahoe Choir, in a performance reviewed
as "the best Amahl ever, no kidding!" At the
time my voice was quite boyish, and we had an unbelievable
cast, even though it was a community production at the
local Catholic Church and the Tahoe Community College.
We also got our singing chops with University of Nevada
Reno Choir and Carson Chamber Singers, an elite group
that is part of the Carson Symphony.
We credit traditional music lessons and
also two unlikely performers who have had a great influence
on our success. "I was fortunate that Katharine DeBoer,
world class classical vocalist and head of the University
of Nevada Reno Vocal Department taught me how to find
my voice," says Mary Kay. Tom also likes to credit
veteran carnival performers Bill the Magician and Spike
the Fire Juggler, "They reminded us that any 'act' is
ultimately all about connecting with people. We have always
been serious about making beautiful music; however, going
on stage as "characters" sometimes allows us to connect
better with more audiences.
Wherever we perform,we find a way to engage
the audience and select musical moods that connect and
We have done a little teaching. In 2014,
we started the Tuneville Session Players at the request
of the Brewery Arts Center Chairman of the Board in Carson
City, Nevada. From 2006 - 2011, we were instructors helping
out our fantastic violinist friend Sue Jesch with the
Carson City Symphony Strings in the Schools program, working
with 60-80 music students of all ages from grade school
through retirement age. Mary Kay developed a workshop
that got the students to form their own Celtic bands.
All the bands performed as their grand finale. So, ten
new Celtic bands debuted that day! Each band was featured
during the crowd-pleasing performance for friends and
Mary Kay is particularly proud of her
most recent 80-year old accordion student, who reached
his ambitious goal of learning to play Lady of Spain at
the Cotati Accordion Festival! Since this particular student
was a famous carver of cowboy caricatures, he suprised
her with his thank you - one of his original wood carvings
depicting Mary Kay playing cowboy accordion as Minnie
of our duo Slim and Minnie.
"Minnie" woodcarving by Clyde Johnson