Roundstone Buskers

Art & Society

Sounds of the Shamrock Season


Deep within the heart of America lives a little bit of Ireland. The emerald isle’s influence is readily apparent throughout central Illinois, from its food and drink to its customs and culture.

Perhaps most discernible are the distinct beat and fervent tone of its jigs and reels, which emanate from area pubs and parades throughout the year. Several Irish descendants, and their honorary Irish friends, keep the musical traditions of their ancestral homeland alive by sharing their talents—and a good time—with all who will listen. Meet ...The Roundstone Buskers...

...Sky-High Busking
Despite being the smallest Irish ensemble in the Peoria area, and “arguably the shortest,” the Roundstone Buskers really know how to fill a room—both with their sound and an audience. Consisting of Shannan Sullivan (fiddle, vocals), Tom Jones (bodhran, percussion, whistle, vocals) and Bruce Burton (guitar, bouzouki, vocals), the acoustic power trio has been pleasing crowds with its untraditional Celtic repertoire since 2007.

Named after the hometown of the great bodhran maker Malachy Kearns, the Roundstone Buskers go way back. Having all served stints in the Bogside Zukes in the ‘90s, the Buskers are longtime friends and have collaborated numerous times over the years before they finally brought their talents together to live out their shared passion of playing music.

With Jones’ and Burton’s rock and bluegrass backgrounds and Sullivan’s classical training, the Buskers’ style is anything but purist. The group puts a folky spin on everything from Louis Prima to Paul Simon to modern pop, while forming its own distinct arrangements of traditional Celtic jigs and reels. “You draw from that past,” Jones explains. “It’s exciting when you do that kind of music that’s been done for thousands of years by your forefathers, and then you bring it back into modern times and people still want to hear it.”

What’s even more enticing, they say, is the enthusiasm Irish music brings out and the challenging, but gratifying process it takes to learn to play it. “It really is a blast!” Burton says. “And it’s not easy music to play, in the least, if you do it right.”

For Sullivan, it’s also about approaching their fans on a personal level and getting the crowd involved. “We’re very interactive with the audience,” she explains. “We treat it like we’re in our own living room, so there’s a lot of banter back and forth.” Songs like “Blood Wedding,” “A Man You Don’t Meet Everyday” and “Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore” routinely get people up clapping, yelling, singing and dancing—even barking like dogs sometimes.

Not only can the trio get the crowd going from their home stage at the Fox Pub and Cafe, they have the same effect on an audience from 200 feet up. Last year, the Buskers were showcased in the pilot episode of Heartland Sound…Staged, which was recorded at the top of the Peoria Heights water tower. The local production, which highlights area musical acts playing against breathtaking Midwestern backdrops, offers the potential to be picked up nationally—and launch the Buskers to celebrity status, something of which the band got a little taste while filming their sky-high concert last May.

“We felt like we were dang movie stars!” Jones exclaims. “We didn’t know what we were getting into… We were just amazed. We were blown away.” And when he says “blown away,” he means it both figuratively and almost literally. As the three were jamming away, a helicopter circled overhead taking aerial shots—making Sullivan’s striking red hair appear to be ablaze in the air and forcing Burton to hold onto his cap, lest it fly away.

With the TV pilot as a springboard, the Roundstone Buskers hope to soon release an album of the Heartland Sound…Staged concert and expand their scope to include more of the Midwest. But their local fans need not worry, for the Buskers plan to keep the good times rolling close to home as well, playing regular gigs at the Fox, Forest Park Nature Center, Erin Feis and other venues throughout the year. And Burton has just one rule for anyone who ventures out to catch the Buskers live: “When you come to see us, you better be ready to have a good time!”

The Roundstone Buskers play the Fox Pub and Cafe from 8 to 10:30pm on the third Saturday of every month. For a schedule and more information, visit


WTVP is Proud to Present
Heartland Sound…Staged – the Roundstone Buskers


Airs Thanksgiving Night – Thursday, Nov. 22nd – from 8-9 p.m. on WTVP-HD.

The Roundstone Buskers


Thanksgiving night will bring an exciting new show your way! The program, hosted by renowned storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis, features the Celtic sound of the popular Roundstone Buskers, and is the pilot for a new series entitled Heartland Sound…Staged. The proposed series, the brainchild of producers Paul Kluber, Robin & Tony Crowe and Ellis, will feature unique sounds in unique settings around the Midwest. 

The opening program is dynamic and beautifully photographed. “We filmed the pilot episode at sunset on top of the Peoria Heights Water Tower. This allowed three distinctive lights, including full sun, sunset’s golden hues and a starry, starry night,” said Kluber. “We had ten cameras with a helicopter doing a fly by to film the crowd, tower, band and the surrounding river bluffs and valley!”

 The Roundstone Buskers, originally formed in 2001 by long-time friends Tom Jones, Bruce Burton and Shannan Sullivan, have played many major Irish Festivals and venues around the country. Irish music has a strong fan bases in central Illinois, and the group is “a traditional Irish band with a rockin’ folk kick,” according to Robin Crowe.

 Many local, talented, people came together to create this show. They were recruited from theatre and concert staging, studio and live audio recording, corporate, industrial, commercial and live TV expertise. The show, directed by WTVP Senior Producer Todd Pilon, utilized all those skills to produce this episode of Heartland Sound...Staged. "Normally working with just one or two of the crew, within our normal day to day jobs, we'd never get the opportunity to all work together on one interesting show like this," said Kluber.

The show will air Thanksgiving Night – Thursday, Nov. 22 – from 8-9 p.m. 

For more information on the Heartland Sound…Staged project visit their Facebook page at


For further information contact Linda Miller, WTVP Vice President of Programming, at (309) 495-0591 or

Peoria Journal Star

Band plays atop Heights tower as part of TV pilot

Posted May 17, 2012 @ 12:11 AM
Last update May 17, 2012 @ 07:51 AM

PEORIA HEIGHTS —The creators of "Heartland Sound ... Staged" got one step closer to completing their pilot TV episode by filming three performance segments on top of the Peoria Heights Water Tower on Wednesday evening.

The weather was mild and the visibility was stunning as Roundstone Buskers performed their Irish-flavored tunes on a makeshift stage at the north side of the tower platform. The rest of the small space was filled with extensive video and audio equipment, lighting, and an audience of about 20 people sitting in tightly packed folding chairs.

"This is what I've learned this week: TV is a lot of waiting and then about three minutes of everything you can give," said Buskers singer Bruce Burton as he waited for technical adjustments in between song performances.

Filming kicked off at about 7 p.m., as the sun was beginning to set. Below in Tower Park, the public gathered and set up lawn chairs to watch the action on a large screen. Every so often a helicopter would buzz out of nowhere and hover around the tower to film footage.

If the project gets funding, "Heartland Sound" will feature local musicians performing in unlikely local places. Local storyteller Brian "Fox" Ellis serves as host and creative producer. Musicians Robin and Tony Crowe and Paul Kluber of Chroma Studio are also creative producers.

Todd Pilon, director of the episode and a senior producer at WTVP-TV Channel 47, watched the action from video monitors one level below.

"My goal is to do what the producers want; they've worked so hard over the past month to set this up," he said. "The people you see here have been assembled because they have special talents they bring to the production. You give them an idea of what you want, and they can make that magic happen."

About 45 staffers - from cameramen to video and audio engineers to stage hands, riggers and runners - are volunteering their time to the project.

Tanya Deemer, who owns Alter Ego Spalon in Peoria, served as makeup artist, stepping in to freshen up the performers between songs.

"Everyone's been air-brushed and powdered," she said.

Becki Arnold, who teaches costume design at Bradley University, said she got involved for the challenge.

"It's a stretch for me," she said. "I'm used to theater, so this is stepping outside of my normal box."

Pilon said he was proud to showcase the Peoria area.

"People walk by and they say 'Wow, what Hollywood producer is here?' But it doesn't take people from out of town. We've got all this talent right here," he said.

The hourlong pilot episode will be aired on WTVP-TV Channel 47 sometime in the fall. Once the initial episode is complete, organizers will approach potential donors with their final product.

"One of the things we're really excited about is our Facebook page has really lit up," Ellis said. "Central Illinois has been talking a lot lately about the importance of the arts, and this is a chance to support the arts (on a local level)."

For more information, visit

Danielle Hatch can be reached at 686-3262 or Read more at, and follow her on Twitter at @danielle_hatch.