The first full month of spring brings a characteristically bountiful offering of Irish/Celtic music to the Boston area and vicinity:
• Making its debut at the Burren Backroom series on April 4 will be the New York City-based fiddle-guitar duo of Dana Lyn and Kyle Sanna, who feature what they describe as a “looking-glass” approach to Irish tradition, marked by imaginative arrangements and improvisations that take the music into other territories of imagination. Lyn and Sanna, who have worked with such luminaries as Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Cillian Vallely, Kevin Burke, and Mick McAuley, are finishing up their third album, which evokes the life cycles and natural processes that occur in a coral reef’s ecosystem. Also on the bill for this evening is Be Off, a band led by Dublin fiddler Aidan Connelly, whose influences stem from Kerry and Mayo; he’s joined by fiddler Deirdre Winrow, a Boston native now living in Ireland, flutist Pauric Bannon, and accordionist Liam McGonigle.
Newfoundland singer-guitarist Matthew Byrne will perform at the Backroom on April 18. Renowned for his resonant tenor voice and sensitive and empathetic treatment of songs from the song tradition of his homeland – and his own family – Byrne has built a following in New England to a great extent through his critically acclaimed recordings, including last year’s “Horizon Lines.”
Two mainstays of the New England Celtic music scene will be at the Backroom on April 25. Fellswater is a Massachusetts ensemble known for its meticulously arranged sets of Scottish, Irish, Breton and other Celtic-related music for instruments such as fiddle, Scottish small pipes and border pipes, flute, whistle, guitar and bouzouki. The band also has added a vocal component, with husband-wife duo Chris and Diane Meyers, and percussionist Kyle Forsthoff, joining Elizabeth Ketudat, Sarah MacConduibh, Jim MacCondiubh, and Andrew McIntosh; this new incarnation appears on Fellswater’s most recent album “Skipping Stones.” Also on the bill is The Vox Hunters, Armand Aromin, and Benedict Gagliardi. Although active for some years in both the Rhode Island and Boston-area Irish music circles, the two – who between them muster fiddle, concertina, banjo, whistle, and a few other instruments besides – extend their repertoire to other traditions, with fine harmony singing, and a good sense of humor to boot.
More information at burren.com/Backroom-Series.html.
• This month’s offerings at Club Passim in Harvard Square include a concert on April 4 with McKasson and McDonald. Ryan McKasson has become one of the West Coast’s leading fiddlers in the modern Scottish style, which incorporates contemporary and improvisatory elements into the tradition; he has performed and recorded with such artists as Hanneke Cassel and Alasdair Frasier and Natalie Haas. Guitarist-mandolinist-vocalist Eric McDonald became involved at a young age in the Greater Boston folk music and dance scene, and has gone on to many fruitful collaborations, among them with local fiddler Katie McNally, the trio Cantrip [also performing in the area this month; see further down] and more recently as part of the trio Daymark.
Quebecois trio De Temps Antan – David Boulanger (fiddle), Éric Beaudry (guitar, mandolin, bouzouki), and Pierre-Luc Dupuis (accordion) – will come to Passim on April 11. All three have extensive experience and immersion in the infectious Quebecois instrumental and song tradition – they are former members of legendary Quebecois “big band” La Bottine Souriante, for example. Last fall, the band released its fourth album, “Consolez-Vous.”
On April 24, two of the modern folk revival’s most influential and accomplished guitarists will share the Passim stage. Martin Carthy and John Doyle have helped to redefine the guitar’s role in traditional music – greatly raising its profile in the process – while also upholding the storied song traditions of Ireland and the British Isles, through both their solo work and their many collaborations: Carthy in his legendary duo with fiddler Dave Swarbrick and with the pioneering folk-rockers Steeleye Span, and also as part of Brass Monkey and Waterson Carthy; Doyle as a co-founder of the Irish-American supergroup Solas and more recently The Alt and Usher’s Island (whose members include Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, Paddy Glackin and Mike McGoldrick), as well as his partnerships with fiddler Liz Carroll and vocalist Karan Casey.
Boston-area fiddler Jenna Moynihan will be the lead performer in an April 29 event at Passim. The New York state native has a solid background in Scottish fiddle to which she adds Appalachian stylings and other variations; she plays as part of a duo with Scottish-born harpist Mairi Chaimbeul, and in the band Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards. Here, she’ll be accompanied by Owen Marshall, a guitar and bouzouki player whose resume includes stints with Liz Carroll, Aoife Clancy and Andrea Beaton, and membership in the bands The Press Gang and, more recently, the Seamus Egan Project; Marshall’s fellow Press Gang colleague, Alden Robinson, with a solid background in Irish traditional fiddle that includes study at University College Cork; and pianist-mandolinist Neil Pearlman, who injects jazz, world and other flavorings into his traditional Cape Breton accompaniment.
In addition, Low Lily, the “roots-and-branches” trio of Flynn Cohen, Liz Simmons, and Lissa Schneckenburger, will have a CD release concert on April 12. See story elsewhere in this issue.
For tickets and information on these events, go to passim.org.
• The Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton will host a concert on April 12 at 7:30 p.m. featuring the duo of Manus McGuire and Dave Curley. McGuire is a fiddler in the storied Sligo tradition who has performed as part of the noteworthy bands Buttons and Bows and Moving Cloud, and has 12 recordings to his credit. Curley is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and dancer from Galway who has been a member of the bands Slide and RUNA, and more recently the Brock McGuire Band; he’s also played with Grammy winner Moya Brennan (Clannad).
On April 28, the ICC, along with Pat and Nora Walsh, will host a benefit dance for the Arc of South Norfolk on April 28 from 7 to 11 p.m. with Erin’s Melody and the Harney Academy of Irish Dance.
See www.irishculture.org for information.
• Transatlantic Scottish trio Cantrip performs as part of the notloB Music series April 24 at 7:30 p.m., at 25 Half Moon Hill, Acton. Formed in Edinburgh almost two decades ago, the band now consists of Boston native Eric McDonald (guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, vocals); Dan Houghton (bagpipes, flute, whistle, guitar, bouzouki, vocals), a former Scottish resident now living in Vermont; and Edinburgh’s Jon Bews (fiddle, vocals). Their 2016 album “The Crossing” showed not only their solid grounding in Scottish tradition but also ventured into Irish and even Swedish music, while their song repertoire included classic Scots material like “Sae Will We Yet” as well as covers of Jez Lowe and folk parodists The Kipper Family. Another album is slated for a fall release. See notlobmusic.com.
• Multi-genre fiddler Audrey Budington will appear at the Berklee College of Music’s Berk Recital Hall (1140 Boylston St.) on April 9 at 4 p.m. Originally a classical violinist but influenced by Irish, Scottish and Cape Breton styles, Budington has performed at BCMFest, Arts at the Armory Café in Somerville and NEFFA (New England Folk Festival Association), and played for contra dances in the Boston area and elsewhere in New England. Along the way, she has developed an original sound that also incorporates jazz and funk as well as folk. At this concert, she will present trio and ensemble works, with guest artists that include guitarist Ben Knorr, cellist McKinley James, bassist Josh Bean, drummer Noah James, guitarist Cole Layman, and vocalist Alex Cornland. See berklee.edu/events/audrey-budington.
• Cindy Kallet and Grey Larsen, who perform April 6 at 8 p.m. at the Tremedal Concert series in Watertown, combine textures of Irish, Celtic and Scandinavian music with strikingly original, well-crafted songs. Kallet first came to prominence in the New England folk scene during the early 1980s on the strength of her two solo albums of her compositions, influenced by the landscapes and lives of Cape Cod. Larsen is a much-acclaimed performer on Irish flute and whistle, as well as fiddle, concertina, and keyboards, who was part of the groundbreaking trio Metamora and whose collaborators have included local multi-instrumentalist Paddy League. Information at tremedal.org.
• One of Scotland’s enduringly popular folk groups, North Sea Gas, will make several appearances in Massachusetts this month, including the Amazing Things Art Center in Framingham (amazingthings.org), April 12; West Dennis Community Church (email@example.com), April 13; Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood (norwoodlibrary.org), April 15; Dedee Shattuck Gallery in Westport (dedeeshattuckgallery.com), April 26; OCC Coffeehouse in Wrentham (musicatocc.org), April 27. The trio of Dave Gilfillan, Ronnie MacDonald and Grant Simpson musters guitar, banjo, mandola, fiddle, bouzouki, harmonica, whistle and percussion in their arrangements of traditional, contemporary and original music, presented with good cheer and a raconteur’s spirit. North Sea Gas has released 19 albums, won several awards and toured many parts of the world.
•The annual NEFFA (New England Folk Festival Association), which takes place April 20-22 at Mansfield Middle and High School, will feature a number of performers in the Irish/Celtic tradition, including Lindsay Straw; Neal MacMillan and Joanie Bronfman; The Strathspey and Reel Society of New Hampshire; Nancy Mulrey; Celtic Roots; Jordan Cannady; The Vox Hunters; and Rebecca McGowan and The Sunny Banks. For the full line-up and other details, see neffa.org.
•The Gaelic Roots Series at Boston College will host the duo of Kevin Crawford and Cillian Vallely on April 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Cadigan Alumni Center (2121 Commonwealth Ave.) on BC’s Brighton Campus. Two of Ireland’s most influential and active traditional musicians, Crawford (flute, whistles) and Vallely (uilleann pipes, flute, whistles) are members of the pioneering band Lúnasa, and have many other successful pursuits: Crawford has released four solo albums and in recent years has teamed up with fiddler Martin Hayes and guitarist John Doyle as the trio The Teatotallers; Vallely toured with the show “Riverdance” and has accompanied Bruce Springsteen, Natalie Merchant, Tim O’Brien and Mary Chapin-Carpenter. Crawford and Vallely also released the album “On Common Ground.” They will be accompanied by guitarist Patrick Doocey, who also performs as part of Lúnasa. Go to bc.edu/irishstudies.
– SEAN SMITH