A look at Irish/Celtic music-related events in Greater Boston for May:
• Winifred Horan, best known for her dynamic fiddling with the currently-on-hiatus Irish American band Solas, brings her newest collaboration to the Burren Backroom series on May 6 for a 4 p.m. matinee. Horan – who over the years has performed with Liz Carroll, Sharon Shannon, Cherish the Ladies, and Christy Moore, among many others – has recently put together a trio with “raga pianist” Utsav Lal, whose unique style encompasses Hindustani classical music and jazz, and Dan Faiella, a guitarist with roots in New England’s Irish and contra dance scene.
Another distinguished fiddler, Jamie Laval, comes to the Backroom on May 9 at 7:30 p.m. A former US National Scottish Fiddle champion, Laval has performed and taught in a variety of settings, from festival stages to small workshops, presenting a passionate, virtuosic brand of traditional music that brings in styles and influences ranging from jazz to classical and elsewhere. He has also taken his music to other realms, including movie and TV soundtracks and the Dave Matthews Band. His most recent album, “Murmurs and Drones,” won the popular vote for “Best World Traditional Album” in the 2012 Independent Music Awards.
Boston-area bouzouki player and singer John Coyne teams up with fiddler/guitarist Randal Bays – as will their sons Rory Coyne and Owen Bays – on May 13 at 4 p.m. (See separate story.)
Massachusetts native Emerald Rae will celebrate the release of her new album on May 16 at 7:30 p.m. Rae is an accomplished fiddler, singer and step dancer who has been active in traditional music, particularly that of Scotland and Cape Breton, since her childhood, playing in many collaborations – including as part of the “alt-trad” band Annalivia – as well as a soloist. In recent years, she has turned her attention to American folk music and songwriting, releasing an album of her own material (“If Only I Could Fly”) in 2013 that featured her on guitar and the crwth – an ancient Welsh fiddle – in addition to fiddle. Her newest release focuses on her vocal-fiddle synergy for traditional, contemporary, and original songs.
Galway’s highly touted traditional band BackWest will close out the month’s Backroom schedule on May 30 at 7:30 p.m. Formed in 2016, the quartet features P.J. McDonald (guitar, vocals, whistle), who has worked with luminaries such as Arty McGlynn, Cathal Hayden and Seamie O’Dowd; the propulsive melodic punch of the Browne siblings, Maureen (fiddle) – formerly with Arcady and the Alan Kelly Gang – and Brendan (accordion), whose resume includes a stint with “Riverdance” and as a trio with Maureen and famed bodhran player Johnny “Ringo” McDonagh; and Peter Vickers (bodhran, step dance), with vast experience in major stage productions including “Lord of the Dance.”
For information and reservations, see
• Club Passim in Harvard Square will welcome back Acadian trio Vishten on May 2. The band – which also has performed locally as part of “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn” and the New Bedford Folk Festival – is the LeBlanc sisters, Emmanuelle (whistles, octave mandolin, bodhran, keyboards, jaw harp, percussive dance, vocals) and Pastelle (accordion, piano, percussive dance, vocals) from Prince Edward Island, and Pascal Miousse (fiddle, mandolin, guitar, vocals) of Magdalen Island. Their music, which encompasses traditional Acadian-French songs and instrumentals as well as their own compositions, is steeped in the culture and history of the Canadian Maritimes.
Wheezer & Squeezer is the self-deprecating name of Vermont-based Jeremiah McLane and Timothy Cummings, who play (respectively) piano accordion and bellows-blown bagpipes and whistle, with a repertoire that spans centuries and includes their original tunes. Having now been joined by multi-instrumentalist Alex Kehler on fiddle, nyckelharpa and låtmandola – his musical nickname is “Plink!” – the band’s collective influences include Scottish, Cape Breton, New England, Appalachia, Quebecois, blues, and jazz.
A co-founder of the popular Newfoundland folk-rock band Great Big Sea, Sean McCann has for the past few years pursued a solo career as a singer-songwriter, while coming to terms with the impact of severe emotional trauma from his youth. He has now emerged as an in-demand inspirational speaker and mental health advocate whose songs evoke the struggle to heal and make meaningful connections.
A diverse grouping of talents and interests comes to Passim on May 24 with a concert by Maeve Gilchrist, Nic Gareiss, Natalie Haas and Yann Falquet. The event features the pairing of two duos: pioneering Celtic harpist Gilchrist, and Gareiss, a singer and versatile dancer drawing on multiple traditions; Haas, who’s helped bring the cello to the forefront of Celtic music, and Falquet, vocalist and guitarist with the Quebecois trio Genticorum.
[Starting times for the above shows are 8 p.m.]
Passim’s annual Memorial Day Weekend Campfire festival will include performances by Lindsay Straw and Jordan Santiago (May 26, 3 p.m.), who perform ballads and songs from the British Isles and Irish folk traditions on guitar and mandolin; and singer-songwriter Molly Pinto Madigan (May 27, 4:30 p.m.), whose work is greatly influenced by the European and American ballad and literary traditions.
Go to for tickets and other details.
• The Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton will host two special events this month, starting with a concert by Helena Byrne on May 5. Byrne has pursued a multifaceted career as singer, songwriter, storyteller, and actress that includes appearances with James Taylor, Moya Brennan, and Bob Geldof, and numerous theatrical projects. She also has explored the music, superstitions, folklore and history of Ireland. Last year, she released the album “Tóraíocht Shonais (Pursuit of Happiness),” which uses songs, stories and recitations to recall and evoke the experience of Irish immigration to the US and Canada from the mid-19th century on, and the social, political, and economic impacts that resulted – both for the new arrivals and the lands they now called home.
May 12 will see a performance by Byrne and Kelly, the duo of Celtic Thunder members Neil Byrne and Ryan Kelly. The two have been with the internationally renowned singing group/stage show from its beginning in 2007 (Byrne was originally a backup singer and guitarist before becoming a featured soloist), but in the past several years they have cultivated their own act, starting with their “Acoustic By Candlelight” series of shows in 2012. Drawing comparisons to the likes of Simon & Garfunkel and the Everly Brothers with their vocal harmonies and Irish/Americana folk-rock sound, Byrne and Kelly have released four albums and a DVD, “Echoes.”
Both shows start at 7:30 p.m. See for more information.
• Brian Peters, one of the most respected performers in the British Isles folk tradition, will play at a house concert on May 4 at 8 p.m., sponsored by the Folk Song Society of Greater Boston. A fine musician on guitar, concertina and accordion, Peters plumbs venerable folk song collections, such as the Child Ballads, and other less-known sources for his repertoire. His credits include 11 albums and, believe it or not, the accordion often heard on the “Spongebob Squarepants” cartoon show.
To sign up for the concert, send e-mail to; the address will be given when reservations are completed.