Danú plays at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport on March 9.
John D. Kelly photo
Arguably the high-tide month for Celtic/Irish events in Greater Boston is here, with “A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn,” the Lúnasa-Natalie Merchant collaboration at The Wilbur, and Celtic Thunder member Colm Keegan’s appearance at the Irish Cultural Centre of New England [see separate stories] among the highlights. Here are some more happenings:
• Not surprisingly, The Burren in Davis Square will have a busy time of it the next few weeks, especially the Backroom series, which will welcome Irish super-group Téada with Séamus Begley on March 6. Founded by Sligo fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada, Téada first came together in 2001 and has become one of the century’s most compelling Irish groups, delving deep into the tradition and presenting the music with precision and power, but not slacking on its emotional character. Along with Mac Diarmada, Téada’s members are Paul Finn (button accordion), Damien Stenson (flute), Seán McElwain (guitar) and Tristan Rosenstock (bodhrán); they’re joined by Seamus Begley, an accomplished accordionist and singer steeped in the Kerry tradition.
Now having expanded to a sextet, Heron Valley (Euan McNab, pipes, guitar, whistle; Nick Hamilton, banjo, drums; Alex Mackechnie, fiddle, accordion, guitar; Arlene Mackechnie, keyboards; Abigail Pryde, guitar, vocals; and Callum Cronin, bass) makes a return to the Backroom on March 13. The band plays music of their native Scotland, as well as of Ireland, while also integrating country, bluegrass, and contemporary folk. In addition to their high-octane performances, Heron Valley is known for its ambitious videos, including “Home,” which they filmed in the midst of climbing up Beinn an Lochainn, a hill in the west coast of Scotland.
Solidly entrenched as a local favorite, Newfoundland singer Matthew Byrne will be back at the Backroom on March 20 at 7:30 p.m. On the strength of his resonant tenor voice and sensitive, empathetic treatment of songs from the vocal tradition of his homeland – and his own family – Byrne has built a following in New England, and elsewhere, to a great extent through his critically acclaimed recordings, including 2017’s “Horizon Lines,” which won a Canadian Folk Music Award for “Traditional Album of the Year.” Opening for Byrne will be a new trio of local musicians, Falquet, Heaton and Keith: Yann Falquet (guitar, vocals); Shannon Heaton (flute, whistle, vocals); and George Keith (fiddle). All have extensive experience in traditional music and boast a lengthy list of collaborations, formal and informal, in Greater Boston and elsewhere.
March 27 will see another visit from RUNA, which styles itself as a “Celtic roots” band. The international quintet of Shannon Lambert-Ryan (vocals, step-dancing), Fionán de Barra (guitar), Cheryl Prashker (percussion), Zach White (guitar, vocals, mandolin), and Maggie White (fiddle, mandolin) fuses Irish and Scottish music with Americana/roots, adding harmonies, rhythms, and tints of jazz, bluegrass, flamenco and blues. RUNA has won multiple honors at the Irish Music Awards and Independent Music Awards, and has built a strong following in New England through its appearances at, among other places, the New Bedford Folk Festival.
The above Backroom shows all begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, other information at burren.com/EventsCalendar.html.
The Burren will hold its annual St. Patrick’s Day Dinner Show on March 16 and 17, hosted by owners Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello and featuring the duo of Robert Elliott and Seamus Noonan, along with special guests. The show includes a traditional Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage or Guinness beef stew with soda bread (a vegetarian option is also available). Multiple performances will take place on both days. Go to burren.com for tickets and other details.
• RUNA also will be appearing at the Circle of Friends Coffeehouse in Franklin on March 30 at 8 p.m. Go to circlefolk.org for details.
• The Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton will be home to a range of festivities over St. Patrick’s Day weekend (March 15-17), with live music, dancing, parties, and activities for families. On St. Patrick’s Day itself, live music and dancing begins in the morning, followed by step dance performances by local dance companies and traditional music sessions into the evening.
In addition, the ICC will hold other spotlight events this month, including a performance by violin duo Sephira on March 10 at 2 p.m. Sisters Ruth and Joyce O’Leary are known for their dramatic stage presentation, constantly moving and dancing – and sometimes singing – while they play their instruments. Trained classically, the O’Learys have since moved into rock, traditional Irish, Americana, gypsy, and other music domains, from covering Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” to sets of Irish reels. They have appeared with Andrea Bocellli, Kanye West, Michael Buble, and Enya, spent two years with the Celtic Thunder show, and are shown on PBS regularly.
The Voices of the Foyle (Glórtha an Fheabail), a community choir from the northwest of Northern Ireland, will visit the ICC on March 15 at 7:30 p.m. Established in 2015, the multi-generational ensemble performs an eclectic mix of folk, jazz, pop, and modern styles, their repertoire including “Green Grow the Rushes, O,” “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This,” “Tenerife Sea,” and “Falling Slowly” (from “Once”).
On March 22 at 6:30 p.m., The Great Famine Voices Roadshow will make a stop at the ICC. The Roadshow is an open house event that will feature short talks about the Irish National Famine Museum in Strokestown Park in Ireland and provide a venue for those interested in sharing family memories and stories about coming from Ireland to America, especially during the Great Hunger and afterwards – and thus strengthen their sense of ancestry and historical and current Irish connections. A selection of these family memories and stories has been made freely available on the Great Famine Voices online archive.
A trio of Irish music and dance scholars from the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance will be at center on March 30 at 7 p.m.: Sandra Joyce, an innovative bodhran player whose study of the Irish song tradition has informed her vocal style; Niall Keegan, who learned flute from the community of Irish musicians in and around his native London; and Orfhlaith Ni Bhriain, course director for the Irish World Academy’s Master of Arts in Irish Traditional Dance Performance.
Go to irishculture.org for more details on these events.
• Among the events at Club Passim in Harvard Square this month will be a CD release concert by local quintet Pumpkin Bread on March 10 at 8 p.m. Conor Hearn (guitar), Maura Shawn Scanlin (fiddle), Steven Manwaring (mandolin), Aidan Scrimgeour (accordion), and Jackson Clawson (piano) play original folk music flavored with Celtic fiddling, spirited improvisations, and relentless groove. With songs that range from pensive and heartfelt to driving and playful, the band draws its strength not only from keen musicianship but its camaraderie and close-knit friendship. Pumpkin Bread has performed at BCMFest, the Amazing Art Things Center, and the Burren Backroom, among other local venues, and will be celebrating the release of its second album, “Dear Starling.”
American-Scottish fiddle maven Hanneke Cassel plays at Passim on March 20 at 7 p.m., accompanied by Mike Block (cello) and Keith Murphy (guitar). An Oregon native who’s been living in Boston for the better part of two decades, Cassel draws on the traditions of Scotland’s Isle of Skye and Cape Breton Island, blended with Americana grooves and other musical styles and trappings, for her strongly expressive, emotive fiddle style. Her repertoire includes original tunes written in the traditional idiom to go with the older music. She has appeared locally at BCMFest, the Boston College Gaelic Roots series, and “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn,” among others, as well as events such as the Milwaukee Irish Fest, Celtic Colours in Cape Breton, and Celtic Connections in Glasgow.
For tickets and information, go to passim.org.
• Ireland’s Danú appears at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport on March 9 at 8 p.m. Representing the musical heritage of the counties of Waterford, Cork, Dublin, and Donegal, the band has, in its more than two decades and various iterations, released nine albums – including 2018’s “Ten Thousand Miles” – and a DVD while touring Europe and North America (once playing at the Hollywood Bowl), and winning Best Traditional Group honors twice at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Their current line-up is Benny McCarthy (accordion, melodeon), Nell Ní Chróinín (vocals), Massachusetts resident Oisín McAuley (fiddle), Éamon Doorley (fiddle, bouzouki), Tony Byrne (guitar), and Ivan Goff (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle).
See rockportmusic.org for more.
• Local duo Colleen White and Sean Smith will perform at the Belmont Public Library on March 9 at 3 p.m. White (flute, whistle, vocals) and Smith (guitar, bouzouki, bodhran, vocals) incorporate modern influences into their arrangements of songs and tunes from Ireland, Scotland, and England while retaining the spirit and character of those traditions. They also blend works from contemporary singer-songwriters such as Karine Polwart, Steve Tilston, and Kate Rusby.
The library’s website is belmontpubliclibrary.net.
• Another brand of entertainment, The Irish Comedy Tour, will be at City Winery Boston on March 2 at 8 p.m. The quartet of Derek Richards, Mike McCarthy, Damon Leibert, and Derrick Keane all have strong Irish roots and blend music with boisterous humor, simultaneously validating and exploding Irish myths and stereotypes.
Go to citywinery.com/boston for tickets and other details.
• Boston-area trio Ceol Corvus performs at the Durant-Kenrick House in Newton on March 16 at 4 p.m. Emily Peterson (concertina, whistle), Steve Levy (vocals, bouzouki, mandolin, tenor banjo), and Sean Smith (vocals, guitar, bouzouki, bodhran) have long been active in the local music scene and performed at various events and venues including BCMFest, the Burren Backroom, the Dorchester Irish Heritage Festival, St. John’s Coffeehouse, Club Passim Campfire Festival and Boston Irish Festival. Their free-reed/fretted-string dynamic combines the spontaneity and spirit of the Irish session with latter-day influences and arrangements inspired by the modern Irish folk revival.
More at newtonma.gov/gov/historic/events/irish_music___ceol_corvus.asp.
• Van the Man won’t be in Massachusetts this month, but you can still indulge in his legendary music at “Moondance: The Van Morrison Tribute Concert,” at the Norwood Theater on March 30 at 7:30 p.m. The show presents classics like “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Domino,” “It Stoned Me,” “Tupelo Honey,” “Wild Night,” and of course, “Moondance,” along with many other memorable songs popularized by one of Belfast’s most famous denizens.
Tickets and information at norwoodstage.com.