National Heritage Fellow Kevin Doyle will be a special guest performer at this year's BCMFest.
Step-dancer Kevin Doyle, Cape Breton’s
Lamond and MacIsaac duo, highlighters
at 17th annual Boston Celtic Music Fest
New Englander Kevin Doyle, whose traditional Irish step dancing has enlivened shows and concerts around Boston for years, and the renowned Cape Breton duo Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac will be the special guest performers at the 17th annual BCMFest (Boston Celtic Music Fest), which takes place Jan. 16-19.
The all-ages festival, held at venues in Harvard Square, showcases Greater Boston’s rich trove of music, song, and dance from Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, and other related traditions, with outstanding local performers like Hanneke Cassel, Matt and Shannon Heaton, Laura Cortese, The Ivy Leaf, Kieran Jordan and George Keith, and Scottish Fish also on the bill.
BCMFest 2020 will be centered around Club Passim, with evening concerts on Jan. 16 and 17 — each followed by a late-night “Festival Club” — and a marathon “Dayfest” on Jan.18; performances also will take place on Jan. 18 at The Sinclair including BCMFest Nightcap, the festival’s traditional closing event, with Lamond, MacIsaac, and Doyle as the featured acts.
Also on the schedule is BCMFest’s perennially popular Celtic dance party, The Boston Urban Ceilidh, and participatory sessions in Harvard Square locations Saturday afternoon. The final day will be devoted to workshops with Lamond and MacIsaac at the Passim School of Music.
BCMFest is a program of Passim, a Cambridge-based non-profit that supports a vibrant music community through Club Passim, music school, artist grants and outreach initiatives.
The 2020 line-up offers a diversity of sounds in Celtic music, whether strongly rooted in traditional styles or reflecting contemporary influences and perspectives: The Hanneke Cassel Trio; The Ivy Leaf; Sarah Collins and Eamon Sefton; Corner House; WILMA; Yaniv Yacoby and Eric Boodman; Laura Cortese; Christine Hedden, Rebecca McGowan and Lindsay Straw; Louise Bichan; Calico; McKinley James and Lily Honigberg; Highland Dance Boston; Bellweather; Scottish Fish; The Treaty Trio; Rising Step with Laura Feddersen and Cara Frankowicz; Will Woodson and Caitlin Finley; Rakish; Elizabeth and Ben Anderson; Kieran Jordan and George Keith; Sean Smith; Lampyridæ; Gabriel Solomon String Band; and A Cape Breton Trip Through Time.
A look at the BCMFest 2020 special guest performers:
Kevin Doyle began Irish dance as a boy, inspired by his Irish-born mother, and has scarcely stopped. A US champion Irish step dancer in his youth, Doyle has gone on to cultivate a career as a performer, choreographer, and teacher of “close to the ground” old-style Irish dance as well as American tap dance. In 2014, the Rhode Island resident was chosen as a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts, the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. He has frequently appeared in many Boston and Eastern Massachusetts events, including BCMFest, the New Bedford Folk Festival, Rockport Celtic Festival, and “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn.”
Mary Jane Lamond developed an interest in Cape Breton’s Scottish Gaelic traditions and song early on, through childhood visits with her grandparents. She has since become one of the island’s most accomplished performers, recording five albums and earning numerous Canadian music award nominations while touring around the world. Lamond is widely acclaimed for blending the ancient Gaelic song traditions with modern sounds and styles through collaborations with fiddler Ashley MacIsaac (notably on a recording and video of the song “Sleepy Maggie”), among others, and in Patchwork, which combines voice, electronics, and visuals.
Wendy MacIsaac, a frequent musical partner of Lamond – their album “Seinn” was among NPR’s top 10 folk albums in 2012 and won the Canadian Folk Music Awards traditional album of the year honor – is a much-admired fiddler, pianist, and step dancer, highly regarded for devotion to the “old school” Cape Breton style and in demand as a teacher as well as musician. She has appeared with high-profile acts such as The Chieftains, Capercaillie, and the Rankin Sisters, and regularly played at the Canadian American Club in Watertown, Boston’s hub for Cape Breton music. MacIsaac has five albums to her credit and appears on many more, including as part of the band Beolach; she also has produced two albums, one of them by Boston area native Katie McNally.
The dynamic sounds and different styles found in Boston’s Celtic music community will be showcased during BCMFest through events like the First Round (Jan. 16) and Roots and Branches (Jan. 17) concerts, as well as Saturday Dayfest — some 12-plus hours of entertainment, from mid-morning to late at night, presenting all manner of Celtic music, classic traditional to contemporary sounds. The Thursday and Friday “Festival Club” gives festival artists the opportunity to engage in special collaborations and push the envelope. The Sunday BCMFest Brunch will offer fine food in a relaxed live Celtic music atmosphere.
Those of a participatory bent can go to the Friday night Boston Urban Ceilidh and learn
social dances from Celtic traditions (no experience necessary), all with live music, or check out the music sessions Saturday Dayfest at the Harvard University Smith Campus Center in nearby Holyoke Square.
Festival details and updates, including ticket information, are available at passim.org/bcmfest.