BCM Fest- Boston Celtic Music Fest

A column of news and updates of the Boston Celtic Music Fest (BCMFest), which celebrates the Boston area’s rich heritage of Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton music and dance with a grassroots, musician-run winter music festival and other events during the year.
Sean Smith

Teachable moments—As a fiddle student, Laurel Martin learned from one of the best teachers around – 10-time All-Ireland champion Seamus Connolly. Now, as a fiddle teacher herself, Martin seeks to give her students the same kind of guidance from which she benefited: mentoring that not only helps one learn to play the instrument, but also to develop an appreciation for the Irish music tradition.

At the Dec. 12 BCMFest Celtic Music Monday, Martin will be joined by guitarist Matt Heaton, with special appearances by stepdancer Kieran Jordan and four of Martin’s current protégés, Natalya Kay Trudeau, Fiona Henry, Ciara McGillivray, and Gabriella Barham. The concert, which will take place in Harvard Square’s Club Passim beginning at 8 p.m., offers a glimpse of the teacher-student partnership and its role in passing along Irish music from generation to generation.
Martin, who plays in a subtle, lyrical style evocative of County Clare and East Galway, is on the faculty of the Indian Hill Music School in Littleton, Mass., is the former director of the Wellesley College Fiddleheads ensemble, and taught in the Boston College Irish Studies program for 13 years. She has performed and recorded with Connolly and the Childsplay ensemble, and released her own CD, “The Groves,” in 2006.
The four aspiring, high school-age fiddlers joining her at Club Passim may have taken varied paths to get where they are—Fiona and Ciara came from families with interest and experience in Irish music, while Natalya Kay and Gabriella started out as classical violinists—but all have reached a critical point in their musical journey, says Martin: They have achieved a level of competence (enough to have already performed in public) that has empowered them to begin asserting their own personalities.
“Most every musician, if he or she stays at it, reaches that stage,” she explains. “You learn how to really listen to the music, you learn how to make artistic choices based on the guidelines and conventions. If you are an Irish fiddler, that might mean making a choice to ornament the melody with a roll or triplet, or to slur a sequence of notes together instead of bowing them separately. These are artistic judgments that come naturally once you have spent a lot of time listening to and playing Irish traditional music.”
For young musicians to reach that stage, of course, the all-important dynamics of the teacher-student relationship have to be just right. Whether kids take up Irish music because of familial expectations or their own interest, Martin says, it’s up to the teacher to show them that the music, and the tradition it comes from, matters.
“I try to teach my passion for Irish music,” she says. “You run the risk that they’ll roll their eyes at you, but you have to let them see that the music is something which gives you joy, and has been worth all those hours of work—not just playing, but listening to the music. Obviously, not all kids are going to see what you see. But then there’s the student who sees the depth and beauty of the music, and who at some point ‘gets it.’ ‘
“That’s been the case with Fiona, Ciara, Gabriella and Natalya Kay, and I’m very happy we will have the experience of being in this concert together.”
Tickets for the concert are $12, $6 for members of Passim, WGBH and WUMB. For reservations and other information, see passim.org. The event also will be streamed live over the Web at concertwindow.com.
BCMFest 2012 info—A reminder that the ninth annual BCMFest will take place Jan. 6 and 7, with several dozen of Boston’s finest Celtic musicians, singers and dancers, at Club Passim and First Parish of Cambridge, both in Harvard Square. An opening night concert at Passim and the BCMFest Boston Urban Ceilidh at The Atrium on Church Street will kick off BCMFest 2012. The January 7 “Dayfest” will feature performances and participatory events at four venues, all literally within seconds of each other, culminating in the festival’s finale concert that night in First Parish.
You can get information and updates on the festival at bcmfest.com.