March is typically the mother lode for Irish/Celtic music events in Greater Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, and this year is no exception. Here’s a look at some of the month’s happenings:
• Popular entertainers Phil Coulter and Andy Cooney once again team up for their “Celtic Crossings” show, an evening of “Irish warmth, spirit and culture” presented through music and dance, on March 4 at 7 p.m. in the Berklee Performance Center, produced by Bridget’s An Irish Tradition. Coulter, a Grammy-nominated musician, songwriter, singer and producer from Derry, Northern Ireland, has amassed dozens of platinum, gold and silver albums. Long Island native Cooney, who has sung professionally for more than three decades, has toured around the world and been featured on CD, DVD and broadcast television. Their special guests include Irish vocalist Geraldine Branagan, world champion Irish dancer Conor O’Brien (who has performed in “Lord of the Dance”) and the Irish Pops Ensemble.
Also at the Berklee Performance Center this month is the Canadian wife-husband fiddle-playing, step dancing duo of Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, on March 12 at 7:30 p.m., presented by World Music/CRASHarts. The two both come from distinguished music families: MacMaster’s relatives include Cape Breton music icons Buddy MacMaster, Ashley MacIsaac, and Andrea Beaton; Leahy has performed for years with his siblings in the award-winning ensemble titled with the family name. MacMaster and Leahy continue to celebrate the Canadian folk music traditions with skill as well as flamboyance and verve.
For tickets and other information about both shows, go to berklee.edu/events.
• The Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton will have a busy day of it on March 18, beginning at 4 p.m. with a family ceili led by Cait Bracken and music by Dennis Galvin, Nathan Gourley and Laura Feddersen. The event will feature well-known participatory dances such as the Siege of Ennis, Walls of Limerick and Kerry Set. Then at 7:30 p.m., the center hosts a concert by singer Niamh Parsons, accompanied by guitarist Graham Dunne. Parsons, from Dublin, began her professional career in 1990 and is regarded as among a select group of performers who helped establish a new, high-profile role for women in Irish music. She has six studio albums and one live album to her credit.
On March 25 at 7:30 p.m., singer and storyteller Helena Byrne will make a return visit to the center. Her musical credits include appearances with James Taylor, Moya Brennan, and Bob Geldof, and collaborations with Kila co-founders Ronan and Colm O Snodaigh; she has also been active in the theatrical realms, and is founder of the Break-Away Project Performance Company, which promotes ties between Irish and American artists and encourages the development of new theater and music. Last year, Byrne released the CD “Scéal,” a collection of stories and reminiscences of Ireland.
Go to irishculture.org for prices and other details on these events.
• Boston-area and New England performers will be in the spotlight at “Irish Music Night” on March 18 at 8 p.m. in Medford’s Chevalier Theatre: Matt and Shannon Heaton, who offer traditional as well as original songs, and flute/whistle-guitar/bouzouki duets, all steeped in Irish tradition; Laura Cortese, a Scottish-style fiddler who has worked in many different traditions, styles and genres of music; and Fódhla, the trio of Ellery Klein (fiddle), Nicole Rabata (flute) and Bethany Waickman (guitar), which brings its own mix of musical influences and backgrounds to bear on the Irish tradition.
See chevaliertheatre.com for tickets and other event information.
• Boston College’s Gaelic Roots series will hold a special evening of music and dance on March 30 at 6:30 p.m., with performances by BC faculty members Sheila Falls (fiddle) and Kieran Jordan (dance) and their students, along with special guests. The event is free and open to the public, and takes place at Connolly House, 300 Hammond Street, Chestnut Hill. Go to bc.edu/gaelicroots to register and for more information.
• Meanwhile, on March 10, Kieran Jordan Dance will collaborate with Symphony Nova – a 10-person classical chamber orchestra – for a program spotlighting the 17th-century Irish harp music of Turlough O’Carolan, featuring original choreography and new musical arrangements. This performance takes place at 7:30 p.m. in Arts at the Armory in Somerville. Go to kieranjordan.com/performances.php.
• RUNA, an Irish-American quintet that has gained a strong regional following via its appearances at New Bedford Folk Festival and elsewhere, comes to two area coffeehouses: the Old Sloop Coffeehouse in Rockport [oldsloopcoffeehouse.org] on March 3, and Circle of Friends Coffeehouse in Franklin [circlefolk.org] on March 4. RUNA incorporates elements of bluegrass, flamenco, blues and jazz into its mainly Irish-Scottish repertoire. The Bombadils – the duo of Canadian Luke Fraser (guitar, mandolin, vocals) and American Sarah Frank (fiddle, banjo, vocals) – will open for RUNA at the Old Sloop.
• The Burren Backroom Series will host Téada, regarded as one of the best traditionally-oriented Irish bands to emerge this century, on March 8. The group, which has released five albums, is driven by the melodic strength of fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada, accordionist Paul Finn and Damien Stenson, backed by Sean McElwain (guitar, bouzouki) and Tristan Rosenstock (bodhran). Although singer-accordionist Seamus Begley, who joined Téada five years ago, will not be making the trip, his daughter Méabh – a fine singer and musician in her own right – will sit in with them.
Téada also will perform on March 10 as part of the Belleville Roots Music Concert Series in Newburyport [bellevillechurch.org/roots.php].
Kevin Burke, one of the most influential fiddlers in the modern Irish music revival, comes to the Backroom on March 15. Burke’s Sligo-style playing has become famous through his stints with The Bothy Band, Patrick Street, Open House and the Celtic Fiddle Festival, as well as his various other collaborations.
Another legend of the Irish revival, Robbie O’Connell, rounds out the Backroom slate for the month on March 22. O’Connell had strong musical roots in his family, as a nephew of the Clancy Brothers, and toured with them for almost two decades while also working with other musicians such as Mick Moloney, Seamus Egan, Jimmy Keane, and Eileen Ivers. All the while, he’s cultivated a career as a masterful singer-songwriter whose works like “Keg of Brandy” and “Hard to Say Goodbye” have been widely covered.
O’Connell also appears at the Coffeehouse Off the Square in Hingham on March 18. See oldshipchurch.org/coffeehouse-off-the-square.html.
All three events begin at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and other details, go to burren.com/Backroom-Series.html.
• The Burren also will hold its traditional St. Patrick’s Day celebration on March 17 featuring music, dance and storytelling with Burren co-founders and owners Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello, joined by Robert Elliott and Seamus Noonan plus special guests. Show times are at 1, 3, 5, and 7 p.m.; an Irish meal is included. Go to burren.com.
• Ronan Tynan, widely acclaimed as “America’s Irish Tenor,” will perform at the Tilden Arts Center in West Barnstable on Cape Cod on March 19 at 3 p.m. Born in Dublin and raised in Kilkenny, Tynan has toured internationally and sung at such landmark events as the state funeral for Ronald Reagan, the Belmont Stakes, benefits and memorial services for 9/11 first responders, and the inauguration of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh. He has released five albums as well as a DVD of his motivational speaking. For tickets and other show information, go to bluefrog.showare.com.
• On March 9, Club Passim in Harvard Square welcomes Acadian trio Vishten, comprising 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.
Club Passim will host a preview show for this year’s New England Folk Festival Association (NEFFA) on March 19 that will include the Vox Hunters. The duo of Armand Aromin and Benedict Gagliardi is well-versed in – but by no means limited to – Irish traditional music. Their performances are typified by driving dance tunes with fiddle, concertina, banjo and tin whistle, ear-pleasing harmony singing, and good humor. Also on the bill will be Outrageous Fortune and Gogoski.
Locally based Scottish-American duo Jenna Moynihan and Màiri Chaimbeul will hold a CD release concert on March 26. Upstate New York-born fiddler Moynihan met Chaimbeul – a harpist from Scotland’s Isle of Skye – when they were students at Berklee College of Music, and built a partnership around a fusion of Scottish and Appalachian/old-timey music, with elements of classical and jazz. Opening for the pair will be The Sound Accord, a Phoenix-based “chamber folk” string sextet that blends traditional and contemporary Scottish and other Celtic instrumental music with classical influences.
[Moynihan and Chaimbeul also are appearing in this year’s “A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn” – see story elsewhere in this issue.]
Le Vent du Nord, a leading exponent of Quebecois music, takes the Passim stage on March 30. The quartet of Nicolas Boulerice, Oliver Demers, Rejean Brunet ,and Simon Beaudry has continually shown energy and creativity over its almost 15 years of existence. Their most recent album, “Têtu,” shows the band incorporating contemporary material – some of it their own compositions – alongside the traditional.
For showtimes, tickets and other information, go to passim.org.
• The journey of a young, 19th-century Irish woman’s journey to America is the subject of “Themselves: An Immigrant’s Story,” presented by the John F. Kennedy Library Presidential Library and Museum on March 11 at 10:30 a.m. The interactive performance includes storytelling and traditional Irish music and dance. Registration and other details at jfklibrary.org.
• The Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston will present “A Little Bit of Ireland” on the weekend of March 11 and 12. The theater’s annual celebration of St. Patrick’s Day – conceived and directed by Reagle’s producing artistic director Bob Eagle – features a cast of 100 and a live orchestra, with Irish music, dance and comedy. For tickets and information, see reaglemusictheatre.com.
– SEAN SMITH
The New England Irish Harp Orchestra to appear at various locales around the Greater Boston area during the month of March
Sunday March 5, 2:30pm The Bedford Public Library, 3 Meetinghouse Rd Bedford, NH 03110 FREE
Sunday March 12 at 1:00pm, Wareham Free Library, 59 Marion Rd. Wareham, MA 02571 FREE
Saturday March 18, 2:00pm . Milton Public Library 476 Canton Ave. Milton, MA FREE
Sunday March 19, 4:00pm The Wakefield Opera House 2 High ST. Sanbornville, NH 03872 $12 With guests - The McDonough-Grimes School of Irish Dance and The Seacoast Set Dancers
Tuesday March 21, 7:00pm Dover Public Library 73 Locust ST Dover, NH FREE