Highlighting January’s area Irish/Celtic events is the 16th annual Boston Celtic Music Fest (BCMFest), which takes place Jan. 17-20 in Harvard Square. In addition to spotlighting many performers with ties to Greater Boston, the festival will welcome special guests Irish-American fiddler Liz Carroll and Kevin Henderson, a Scottish fiddler who will be appearing with pianist Neil Pearlman.
The BCMFest 2019 line-up also includes: Laurel Martin with Jim Prendergast; Katie McNally and Yann Falquet; Joey Abarta; The Bywater Band; Scottish Fish; Rakish; Pumpkin Bread; Kieran Jordan; Ship in the Clouds; Yann Falquet and Friends; Adam Agee and Jon Souza; Fade Blue; Boys on the Hilltop; Michael O’Leary with Steve Levy and Bob and Jen Strom; Elizabeth and Ben Anderson; Wooden Nickels; Cape Breton Showcase; Yaniv Yacoby and Eric Boodman; Colleen White and Sean Smith; Molly Pinto Madigan; Celtic Roots; Leland Martin; Hornpipalooza; and Live at The Druid.
BCMFest 2019 will be centered around Club Passim (47 Palmer St.), with evening concerts on Jan. 17 and 18 — each followed by a late-night “Festival Club” —and a marathon “Dayfest” on Jan. 19; performances also will take place on Jan. 19 at The Sinclair (52 Church St.) including BCMFest Nightcap, the festival’s traditional closing event, with Carroll and the Henderson-Pearlman duo as the featured acts. Also on the schedule is The Boston Urban Ceilidh, on Friday night (Jan. 18), and participatory sessions in Harvard Square locations late Saturday afternoon (Jan. 19). The final day, Jan. 20, will be devoted to workshops with Carroll and Henderson, as well as other BCMFest performers, at the Passim School of Music.
For ticket information and other details, go to
• The Burren Backroom series will start the new year on Jan. 2 with the trio of Keith Murphy, Haley Richardson and Joey Abarta, who first played together as part of the 2017 “St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn” show. Murphy (guitar, piano, vocals) has been a mainstay in the New England traditional music scene for decades, as a soloist and a member of Nightingale and fiddle ensemble Childsplay, and in many collaborations, more recently with harpist Maeve Gilchrist. The 16-year-old Richardson is already widely acclaimed as one of the finest young Irish-style fiddlers in the US, and recently won the prestigious Fiddler of Dooney competition in Sligo. Abarta (uilleann pipes, whistle) has performed locally and elsewhere frequently, including with Mick Moloney and the group The Green Fields of America and as part of Copley Street, his duo with fiddler/guitarist Nathan Gourley.
An intriguing departure from the Backroom’s Irish/Celtic format will be the Jan. 6 show with Norwegian hardanger fiddler Olav Mjelva and American guitarist-vocalist Eli West. Mjelva has explored the Scandinavian folk traditions as a founding member of the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc and the Norwegian-Swedish ensemble SVER, and in collaboration with Swedish nyckelharpa player Erik Rydvall; in 2010, he received the Spelemannprisen, the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy award for his debut solo album and in 2013 was selected as Norway’s folk musician of the year. Seattle-based West (who also plays banjo and bouzouki) has melded innovative phrasing and improvisatory techniques with traditional bluegrass and old-timey styles, while also earning plaudits for his singing and songwriting, particularly on his debut album “The Both” – a musical portrait of his grandfathers.
Fiddle-cello duo Elizabeth and Ben Anderson return to the Backroom on Jan. 9. The Anderson siblings bring forth both the intensity and grace in Scottish and Cape Breton music, mixing traditional styles and modern ideas. Having built a solid foundation of admirers locally, through appearances at The Burren, BCMFest, and Club Passim, they also have performed in Scotland and France. The Andersons recently completed work on their first full-length album.
All Backroom shows begin at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and other details, see