The arrival of warm weather is a time for festivals and other outdoor performances – such as the Irish Cultural Centre of New England’s Boston Irish Festival [see separate story] – that feature Irish/Celtic music. Here is a look at some events in greater Boston, and a little beyond, for June:
• The town of Milton is notably proud of its Irish heritage – the percentage of Milton residents claiming Irish ancestry is the fifth highest in the state among communities of 10,000 or more, according to US Census figures – and is devoting a whole day to it as part of its “We Are Milton” festival. “Celtic Sunday,” which takes place June 24, will include an afternoon concert with Jinty McGrath, The Fenian Sons, Erin’s Melody, Curragh’s Fancy, Sean Brennan and The Skiffs, and a collaboration of Pauline Wells and the band Devri. There will also be a traditional Irish session led by Armagh native Anto Crossy. For full details, go to wearemilton.org.
• Somewhat farther afield is the eighth annual Blackstone River Theatre Summer Solstice Festival on June 16 at Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland, RI. The lineup includes Atwater-Donnelly Trio, Mari Black Celtic Band, Daymark, The Gothard Sisters, Emerald Rae, Jenna Moynihan and Owen Marshall, Tir Na Nog Irish Dance, Eastern Medicine Singers, La Croisée D’Antan, the trio of Sheila Falls, Torrin Ryan and Kyle Forshoff, and the Kevin Doyle Dance Showcase. More information at riverfolk.org/brtssf.
• In recent years, Club Passim in Harvard Square has launched a weekly series of free outdoor concerts at three different locations. Among the acts appearing this month will be Matt and Shannon Heaton (Harvard Common Spaces, June 29, noon), whose flute/whistle-guitar/bouzouki instrumentals and richly harmonized songs are grounded in Irish tradition but also draw on other sources, including their own material.
As for its indoor events, Club Passim will host the Hanneke Cassel Trio on June 1 at 7 p.m. Cassel is a former US National Scottish Fiddle Champion whose innovative fiddling and tune composition exemplifies the ancient-modern dynamic in Scottish music. She is joined by husband Mike Block (cello, vocals) and Keith Murphy (guitar, vocals).
Performers from the Miles of Music Island Camp in New Hampshire will hold their “After-Party” at Passim on June 15 at 8 p.m. The camp is a weeklong retreat exploring traditional folk music – including Celtic styles and traditions – and modern songwriting, and the connections between the two.
For information on these and other Club Passim events, see passim.org
• Highlighting the Burren Backroom series this month will be two appearances by New England guitarist/vocalist Keith Murphy, including his CD release concert on June 13 [see separate story]. On June 3 at 4 p.m., Murphy – who in addition to his solo work has been a part of many collaborations and special events, notably the “St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn” show – will team up with fiddler Brian Conway. A New York City native, Conway learned the distinctive Sligo fiddle style from masters like Martin Wynne and Andy McGann, and won junior and senior All-Ireland titles. His recordings include the widely acclaimed “Consider the Source” – which earned him the Irish Echo “Top Trad Artist” honor for 2008 – and group ventures as part of The Pride of New York (with Joanie Madden, Billy McComiskey and Brendan Dolan) and Gailfean (with John Whelan, Máirtín de Cógáin and Don Penzien).
Ken Perlman, an innovative five-string banjo player, will be at the Backroom at 4 p.m. on June 17. The Boston resident pioneered the melodic clawhammer banjo style, which he has used to adapt fiddle tunes from the Scottish, Irish, Appalachian and American South, and Cape Breton music traditions; he also collected tunes and oral histories from fiddlers on Canada’s Prince Edward Island. An accomplished finger-style guitarist as well, Perlman has taught numerous workshops and classes and published highly respected banjo and guitar instruction books. He will be accompanied by Janine Randall, one of the most sought-after pianists in the unique Cape Breton style. She has often been at the keyboard for concerts, ceilidhs, and sessions held in Watertown’s Canadian American Club.
Voices will be the instrument of choice when the quartet Windborne comes to the Backroom on June 20 at 7:30 p.m. New England natives Jeremy Carter-Gordon, Lynn Mahoney Rowan, Will Thomas Rowan, and Lauren Breunig use stirring four-part harmony (for the most part a cappella) and a winning, welcoming stage presence in singing a repertoire that extends from the British Isles and American folk traditions to Corsica, the Republic of Georgia, Quebec, Bulgaria, the Basque region of Spain, and other parts of the world. Much of their material is imbued in the social activism long connected with the folk tradition, championing labor and civil rights, the poor, the working class, and the disenfranchised.
The Backroom will present an unusual but intriguing collaboration on June 23 at 7 p.m., with Celtic Blue, which brings together The New England Irish Harp Orchestra (NEIHO) and The Sandy Ridge Boys. NEIHO is a multi-generational group of harpists who play, in various combinations as well as a full ensemble, Irish traditional tunes, slow airs and songs, and snippets from other music genres as well. Boston’s Sandy Ridge Boys are a tried-and-true bluegrass band, using the familiar line-up of banjo, dobro, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and bass to pay homage to giants like Flatt and Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, and the Stanley Brother, while also referencing contemporary bluegrass performers.
Ashley Davis brings her brand of pastoral, dreamy Celtic/Americana original music to the Backroom on June 27 at 7:30 p.m. Davis’s songs plumb myths and folklore, and elements of the natural world, to make for an often otherworldly presentation of stories and set pieces. Her 2014 album “Night Travels” included guest appearances from guitarist John Doyle (with whom she partnered for a Christmas music album), fiddler Eileen Ivers, and vocalist Sara Watkins, formerly of Nickel Creek. She has also performed with the band Lúnasa, two of whose members, fiddler Colin Farrell and guitarist Patrick Doocey, will accompany her.
For Burren Backroom series information and reservations, see burren.com/EventsCalendar.html.
• A foundational band of the modern Scottish folk music revival, the Tannahill Weavers, is marking its 50th anniversary year with a stop in the Boston area, performing at the Belmont-Watertown United Methodist Church (421 Common Street, Belmont) on June 8 at 8 p.m., a concert sponsored through the Folk Song Society of Boston. The “Tannies” was the first professional Scottish band to incorporate full-sized Highland bagpipes in performance, and over the course of the 1970s they built a following not only in the UK but also in Europe and the US. Co-founders Roy Gullane (vocals, guitar) and Phil Smillie (flute, whistles, bodhran, vocals) continue to hold forth, with John Martin (fiddle, viola, cello, vocals) and Lorne MacDougall (Highland bagpipes, small pipes, whistle). For tickets, see brownpapertickets.com/event/3237449.
• Young up-and-coming Irish songwriter David Keenan will play at Berklee College of Music’s Red Room at Café 939 (939 Boylston Street, Boston) on June 14 at 8 p.m. Keenan’s music takes inspiration from a diverse range of influences and impressions – listeners can detect the likes of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison, Luke Kelly and Brendan Behan, The Beatles, and Tim Buckley. The Dundalk native – who first attracted notice when a video of him playing in a taxi went viral – has played with luminaries such as Mick Flannery, Hothouse Flowers, Damien Dempsey, and Glen Hansard.
Go to berklee.edu/cafe939.
• There will be a launch event for the “Live at The Druid” CD on June 3 at 4:30 p.m. in The Lilypad, the pub’s Inman Square neighbor. The 19-track album, which comprises recordings made at The Druid’s weekly gatherings, features many Boston-area musicians, plus a few special guests, and captures the joie-de-vivre of a typical Druid session. [Read more about the CD in the January 2018 edition of Boston Irish Reporter.]
Sales of the album at the June 3 launch will benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Medford and Somerville, Rosabel’s Rooms (which offers comfort and support for families experiencing the loss of a child or sudden infant death) and Project Bread, a Massachusetts organization providing sustainable and reliable access to healthy food for all.
Organizers note that, at the conclusion of the CD launch, the participating musicians will head next door to The Druid “for one hell of a session.”
Directions and other information about The Lilypad available at lilypadinman.com.
– SEAN SMITH