November 2, 2018
The return of all-star fiddle ensemble Childsplay – which plays at the Somerville Theater on Nov. 20 – highlights Boston-area Irish/Celtic music events these next several weeks.
Childsplay comprises some two dozen musicians – many from Boston or elsewhere in New England – performing fiddle music mainly from Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, Scandinavian, French Canadian, and American folk traditions. All the fiddlers use violins created by Cambridge resident Bob Childs, who also plays in the ensemble and serves as artistic director as well as its namesake. Although most of Childsplay’s participants have active, full-time musical careers, they gather almost every fall for a few weeks to rehearse and present concerts.
Among the area musicians involved in the present iteration of Childsplay are Sheila Falls, Shannon Heaton, Laurel Martin, Katie McNally, Kathleen Guilday, and McKinley James; renowned Irish singer Karan Casey has served as the band’s lead vocalist since 2016; Kevin Doyle will be the featured dancer.
Childs announced in 2017 that Childsplay will end its two decades-plus run after its 2019 tour. The group recently released its seventh recording, “The Bloom of Youth.”
For links to tickets and other information, go to somervilletheatre.com/live-events.
• In addition to her appearance with Childsplay, Karan Casey will perform at Boston College’s Gaelic Roots series on Nov. 7. A native of Co. Waterford who immigrated to New York City in 1993, Casey came to prominence as a co-founder of thye pioneering band Solas. Casey released her first album in 1997, and began her solo career two years later; since then, she has made seven recordings, the most recent being “Hieroglyphs That Tell the Tale,” released last month. In addition, she has collaborated with an array of artists such as Lúnasa, Tim O’Brien, The Dubliners, and James Taylor. Solidly grounded in traditional music, Casey also has shown herself to be versatile in R&B, jazz, blues and other genres, and as a songwriter: Her previous album, “Two More Hours,” consisted of her original songs.
The concert will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Cadigan Alumni Center on BC’s Brighton Campus. For more details, see events.bc.edu/group/gaelic_roots_series.
• Another Childsplay veteran, Hanneke Cassel, brings her band – Mike Block (cello) and Keith Murphy (guitar, vocals) – to the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport on Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. Cassel’s strongly expressive, emotive fiddle style draws on the traditions of Scotland’s Isle of Skye and Cape Breton Island, blended with Americana grooves and other musical styles and trappings. Since beginning her career more than 15 years ago, Cassel has built up a repertoire of original tunes written in the traditional idiom to go with the older music. She has appeared locally at BCMFest, the Boston College Gaelic Roots series and “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn,” among others, as well as events such as the Milwaukee Irish Fest, Celtic Colours in Cape Breton and Celtic Connections in Glasgow.
For tickets and other information, see rockportmusic.org/hanneke-cassel.
• Husband/wife duo Tommy and Saundra O’Sullivan lead off this month’s Burren Backroom series on Nov. 7. Tommy is known to many audiences as the guitarist and vocalist for Sliabh Notes (with Matt Cranitch and Donal Murphy) and as an accompanist for uilleann piper Paddy Keenan, with whom he has recorded two albums. Saundra, a native Texan, had considerable experience singing in choirs and as a soloist during high school and college, but first became active in Celtic music as a tenor drummer with a bagpipe band. This led her to explore the Irish tradition – and to an Irish music retreat in 2007, where she met Tommy, who was one of the instructors. The two made a musical connection, as well as a personal one (they were married three years later), and now live in Dingle.
One of the Irish folk revival’s most accomplished fiddlers, Kevin Burke, comes to the Backroom on Nov. 9. Born in London but with family ties to Sligo and its storied fiddle tradition, Burke made the round of sessions and other musical gatherings among London’s Irish community as a teenager and became part of an All-Ireland champion ceili band. Burke moved to New York City at the invitation of singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie, and there met a number of musicians, including Irish ex-pats Joe Burke and Andy McGann, who inspired him to take up music full-time. He eventually wound up in Dublin’s fertile folk/trad scene, and became a member of the groundbreaking Bothy Band; he went on to equally rewarding stints with Patrick Street and the Celtic Fiddle Festival. A resident of Portland, Ore., since 1980, Burke was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship in 2002.
A master fiddler of a more recent generation, Oisín Mac Diarmada, along with his wife, pianist-step dancer Samantha Harvey, and longtime friend and partner, accordionist-vocalist Seamus Begley, will perform on Nov. 21. Cork-born but greatly influenced by the Sligo fiddle tradition, Mac Diarmada is a co-founder of the acclaimed traditionally-rooted band Téada, of which Begley – from a venerable musical family in West Kerry – has been an occasional member/guest. Classically-trained Californian Harvey has fully developed into an astute accompanist of Irish music, and as a dancer in the sean-nos, Irish and Ottawa Valley traditions.
All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and other information about Burren Backroom events, go to burren.com/EventsCalendar.html.
• The annual Massachusetts Fiddle Hell, which takes place Nov. 1-4 at the Westford Regency Inn in Westford, offers workshops, mini-concerts and evening performances that showcase numerous fiddle styles, among them Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, Appalachian and Scandinavian; instruments such as guitar, mandolin and cello also are featured. This year’s line-up includes Gerry O’Connor, Jay Ungar, Laurel Martin, Ellery Klein, Katie McNally, Keith Murphy, Lissa Schneckenburger, Mark Simos, Rose Clancy, Flynn Cohen, Brian O’Donovan, and David Surette.
For more details, go to fiddlehell.org.
• The Canadian American Club of Massachusetts Gala on Nov. 11 will feature several hours of music and dance from Cape Breton, Irish, Scottish, Prince Edward Island, Quebecois and old-timey traditions. Among the performers are: Michael Kerr; the Jackie OoRiley Dancers, with uilleann piper Joey Abarta; fiddler Leland Martin; musicians from Boston’s Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann branch; the Boston Scottish Fiddle Orchestra; Adrienne Howard and friends; the Jen Schoonover Dancers with Ian MacDougal; Lorraine Lynch with Helen Keisel and Bernie Doucet, and Canned Ham, with accompaniment throughout the day by Terry Traub, and Lloyd Carr. There also will be Cape Breton Mabou set dances for all who will.
For details, see canadianamericanclub.com.
• The New England trio Fodhla will perform traditional, contemporary and original tunes from Ireland, Brittany and Quebec on Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the First Baptist Church of Medford. Fodhla is fiddler Ellery Klein, a former member of all-female quartet Long Time Courting and popular international Celtic rock band Gaelic Storm; flutist Nicole Rabata, whose musical experiences include a four-year sojourn in the west of Ireland and contributing along with Natalie MacMaster to the film “The Heavenly Angle”; and guitarist Bethany Waickman, a frequent accompanist of fiddler Lissa Schneckenburger and a member of contra dance band Anadama.
The church is located at 34 Oakland Street in Medford. Go to firstbaptistchurchmedford.org/concerts for more details.
• The fourth Lexington Ceili takes place on Nov. 4 at 4:30 p.m. in the First Baptist Church of Lexington (1580 Massachusetts Avenue). Popular ceili dances such as “Siege of Ennis” and “Shoe the Donkey” will be taught; all ages and experience levels are welcome. Live music provided by Nora Smith (fiddle), Natasha Sheehy (accordion) and John Coyne (bouzouki). Information at facebook.com/events/720795561620639.
• The Gore Place Carriage House Series in Waltham hosts two concerts this month featuring Irish/Celtic music. On Nov. 13, the series will present “Music of the Misty Isles” with Michael O’Leary and O’Carolan Etcetera. Gloucester resident O’Leary is a singer of Irish, Scottish, and maritime ballads and songs who has appeared at BCMFest, Irish Connections Festival, New England Folk Festival and other festivals and concert venues in New England. He also organizes music cruises in Gloucester Harbor and sessions on the North Shore. In 2003, O’Leary was co-recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant that enabled him to study the traditional Irish sean nos singing style from Bridget Fitzgerald. He will be accompanied by O’Carolan Etcetera, which comprises flute, fiddle, guitar and hurdy-gurdy.
On Nov. 27, the duo of Colleen White and Sean Smith will come to the Carriage House. Of different generations, White (flute, whistle, vocals) and Smith (guitar, bouzouki, bodhran, vocals) find common ground in the song and instrumental traditions of Ireland, Scotland and England; their repertoire also includes contemporary songs from writers like Kate Rusby, Karine Polwart and Steve Tilston. White, who spent most of her childhood in Minnesota, came to Boston in 2007, and studied flute and whistle with Jimmy Noonan. Smith has been part of the local folk music scene for more than three decades, playing in various bands and collaborations. Together, they’ve appeared at BCMFest, Canton’s Open Book Coffeehouse, and the Dorchester Irish Heritage Festival.
Both concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. For ticket information and other details, see goreplace.org/programs/concerts-music.
• One of Boston’s more iconic singers, Pauline Wells, will present her holiday-themed show “Home for Christmas” on Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Norwood Theater. A deputy superintendent in the Cambridge Police Department, Wells has become a familiar figure at local and regional charitable events, as well as at Red Sox and Patriots games, and venues ranging from the Massachusetts State House to the National Mall in Washington, DC. Her songs include many Irish/Celtic favorites such as “Tell Me Ma,” “Fields of Athenry” and “Ride On,” as well as patriotic and other classic material.
Proceeds from the concert will go to benefit Cops for Kids with Cancer. Go to norwoodstage.org for tickets and information.
• Highland Dance Boston and The Boston Scottish Country Dancers will host a Scottish Ceilidh on Nov. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Irish Social Club of Boston (119 Park Street, West Roxbury). The event will include performances and ceilidh dancing for all. Music will be provided by The Celtic Beats and the New Hampshire Pipes and Drums. For information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or see highlanddanceboston.org/hdbceilidh.html.