August 1, 2019
BY SEAN SMITH
This month’s offerings of Greater Boston/Eastern Massachusetts Irish and Celtic-related events will include a busy weekend at the Irish Cultural Centre of New England and, up on the North Shore, the inaugural Rockport Celtic Festival.
•The Canton-based ICCNE will host an Irish Music and Dance Weekend, beginning on Aug. 9 with Belfast quintet Réalta (Conor Lamb, uilleann pipes, whistle; Aaron O’Hagan, uilleann pipes, flute, whistle; Deirdre Galway, guitar, vocals, piano; Dermot Mulholland, bouzouki, double bass, banjo, vocals; Dermot Moynagh, bodhran, percussion). The band draws inspiration from legends of the Irish folk revival like Planxty and the Bothy Band while carving out its own place in the traditional scene, notably on the strength of its pipes and whistle-led sound – not to mention a song repertoire in English and Gaelic. Réalta has toured through Europe, India, South Korea and the US, and appeared at major events like the Celtic Connections Festival, where they won the coveted Danny Kyle Award. The concert begins at 8 p.m.
The next day, Aug. 10, at 7:30 p.m., the centre welcomes the Byrne Brothers, a family band from Dublin, and more recently Donegal, now residing in Florida. The group is brothers Dempsey (10 years old) on bodhran, whistle and vocals, Finn (13) on banjo, mandolin and guitar, and Luca (15) on accordion – all of whom are dancers – and father Tommy, who plays guitar, fiddle, whistles, uilleann pipes and Highland pipes, and sings. The Byrnes, who have two albums to their credit, are known for high-energy performances with plenty of showmanship and stage savvy. As befitting a 21st-century act, they also are very active on social media (guided by mother Julie), complete with a YouTube channel that includes “vlogs” as well as concert and session clips.
Boston’s Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Hanafin-Cooley-Reynolds Branch will provide the music at the Aug. 11 céilí mor, which runs from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and features plenty of and social dancing and other entertainment.
For tickets and other information about these events, go to irishculture.org.
•The Rockport Celtic Festival, the theme of which is “Exploring Celtic Roots & Branches,” will take place August 23-25 at the Shalin Liu Performance Center, with a diverse line-up of accomplished musicians, dancers and singers who explore connections between the Irish, Scottish and American music traditions: Mick McAuley; John Doyle; Oisin McAuley; Bruce Molsky and Allison de Groot; the Palaver Strings chamber orchestra; Dana Lyn and Kyle Sanna; The Seamus Egan Project with Moira Smiley; Jenna Moynihan and Mairi Chaimbeul; Rakish; The Murphy Beds; Kevin Doyle, and others. The festival opens with “The Celtic/Appalachian Journey” on Aug. 23, and finishes up on Aug. 25 with a concert, “Songs and Stories of the Sea,” with special guests David Coffin and Michael O’Leary. The festival hosts and artistic directors are Brian O’Donovan and Maeve Gilchrist.
For more, go to rockportmusic.org/celtic-appalachian-journey.
•In addition to their appearance at the ICCNE [see above], Réalta will be at the Burren Backroom series on Aug. 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Also in the Backroom, on August 14 at 7:30 p.m., will be Susan O’Neill (known as SON), a Clare-born singer-songwriter-guitarist with a blues-rock influence and a throaty, powerful voice to match – honed in part by her participation in the Ennis Gospel Choir as a teen. After playing in the bands Propeller Palms and King Kong Company, O’Neill launched her solo career in 2017, releasing her debut album, “Found Myself Lost.” Her use of a “loop” pedal enables her to expand her one-woman sound, adding vocal and instrumental textures (including trumpet, which she learned to play in her town’s brass band). Many of O’Neill’s songs deal with her interest in mental and physical health – and music’s role in aiding both – and passion for environmental issues.
Two founding members of Ireland’s beloved rock band The Saw Doctors, Padraig Stevens and Leo Moran – co-writers of the group’s most famous song, “I Useta Love Her,” which became Ireland’s best-ever selling single – will be in the Backroom on Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. The pair’s friendship dates back to a youth club in their native Tuam, and has continued beyond The Saw Doctors, which Stevens left several years ago. Besides “I Useta Love Her,” Stevens’ other writing credits with the band include “That’s What She Said Last Night,” “Same Oul’ Town,” “Good News,” “Maroon and White” and his very own “Still the Only One”; Christy Moore covered Stevens’s “Tuam Beat” in 2016. Moran, a prodigious songwriter himself, and Stevens recorded a collection of songs about Gaelic football under the name “The Folk Footballers” to celebrate Galway’s appearance in the 1998 All-Ireland senior football final.
Go to burren.com/music.html for tickets and other details.
•Dublin quartet Lankum, which made its Boston-area debut earlier this year in Club Passim, returns to the Harvard Square venue on Aug. 2 for two shows, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. The self-described “Dublin folk miscreants” have gained considerable popularity with a populist, gritty, infectious blend of traditional, music hall, and original material. The band started out more than 15 years ago as Lynched, an experimental psychedelic folk-punk duo of brothers Ian (uilleann pipes, concertina, whistle, vocals) and Daragh (guitar, piano, vocals) Lynch, and – with the addition of Radie Peat (concertina, accordions, harmonium) and Cormac Mac Diarmada (fiddle, viola) – garnered three nominations in the 2016 BBC Folk Music Awards for their first album, “Old Cold Fire.” Changing their name to Lankum, the band’s 2018 release “Between the Earth and Sky” brought it further acclaim, and continued to showcase its interest in musical styles ranging from punk, black metal and techno, in close quarters with a deep affection for traditional music.
West Coast-based power trio The Fire are at Club Passim on Aug. 13 at 8 p.m., their music bridging the diverse and venerable Scottish fiddle and bagpipe traditions. The Fire is Rebecca Lomnisky, a past winner of both US and International Scottish fiddle championships; David Brewer (Highland pipes, whistle, guitar, bodhran), who has toured with Scotland’s Old Blind Dogs and appeared with The Chieftains, and contributed to the soundtrack for a PBS documentary on Andrew Jackson; and Adam Hendy (guitar, bouzouki), who’s studied and played with members of such bands as Flook and Lúnasa and performed across the US, Ireland and UK. The trio last year released its first full-length album, “Radiance.”
Fiddler-vocalist Emerald Rae returns to the Club Passim stage on Aug. 14 at 8 p.m. The Gloucester-born and bred Rae is an accomplished fiddler, singer, and step dancer who has been active in traditional music, particularly that of Scotland and Cape Breton, since her childhood, playing in many collaborations – including as part of the “alt-trad” band Annalivia – as well as a soloist. In recent years, she has turned her attention to American folk music and songwriting. Her most recent work, showcased on her 2018 album “Emerald Rae,” focuses on her vocal-fiddle synergy for traditional, contemporary, and original songs.
Opening for Rae is Liv Greene, whose songwriting aligns with her interest in Appalachian folk and roots music.
The Young’uns, known for infectious harmony singing and a repertoire of traditional and original songs that capture the life and times of their native Northeast England, will be at Club Passim on Aug. 21 at 8 p.m. Hailing from Teeside, the trio of Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle has earned BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for Best Group and Best Album (for their fourth release, “Strangers”) while winning audiences across the UK and elsewhere with a jovial, down-to-earth stage presence to go with their compelling musical portraits of working-class people, their challenges and triumphs. Their most recent project is “The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff,” the story of one man’s adventure in times of upheaval – from begging on the streets in northern England to fighting against fascism in the Spanish Civil War.
Tickets and other information available at passim.org.
•Toronto-based Enter the Haggis comes to the City Winery on Aug. 1 at 8 p.m. For almost 25 years, the band (Craig Downie, bagpipes, guitar, keyboards, whistle; Brian Buchanan, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, accordion; Trevor Lewington, guitar, mandolin, keyboards; Mark Abraham, bass, banjo; and Bruce McCarthy, drums) has brought together a prodigious – even quirky – blend of rock, fusion, bluegrass, traditional Celtic fare, agitpop, folk, and other strains. From head-banging, arena-friendly Celtic rock to more nuanced, lyrical, indie-type offerings, “ETH” combines a versatile repertoire with sociopolitical conviction.
•A recent addition to Boston’s ranks of roots-oriented bands, Corner House will give a free concert on Aug. 8 at 5 p.m. in Kendall Center (2 Cambridge Center in Cambridge) as part of the Berklee College of Music “Summer in the City” series. Between them, Ethan Hawkins (guitar), Louise Bichan (fiddle), Ethan Setiawan (mandolin) and Casey Murray (cello) have amassed a solid background in Irish, Scottish, Appalachian string band, New England contra dance and bluegrass traditions, all of which they present in a winning, easygoing fashion. (They make fun, creative YouTube videos, too.)