By Sean Smith
In addition to “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn” (see separate story ), there are – unsurprisingly – plenty of other Irish/Celtic-related holiday music events in Greater Boston and Eastern Massachusetts over the next few weeks.
•The Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton will host “Irish Christmas in America” on Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. The show, marking its 15th year, features music, song, dance, and stories of seasonal Irish traditions, with Sligo-born producer and fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada – a co-founder of popular band Téada, and accordionist Seamus Begley, known for his lovely Kerry-influenced singing and his witty stage banter. Performers also include vocalist and flutist Niamh Farrell, who has toured with English indie singer-songwriter David Gray, and step dancer Samantha Harvey.
On Dec. 21 at 7 p.m., the ICC presents “A Christmas Celebration” with original “Celtic Woman” star Chloe Agnew. Joining “Celtic Woman” at age 14, Agnew – who had already released two recordings – stayed with the ensemble for nearly 10 years, during which time she recorded two more albums and earned Female Vocalist of the Year honors at the 2012 Irish Music Awards. In addition to her solo work, she has performed as a guest with Celtic Thunder and appeared as part of “The Voice of Ireland” and “A Celtic Christmas.” In recent years, Agnew has turned to songwriting, and last year issued a five-track EP, “The Thing About You,” which includes four original songs.
For tickets and other information about these events, go to irishculture.org.
•In what has now become an annual occasion, the Berklee Celtic Vocal Ensemble will present “The Holly Bears the Crown,” on Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the David Friend Recital Hall (921 Boylston Street). These eight Berklee College of Music vocalists perform ballads, bawdy tales, sea shanties, and other songs from Ireland, the British Isles, and the Canadian Maritimes, backed by a nine-piece Celtic band. Admission is free.
•Local husband-wife duo Matt and Shannon Heaton share their holiday cheer once again at Club Passim on Dec. 6 at 8 p.m. with “A Fine Winter’s Night,” a show of traditional and original material inspired by their 2007 album of the same name. Shannon (flute, whistle, accordion, vocals) and Matt (guitar, bouzouki, vocals) make a point of forging connections with their audiences, through their breezy, good-spirited stage presence along with their dynamic musicianship. With a solid grounding in traditional Irish music, the Heatons also have become noteworthy as tune composers and songwriters, as reflected in “A Fine Winter’s Night.”
The following afternoon, Dec. 7 at 3 p.m., Club Passim hosts one of the more recently launched holiday-themed Celtic shows, this one by another Boston-area act, Scottish Fish. These five young women (Julia Homa, Ava Montesi, Caroline Dressler, and Maggie MacPhail, fiddles; Giulia Haible, cello, keyboard) have spent a good chunk of their teen years developing an exciting take on traditional Scottish and Cape Breton music. Nurtured by their sojourns at the Boston Harbor Scottish Fiddle School, “The Fish” have gone on to appear at Club Passim, Boston Celtic Music Fest, and WGBH-FM’s “A Celtic Sojourn,” Boston’s EarthFest, and a number of other public and private venues. In 2017, they released their debut album, “Splash.”
Other, less holiday-centric concerts at Club Passim this month include a triple bill on December 11 with Rakish, the duo of Maura Shawn Scanlin (fiddle, vocals) and Conor Hearn (guitar, vocals). With influences ranging from Irish and Scottish to Americana and classical music, Scanlin and Hearn – though quite at home playing up-tempo and with intensity – tend to go for a more contemplative, colloquial approach, giving space to the subtleties and nuances of a tune or song. Rakish has performed at BCMFest, the Burren Backroom series, and last month’s inaugural Rockport Celtic Music Festival.
Also performing that night with Rakish are mammiferes, a quartet that brings roots music into a new, experimental domain, and improvisational guitarist, banjo player, singer and poet Wendy Eisenberg.
The following night, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m., will see an appearance by thye Massachusetts-based Celtic ensemble Fellswater. Known for its meticulously arranged sets of Scottish, Irish, Breton, and other Celtic-related music, Fellswater started out as a quartet more than a decade ago but in the past few years has doubled its ranks, with newest member, cellist Dave Cabral, joining Kyle Forsthoff (percussion), Betsy Ketudat (violin, Hardanger fiddle, Celtic harp), Jim MacConduibh (acoustic bass guitar, high-strung guitar), Sarah MacConduibh (Irish flute, whistles, fife), Andrew McIntosh (Scottish small pipes, border pipes), Chris Myers (vocals, guitar, octave mandolin), and Diane Myers (vocals). In addition to Club Passim, the band has played at the New Hampshire Highland Games, Blackstone River Theatre, The Burren Backroom Series, and Colonial Williamsburg, as well as the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo.
Ticket information available at passim.org.
•Irish harpist-vocalist Áine Minogue will present her annual program of music celebrating the winter solstice and Christmas, with tunes and carols that have roots in ancient traditions of Ireland and the British Isles, on several dates including: on Dec. 2 and 16, Peabody Institute Library; Dec. 9, Bourne Public Library; Dec. 14, Blackstone River Theatre, Cumberland, RI; and Dec. 23 at Club Passim. For tickets, times and other information, see aineminogue.com/events.
•Cape Breton trad power couple Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy come to the Cabot Theatre in Beverly for “A Celtic Family Christmas” on Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. Representing the union of two legendary family music traditions, fiddlers and step dancers MacMaster and Leahy have now started one of their very own: Their children will be among the array of musicians joining the pair for a concert of powerful, up-tempo instrumentals as well as intimate, heartfelt melodies. See thecabot.org for details.
•The Burren hosts its yearly Benefit for the Somerville Homeless Coalition on Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m., with a ton of musical guests from the Irish/Celtic/folk domain, among them The Revels with David Coffin, The Ruta-Beggars, Windborne, Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello with Sean Clohessy, Mary Casey, Lindsay O'Donovan, The Bagboys, Siobhan Miller (who will be featured at this year’s “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn”) and the Kieran Jordan Dancers.
On Dec. 11, the big sound of Lúnasa comes to the intimate setting of the Burren Backroom for two shows, at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Innovative and compelling, the band (Kevin Crawford, flute, whistle; Patrick Doocey, guitar; Cillian Vallely, uilleann pipes, whistle; Trevor Hutchinson, double bass; Colin Farrell, fiddle, whistle) is known for its layered, harmonically sophisticated, and quite modern treatment of Irish traditional music, marked by tight – but not suffocating – precise and polished arrangements yet full of passion and power. Their visits to the Burren often involve a special guest or two.
For tickets and updates on Burren shows, see burren.com/music.html.