September 5, 2019
The Silver Spears will be among the performers at Marshfield Irish Day Sept. 14
THE BIR’S CALENDAR
OF CELTIC MUSIC EVENTS
Summer turns to fall, and as always, Greater Boston has plenty of Irish/Celtic-related music events on the calendar.
•Two local acts will be on stage at Club Passim in Harvard Square on Sept. 15. Roots-oriented quartet Corner House will celebrate the release of its new EP, “Smart Folks,” the first with its extended line-up. The band started out two years ago as a trio of Boston transplants: Virginia-born guitarist Ethan Hawkins, Scottish fiddler Louise Bichan, and Ethan Setiawan, the 2014 National Mandolin Champion; last fall, they welcomed Western New Yorker Casey Murray (cello). In this configuration, Corner House boasts a solid background in Irish, Scottish, Appalachian string band, New England contra dance and bluegrass traditions, which provide a basis for their own compositions as well as the occasional set of Irish slip jigs or barn dance, or an old-timey tune – all with a winning, easygoing groove that never lacks for energy or verve.
Opening for Corner House is Rakish, the duo of fiddler Maura Shawn Scanlin and guitarist Conor Hearn, whose collective influences range from Irish and Scottish to Americana and classical music. While perfectly at home with playing up-tempo and with intensity, the pair opt 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.
The show begins at 8 p.m.
Scandinavian music – which has become a new outpost on the Celtic music trail – is well-represented at Passim this month. Appearing on consecutive nights (Sept. 17 and 18, both at 8 p.m.) will be the quintet Sver, self-proclaimed “Scandinavian party musicians.” Building on the traditions of Norway and Sweden, Olav Luksengård Mjelva (fiddle, Hardanger fiddle), Anders Hall (fiddle, viola), Leif Ingvar Ranøien (diatonic accordion), Adam Johansson (guitar), and Jens Linell (drums, percussion) play a dynamic, infectious brand of folk rock that in recent years has incorporated original and contemporary compositions. Last year, Sver marked its first decade with the release of its fourth album, “Reverie.”
Sver’s Sept. 18 concert will begin with a set from Moira Smiley, an American singer whose fascination with the creative capabilities of the human voice has taken her into traditional music and well beyond it. In addition to her stint with legendary Irish-American band Solas, Smiley has spearheaded the group VOCO, which has redefined harmony singing through incorporating American and Eastern European folk song, avant-garde music, and unique accompaniment that includes body percussion.
On Sept. 24, one of the most influential purveyors of modern Scandinavian music, Väsen, will stop at Passim for two shows (7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.) as part of its 30th anniversary tour. As teenagers, Olov Johansson (nyckelharpa) and Mikael Marin (viola) would visit with older musicians in Sweden’s Uppland region, who passed along their knowledge and love of Swedish folk music. The pair later joined forces with Roger Tallroth, whose innovative 12-string guitar accompaniment brought a new dimension to the traditional repertoire: components of rock, jazz and classical. Over time, the trio has integrated its own tunes into the mix, while collaborating and performing with musicians from around the world. This year, Väsen celebrated three decades with its 18th release, “Rule of 3.”
Scotland’s Talisk, whose propulsive, tightly-knit blend of Scottish and Irish music elements has earned them widespread critical and public acclaim, kicks off Club Passim’s October schedule on Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. The enthralling melodic chemistry between Mohsen Amini (concertina) and Hayley Keenan (fiddle) is bolstered by Graeme Armstrong’s canny guitar-playing, creating a sound that pushes beyond tradition while maintaining ties to it. Talisk’s honors include the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award and Folk Band of the Year from the BBC Alba Scots Trad Music Awards; Amini also was the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards’ Musician of the Year for 2018.
For tickets and information on these shows, see passim.org.
•Local acts also will be in abundance at Marshfield Irish Day on Sept. 14 at the Marshfield Fairgrounds. Headlining the event, which begins at noon, will be internationally renowned Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, along with Boston comic legend Steve Sweeney. Also on the schedule are Devri, Silver Spears, Fenian Sons, The Dooley Brothers, Colm O’Brien, Erin’s Melody, Boston’s Erin Og, Mairin Ui Cheide, The Coppersmiths, Connolly Academy of Irish Dance, Viking Irish and DJ Sean O’Toole.
For information, see marshfieldirishday.com.
•The Burren Backroom in Somerville will present Northern Irish quintet Connla on Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Clearly inspired by some leading lights of the Irish folk music revival, the band nonetheless has cobbled together a highly individual personality, sparked by the musicianship of All-Ireland champions Ciaran Carlin (flute, whistle) and Conor Mallon (uilleann pipes, whistle), along with the virtues of harpist-pianist Emer Mallon – whose vocals bespeak a grounding in pop, rock and jazz as well as folk – and the outstanding rhythm provided by Paul Starrett (guitars, bass) and Ciara McCafferty (bodhran). This is Connla’s second visit to the Backroom.
Sept. 8 will see a 4 p.m. matinee performance by Triton, whose music derives from the dance traditions of Northwestern Europe. The interaction between Jeremiah McLane (accordion), Tim Cummings (whistles, border, small pipes) and Alex Kehler (fiddle, nykelharpa, vocals) makes for a powerful presence as they play bourrées from central France, triple-time hornpipes from the Scottish borders, Swedish släng polska and Breton hanter dro, as well as their original tunes that stem from these influences.
The Fretless, a Canadian “chambergrass” quartet with ties to Boston, will perform on Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. Chambergrass mixes Celtic, old-timey, bluegrass and other folk/traditional styles with chamber music instrumentation and dynamics. Former Berklee College of Music students Trent Freeman (violin, viola) and Eric Wright (cello) originally co-founded the band with Karrnel Sawitsky (violin, viola) and another Berklee student, Ivonne Hernandez, who was eventually succeeded by Ben Plotnick (violin, viola). Their most recent album, “Live from the Ant Farm,” released last year, offers a fully realized portrait of their refreshing, exciting sound.
Cape Breton’s Còig returns to the Backroom on Sept. 25 at 7:30 p.m. – almost exactly a year since the foursome’s last visit. Darren McMullen (guitar, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki, whistles, vocals), Rachel Davis (fiddle, vocals), Chrissy Crowley (fiddle) and Jason Roach (piano) banded together a few years ago to do a promotional tour for Cape Breton’s Celtic Colours International Festival, and subsequently decided to go on from there. Còig plays plenty of the tried-and-true Cape Breton marches, strathspeys and reels, but also incorporates Irish, Scottish and even some French-Canadian music. Their previous album, “Rove,” received several awards and nominations for music honors, while their latest release, “Ashlar,” issued earlier this year, sees the band explore further new territory, such as covers of Gordon Lightfoot '60s classic "Home from The Forest” and Prince Edward Island singer-songwriter Ashley Condon’s “Deep Down in the River.”
Mayo-based quartet Billow Wood is on stage Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. Formerly known as Flat Out, the band (Mark O’Donnell, vocals, fiddle, guitar; Harry Lawlor, vocals, harp, guitar; Ciara O’Donnell, vocals, bodhran, flute; whistles; Bríd O’Donnell, vocals, accordion) has taken an Irish traditional music background – which includes All-Ireland Fleadh and Irish Dancing World competitions – and married it to a folk/pop/indie approach: pop-inflected vocal harmonies and hooks accompanied by instruments more commonly found at a ceili. After winning the Ballyshannon Folk Festival showcase for their original music two years ago, they went on to release their debut EP “Can You See Me.” Their most recent offering is the single “Carpe Diem.”
Starting off next month’s Backroom schedule – on Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. – will be The Jeremiahs, who since emerging several years ago from Dublin’s music scene have gained an enthusiastic following for their brand of urban folk, immersed in Irish instrumental tradition while evincing a decidedly contemporary lyrical style. Joe Gibney’s vocals have a true gravitas, edgy in one moment or incredibly tender in another, supported by James Ryan (guitar, bouzouki, harmonica) and Frenchmen Jean-Christophe Morel (fiddle, bouzouki) and Julien Bruneteau (flute, whistle) – crisp rhythm, superbly delivered fills and breaks, and flat-out gorgeous harmonizing. The band has brought its songwriting talents – with a keen sense of language, humor and turn of phrase – to the fore of late; no less an authority than Christy Moore singled them out as winners of the 2015 TradConnect Songwriter Showcase. The band’s 2018 album “The Femme Fatale of Maine” has brought them further praise.
Opening for The Jeremiahs will be the Boston-area duo of Colleen White (vocals, flute, whistle) and Sean Smith (vocals, guitar, bouzouki), presenting mainly traditional music from Ireland, Scotland and England with an abundance of good cheer and taste.
For tickets and information about Burren Backroom events, go to burren.com/music.html.
•Dublin singer Aoife Scott and guitarist-accordionist Andy Meaney will play at the Irish Cultural Center of New England in Canton on Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m. Scott, daughter of Frances Black and niece of Mary Black – part of the beloved Black Family – has built on her trad/folk roots to become a songwriter of increasing stature; her compositions include “The Wild Atlantic Way,” her paean to the west coast of Ireland, and “We Know Where We Stand,” a forthright musing on Irish identity. Possessed of a crisp, dynamic voice, Scott has won the Irish Post Music Awards Best Folk Act honor and Live Ireland Emerging Artist of the Year Award; her song “The December Letter” was selected as Single of the Year at the ALSR Celtic Music Awards and was the most played Christmas song on RTE Radio 1 for December 2018.
Boston’s U2 tribute band The Joshua Tree plays at the ICC on Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. The group has developed a national reputation in evoking the magic and majesty of U2, and prides itself on reproducing the legendary Irish rockers’ distinct sound — covering the very early years up to the present — while maintaining artistic integrity.
The center will host two performances on Sept. 21 – at 2 and 7:30 p.m. – of the multi-faceted stage show Celtic Angels Ireland. The five singers of Celtic Angels, veterans of stage musicals and Irish cabaret, present popular songs of Ireland, whether from tradition – “The Rocky Road to Dublin,” “My Lagan Love” and “Carrickfergus” – or the popular/contemporary domain, including “Galway Girl,” Song for Ireland” and “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears.” Also featured are the Celtic Knight Dancers, with former “Riverdance” star Patrick O’Mahoney, and instrumental interludes and accompaniment by Dublin’s Trinity Band Ensemble.
For information about these events, go to irishculture.org.
•The High Kings, widely hailed for taking the Irish ballad-group tradition into the 21st century, will play at the Somerville Theater on Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m., as part of the Global Arts Live series. Since forming the band in 2008 with the now-departed Martin Furey, Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy, and Darren Holden have performed regularly across the US, Ireland, and Europe under the motto of “Folk ‘n Roll”: a sound that derives from the classic Irish ballad style a la the Clancy Brothers and The Dubliners, combined with modern songs in the folk idiom, including their own compositions. Their 2017 album “Decade: Best of the High Kings” topped the Irish Album Charts and made the Billboard World Music Charts.
Tickets are available at globalartslive.org.
•Scottish Celtic rockers Skerryvore appears at the City Winery on Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. Formed by the Gillespie brothers Daniel (accordion) and Martin (pipes, whistles, accordion), the band early on took inspiration from the “West Coast Ceilidh” style, adding in rock, pop, jazz, Cajun and country influences. Besides the Gillespies, its members are Fraser West (drums), Alec Dalglish (guitar, vocals), Scott Wood (pipes, whistles), Craig Espie (fiddle), Jodie Bremaneson (bass), and Alan Scobie (keyboards). A two-time Scottish Traditional Music Live Act of the Year, Skerryvore has also launched its own annual festival, “Oban Live,” while touring Europe, the US, the Middle East, and China.
For tickets and other details, go to citywinery.com/boston/skerryvore92319.html.
•The Boston College Gaelic Roots series will present its “Fall Ceili” on Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m. in Gasson Hall 100. The event will feature set and social dancing, open to all levels, with music by Gaelic Roots director Sheila Falls Keohane and others from the Greater Boston community. Free and open to the public. Go to bc.edu/irish.html.