July 28, 2021
New England-based quartet Windborne will be among the acts at the Rockport Celtic Festival, August 20-22.
It’s happening – slowly but surely. Greater Boston’s Irish/Celtic scene is showing signs of renewal as the Covid-19 crisis continues – albeit with concerns still evident – to recede. Some of the popular regular sessions have started up again, notably The Burren in Davis Square, the Lower Mills Tavern in Dorchester, and Emmets Pub and Restaurant in Beacon Hill. The Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton has had live music for a while now, and recently brought back its weekly set dancing session. And many of the area’s Irish pubs are featuring flesh-and-blood entertainers once more.
•On the horizon for late summer is the Rockport Celtic Festival, which debuted in 2019 and is now set for Aug. 20-22 at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport. The festival is directed by GBH broadcaster Brian O’Donovan – creator of the Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day “Celtic Sojourn” shows – and harpist/vocalist Maeve Gilchrist, so you can expect explorations of the ties between Celtic music and other cultures as well as a spotlight on the spoken word, in addition to instrumental, song and dance showcases. The roster has a substantial Massachusetts/New England flavor to it, with Hanneke Cassel, Yann Falquet, Keith Murphy, and the Windborne vocal ensemble; also on hand will be the duo of Cillian Vallely and Kevin Crawford, Dan Trueman, and Nic Gareiss.
The festival will have five components: the opening night “Cultural Connections,” bringing together Celtic and American folk traditions; a “Salon Session” that combines performance and discussion with some of the festival artists; “Strings on Strings,” blending traditional and classical music styles and sounds, including a composition by Gilchrist inspired by the Edna St. Vincent Millay poem “Harpweaver,” and guest appearances by the Rosa Quartet and the duo of Katie McNally and Neil Pearlman; “Words and Music: The Celtic Spirit,” a presentation of poetry and prose complemented by music; and – befitting the festival’s Cape Ann setting – “Songs and Stories of the Sea,” with a guest appearance by legendary Boston-area maritime singer/historian David Coffin.
For those unable to attend in person, there is the virtual option. All festival details are available at rockportmusic.org/rockport-celtic-festival.
•Elsewhere on the North Shore this month, fiddler-vocalist Emerald Rae will return to her stomping grounds on Aug. 4 at 7:30 p.m. when she plays at Hammond Castle Museum in Gloucester. Rae 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, releasing an album of her own material in 2013 (“If Only I Could Fly”), and following up five years later with “Emerald Rae,” in which she unveiled an intense vocal-fiddle synergy for traditional, contemporary, and original songs.
You can find the link for concert tickets and other information at emeraldrae.com/live.
•If you enjoy being on the water, rather than simply next to it, while you indulge your Irish/Celtic music tastes, you can join popular Boston-area band Devri for their 10th annual Hawaiian-themed Irish Music Cruise around Boston Harbor on Aug. 28 (boarding starts at 10 a.m., the boat leaves at 11). Devri plays plenty of Irish classics and covers of The Pogues, Dubliners ,and Wolfe Tones, but is equally fond of crossing over to the likes of The Beatles, Johnny Cash, and Snow Patrol, among others. They promise many special guests plus a “mighty afterparty” at Mr. Dooley’s Boston Tavern on Broad Street.
And it’s all for a good cause: Proceeds benefit Lucy’s Love Bus, whose mission is to improve quality of life for children with cancer and life-threatening illness, to support their families, and to mobilize the next generation of cancer activists.
For information and links to tickets, go to the band’s website at devriboston.com.
•Irish American singer Andy Cooney returns to the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton on Aug. 29 for a combination dinner-and-show extravaganza that begins at 3 p.m. Cooney, a Long Island native with Irish ancestry and a repertoire that extends to country as well as traditional, folk, and contemporary Irish music, has sold out Carnegie Hall nine times and recorded 19 albums – and despite the pandemic, managed to release four singles last year, including “Come Tennessee Me Tonight” with country singer Larry Gatlin. Cooney’s professional career took off more than 30 years ago when he toured as the vocalist with bandleader Paddy Noonan. Cooney has since led a highly successful solo career for more than two decades that has included collaborations with the likes of Ronan Tynan, Crystal Gayle, and the RTE
Orchestra, as well as with Phil Coulter.
Details and links to tickets available at the ICC website, irishculture.org.