Boston Irish Arts Calendar November 2021

Local singer-songwriter Molly Pinto Madigan will present her folk-rock opera, "The Ballad of Tam Lin," at Club Passim on November 3.
CREDIT: Brian Carroll

A look at in-person Irish/Celtic-related events in Greater Boston for the next few weeks. Please note that details may have changed, or the events may have been postponed or cancelled, since press time. Check with venues for COVID-19 safety protocols. 

•Last year at this time, Salem singer-songwriter Molly Pinto Madigan was preparing to officially launch the album “The Ballad of Tam Lin,” her retooling of the centuries-old Scottish supernatural ballad into a folk-rock opera, live at Club Passim in Harvard Square. You can probably guess what happened next; the first three letters are “C,” “O” and “V.” But now, prospects look much better for the “Tam Lin” launch, which will take place at Passim on Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. 

Many versions of the ballad abound, but the basic story concerns Margaret, a high-born young woman who journeys into a forbidden forest and meets the mysterious elfin knight Tam Lin, or Thomas Lynn, who claims to have been human once but was captured and transformed by the Queen of Fairies – and now fears he’ll be sent to the underworld for good unless Margaret can save him. Madigan’s retelling is rife with the folklore, symbology, and literary allusions associated with “Tam Lin” and more fully explores its characters; she integrates her own lyrics with those from traditional sources while drawing on contemporary as well as folk sounds and styles.

In an interview with Boston Irish last year (available at, Madigan explained her fascination with “Tam Lin” and other songs and ballads from the folk tradition: “At a basic level, ballads, folk songs, fairy tales contain essential truths of humanity; they’ve been passed down for so long, yet those truths remain. Some of these old songs are magical, crazy, even ridiculous, but if you listen you can find in them what you need. It’s a personal, yet communal experience.”

Prominent Boston-area singers and musicians like Vance Gilbert, Mark Erelli, Jenne Halstead, Alec Hutson, and Julian Loida joined Madigan on the album, and much of the full cast is expected to be on stage for the concert.

For tickets and other information, go to

•Celtic Thunder’s Damian McGinty comes to the Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton on Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. A Derry native now living in Nashville, McGinty is one of the original members of Celtic Thunder, performing solo or as part of the ensemble on the band’s world tours, CDs, DVDs, and television specials. As an independent artist with folk, pop, rock, and country stylings, McGinty has released numerous recordings, including his recent EP, “Those Were the Days.” His voice is featured in the Circle Round storytelling podcast “The Piper and The Pooka.” In recent years, McGinty has turned his attention to acting, appearing on TV’s “Glee” and “The Glee Project” and taking a lead role in the 2019 movie “Santa Fake.”

For tickets and other details, go to

•The Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport hosts two of the foremost acts in traditional and modern Scottish music this month, beginning with the Hanneke Cassel Trio on Nov. 14 at 5 p.m. Cassel, a former US National Scottish Fiddle champion who came to Boston in 1996 to study at the Berklee College of Music, has become one of the area’s most high-profile and accomplished Celtic musicians, blending Scottish and Cape Breton fiddle styles with Americana influences to create a wholly exuberant, expressive presence. She also is highly regarded as a teacher and mentor for many Scottish/Cape Breton fiddlers, whether in Boston or at various fiddle camps around the world. During the past year, she returned to her roots by recording her seventh solo album, “Over the Sea to Skye,” revisiting some canonical tunes she learned early on in her Scottish/Cape Breton immersion.

One of Cassel’s mentors will be at the Shalin Liu the following week, as Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas perform on Nov. 21 at 5 p.m. High among the top-rank Scottish fiddlers of his generation, with a discography to match, Fraser also has done his part to inspire and teach others – including Cassel – by founding five summer fiddle camps. Haas has been a key figure in bringing the cello to folk and traditional music circles, and taken part in numerous collaborations, including with Liz Carroll, Altan, Solas and Natalie MacMaster. Together, their two-decade-old partnership has been a study not only in instrumental mastery and sheer ability, but also in musical chemistry and creativity. In addition to the Scottish tradition, Fraser and Haas explore music from places like Scandinavia, Spain, England, and Appalachia as well as other genres such as classical, jazz, and swing. Their most recent album, “Syzygy,” marked yet another new milestone, featuring entirely original compositions.

For tickets to these shows, go to