Hanneke Cassel and Mike Block present their unique take on Scottish music at this year's BCMFest (January 13-16)
A look at some upcoming Irish/Celtic events in the Boston/Eastern Massachusetts area, all subject to change pending Covid-related developments:
•If it feels like a long time since We Banjo 3 was in town, well, it has been two years, after all – and years seem to have gotten longer for some reason since March of 2020. But the Irish-Americana quartet will be at The Sinclair in Harvard Square on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.
“WB3” comprises two pairs of brothers, Enda (tenor banjo) and Fergal Scahill (fiddle, bodhran) and David (guitar, lead vocals) and Martin Howley (mandolin, tenor banjo). The four are champions of “Celtgrass,” a mix of Irish and American folk sounds that are inspired by tradition while embracing pop and other modern styles, and known as much for their force of personality as their sheer musical ability and tight playing. The band has won RTÉ Radio 1 Best Folk Album, Irish Times Trad Album of the Year, LiveIreland.com Best New Group of the Year and Irish American News Concert of the Year, as well as a No. 1 ranking in bluegrass by USA Billboard.
In recent years, the band has focused more on its own compositions, which, in addition to songs of romance and love – and the difficulties associated with them – includes musings on social issues of the day, notably mental health. WB3 does more than sing: They donate $2 for every T-shirt and CE sold on their US tours to organizations that support mental health resources; in 2019, the quartet raised $7,500 for Mental Health America.
Tickets at sinclaircambridge.com.
•Speaking of return engagements, The Red Hot Chilli Pipers – armed with bagpipes, drums, keyboards, and guitars – will be back at the Cabot Theatre in Beverly (where they were almost exactly two years ago) on Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. Marking its 20th anniversary year, RHCP has gained renown for its inimitable “bagrock,” a mix of traditional pipe tunes and contemporary pieces — including classic rock hits like “Smoke on the Water,” “We Will Rock You,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.” But it’s a band with some legit credentials: Many of its members have competed at the highest level of bagpiping and drumming, and some have completed degrees at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The band has released nine albums, including 201’s “Fresh Air,” and appeared on the soundtrack to “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”
For more, go to thecabot.org.
•If you’ve checked out “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn” these past few years, then you know about Windborne, the New England-based a cappella close-harmony quartet that performs songs from folk traditions of the British Isles and others around the world, and will be appearing at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. Lynn Mahoney Rowan, Will Thomas Rowan, Lauren Breunig, and Jeremy Carter-Gordon grew up in the tight-knit, far-reaching New England folk and traditional music scene, and are as much folklorists as folk singers: conversant in the origins of the songs and the cultures from which these emerged. Windborne also upholds folk music’s longtime association with social activism, in particular its ties to the labor and civil rights movements and others that champion the poor, the working class, and the disenfranchised. The quartet has given workshops and classes around the world in singing and vocal techniques, all the while putting the songs they teach in full historical and cultural context.
Go to rockportmusic.org/windborne
•A pair of genre-busting Celtic musicians, the fiddler Eileen Ivers and the harpist Maeve Gilchrist, will join the Cape Symphony and conductor Jung-Ho Pak in presenting “Passport to Ireland” on Jan. 29 (7:30 p.m.) and 30 (3 p.m.) in the Barnstable Performing Arts Center. Ivers – a Grammy-winning performer, co-founder of Cherish the Ladies, and the featured fiddler in the original “Riverdance” production – has long taken inspiration from the music she heard on and around the streets of her native New York City, including African, Latin, jazz, and rock. Gilchrist has brought an assortment of stylings and sounds to her harp playing, including jazz and world music, and in a variety of performance contexts – the Silkroad Ensemble with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the Tanglewood Jazz Festival, “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn” (of which she is assistant music director), to name a few. “Passport to Ireland” will include pieces by Irish composers Arthur Duff, Hamilton Harty, and Bodley Seóirse, each contributing a unique voice to the legacy of Irish symphonic music.
See the Cape Symphony website, capesymphony.org, for ticket information and other details.
On the virtual side, local fiddler Ellery Klein will be part of the second Fiddle Frenzy Jan. 14-16, a weekend-long interactive music experience. Also taking part are Liz Carroll, Winifred Horan, Bríd Harper, Jessie Burns, Caitriona Macdonald, and Katie Grennan. Online workshops via Zoom will be available for fiddlers of all levels, beginner to advanced, encompassing Irish, French Canadian, American, and Scandinavian traditions, with areas of focus including bowing, rhythm, ornamentation, coming up with variations, improving tone, playing by ear, composing, and building sets.
But Fiddle Frenzy goes beyond the purely musical aspects of being a musician. As Klein explained in an interview ahead of last year’s inaugural event: “As teachers – and ‘grounded’ performers – during the pandemic, we have been feeling the effects of the ongoing national, multifaceted tragedies around us. We felt it was important to not just pretend everything was normal, and that this was a normal ‘fiddle camp’; we needed to reach out and make a weekend not just for musicians, but for human beings.
“So, besides teaching the usual skills, we wanted to make space for, and shine a light on, the many emotional reactions that we have all been having: depression, loneliness, lack of motivation. It’s often hard to practice when so many tangible rewards like performing, and playing with others at a session, have been removed.”
Registration and more information available at www.eventbrite.com/e/fiddle-frenzy-2022-registration-191152310707.