February 22, 2022
A look at some upcoming Irish/Celtic events in the Boston/Eastern Massachusetts area (subject to change pending COVID-related developments)
Considering how barren the landscape has been for live, in-person events the last two years during St. Patrick’s Month – that historically heady period for Irish/Celtic performers, who could land a multiplicity of gigs practically just by breathing – the 2022 edition promises to be a big step toward some kind of normalcy.
•Let’s start with The Burren, which is reviving its Backroom series, a popular showcase for Irish, Scottish, and other Celtic acts – especially from abroad – curated and emceed by GBH broadcaster Brian O’Donovan and managed by Tom Bianchi.
First up, on March 6 at 7:30 p.m., is The Seamus Egan Project, the most recent venture of The Solas co-founder, a master of multiple instruments and an esteemed composer and arranger (for “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn,” among other things), as well as interpreter of traditional music. For his Project, Egan gathers assorted musical friends and acquaintances to perform his original works, which were highlighted on his 2020 album “Early Bright.” Joining Egan here will be Boston-area fiddler Jenna Moynihan, guitarist Kyle Sanna, and bouzouki/harmonium player Owen Marshall.
Téada, one of Ireland’s most acclaimed bands of the 21st century, known for its energetic, expressive combination of traditional Irish music – especially rare tunes – with contemporary-minded arrangements, takes the Backroom stage on March 9 at 7:30 p.m. Their core five features Oisín Mac Diarmada, a Sligo-style fiddler; accordionist Paul Finn; flutist Damien Stenson; guitarist Seán McElwain; and Tristan Rosenstock on bodhran; they’re also frequently joined by singer Seamus Begley, and piano/step dancer Samantha Harvey.
Another Backroom guest this month will be The Murphy Beds (March 10, 7:30 p.m.), the duo of Jefferson Hamer and Eamon O’Leary, who recently released their second album, “Easy Way Down.” With an often-mesmerizing sound built on the intricate interplay of guitars, bouzouki, and mandolin, and equally sterling vocal harmonies, Hamer and O’Leary have increasingly branched out from their renditions of Irish, American, Scottish, and English folk traditions to contemporary material, including their own songs. You can read more about “Easy Way Down” at https://bit.ly/murphy-beds-easy-way-down.
Venerable Scottish band The Tannahill Weavers stops by the Backroom on March 23 at 7:30 p.m. A key part of the modern Scottish folk music revival, the “Tannies” – the first professional Scots group to incorporate full-sized Highland bagpipes in performance – are now in their sixth decade, having celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2018 with the release of the album “Órach,” with appearances by past members including Dougie MacLean and special guests like Alison Brown and Aaron Jones. Co-founders Roy Gullane (vocals, guitar) and Phil Smillie (flute, whistles, bodhran, vocals) continue to hold forth, along with Iain MacGillivray (Highland bagpipes, fiddle, whistles) and Malcolm Bushby (fiddle, bouzouki, harmony vocals).
On the non-Backroom series front, March 17 will see The Burren’s St. Patrick’s Day Variety Dinner Show marathon, featuring the pub’s owners and guiding spirits, Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello, accompanied by Seamus Noonan and Robert Elliott (not surprisingly, special guests are likely to appear). Performances take place at 9 and 11 a.m., and 1, 3, 5, and 7 p.m.
Former Celtic Thunder member Keith Harkin will perform at The Burren on March 16 at 7 p.m. A native of Derry, Northern Ireland, now living in Los Angeles, Harkin was part of Celtic Thunder for almost 10 years before leaving to pursue a solo career. He has released six albums, the most recent being 2020’s “Mercy Street,” comprising mainly original songs delivered in his brand of folk-infused acoustic pop, with some elements of R&B, country and rock.
•In addition to hosting one of the “St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn” shows [see separate story], the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport will welcome Ireland’s Danú on March 19 at 8 p.m. Representing the musical heritage of the counties of Waterford, Cork, Dublin, and Donegal, the band has, in its more than two decades and various iterations, released nine albums – including 2018’s “Ten Thousand Miles” – and a DVD while touring Europe and North America (once playing at the Hollywood Bowl), and winning Best Traditional Group honors twice at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Their current line-up is Benny McCarthy (accordion, melodeon), Nell Ní Chróinín (vocals), Massachusetts resident Oisín McAuley (fiddle), Éamon Doorley (fiddle, bouzouki), Tony Byrne (guitar), and Ivan Goff (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle).
See rockportmusic.org for more.
•High-powered Scottish trio Talisk comes to Club Passim in Harvard Square on March 2 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. For more about the band, you can read an interview with their concertina player Mohsen Amini by clicking here. Ticket information at passim.org.
•Four days before Keith Harkins’s show at The Burren, another Celtic Thunder alum, Paul Byrom, will be at the Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton on March 12 at 7:30 p.m. A Dublin native who recorded his first album at age 14, Byrom – like Harkins – was an original member of Celtic Thunder. Going solo in 2010, he recorded the CD “This Is the Moment” and a DVD of his PBS special of the same name; his 2014 album “Thinking of Home” reached the top of the iTunes, Amazon, and World Billboard Charts. In 2020, he released “What I Did for Love,” which included a 65-piece orchestra.
Tickets and details at irishculture.org.
•You can also see the current edition of Celtic Thunder this month – they're appearing at the Chevalier Theatre in Medford on March 15 at 7:30 p.m. Celtic Thunder originated in 2007 as an idea by producer Sharon Browne to assemble a multi-generational group of men from Ireland and Scotland who would perform songs to celebrate a common Celtic heritage. Since then, the ensemble's blend of highly polished and professionally staged renditions of songs from folk tradition and the contemporary/popular domain has enjoyed world-wide success on stage and screen while selling millions of albums. The present line-up of Neil Byrne, Emmet Cahill, Ryan Kelly and Damian McGinty also put together a video series, "Ireland's Literary Giants," featuring songs, recitations and stories associated with famous Irish literary icons.
Tour information and tickets available through http://celticthunder.com
•Call it lilt by association: The mention of Celtic Thunder invariably conjures up Celtic Woman, which will be in concert at Medford’s Chevalier Theater on March 24 at 7:30 p.m. The all-female group has revamped its line-up over the past few years, with charter member Chloe Agnew – who left in 2013 but returned two years ago – joined by Megan Walsh, fiddler Tara McNeill and newest recruit Muirgen O'Mahony. This tour will focus on their newest album, “Postcards from Ireland” (also the name of their most recent PBS special, which debuted last fall), with new arrangements of classic songs like “The Dawning of the Day,” “Wild Mountain Thyme,” “The Galway Shawl” and “Black is the Colour,” as well as a cover of Richard Thompson’s remembrance-of-lost-love “Beeswing,” which has now become part of the Irish pub repertoire.
Go to chevaliertheatre.com for information and reservations.
•The Boston College Gaelic Roots series will pay homage to an important, but sometimes overlooked figure in the Irish music revival with a concert of music and poetry, “Remembering Seán Ó Riada and Ceoltóirí Chualann,” on March 31 at 6:30 p.m. in Gasson Hall on BC’s Main Campus. Ó Riada (1931-1971) played a seminal role in the Irish folk music revival that emerged in the 1960s. Classically trained and with an interest in modern, avant garde techniques, Ó Riada incorporated traditional Irish music into his work – much as composers like Bela Bartók and Ralph Vaughn Williams did with the traditional folk music of their respective homelands – for theater, film, and performance. In 1960, he formed the ensemble Ceoltóirí Cualann, whose repertoire of traditional Irish tunes was arranged in non-traditional, orchestral fashion by Ó Riada. Some members of the band went on to form one of the most popular acts to come out of the Irish folk revival, The Chieftains, who promulgated Ó Riada’s approach to Irish traditional music.
A host of Boston and Massachusetts-based musicians will be appearing, including fiddler and Gaelic Roots director Sheila Falls, fiddler Oisin McAuley (a member of the aforementioned Danú), uilleann piper Joey Abarta, and flutist Jimmy Noonan.
The event is free and open to the public. Information is available at the BC Irish Studies website, bc.edu/irish.
•Another Irish music legend, though of a different sort, is Derek Warfield & The Young Wolfe Tones, who will be at the Fiddlers’ Green Pub/Worcester Hibernian Cultural Centre on March 11 at 7 p.m. Warfield was co-founder back in 1963 of the original Wolfe Tones, who over the next four decades went on to earn acclaim for their fiery Irish patriotic and traditional songs. That sound lives on, drawing a new generation of listeners as well as older fans, through Warfield – who continues to sing, compose, tell stories, and record – and his bandmates including Damaris Woods (tenor banjo), Fintan Warfield (vocals), and Dan Lowery (flute, tin whistle, guitar, vocals).
Details at fiddlersgreenworcester.com.
•The High Kings, the epitome of a 21st-century Irish ballad group, will be at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre on March 18 – one of their few appearances in North America. Vocalists and musicians Finbarr Clancy, Darren Holden, Brian Dunphy, and Paul O’ Brien derive their sound from the classic Irish ballad style that swept into popularity during the 1950s and ‘60s through such bands as the Clancy Brothers and The Dubliners. The band has toured extensively throughout the US and Europe, recorded four studio albums and two live albums, and released two live DVDs, combining modern songs in the folk idiom – and even from other genres – with some of the classic ballad repertoire.
For tickets, go to thecabot.org/event/high-kings.
•Boston-area band Boxty will be front and center for a night of music and dance at Plymouth Memorial Hall on March 11 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Led by Dublin-born singer Cormac Marnell, the group (whose members also include David Bowman, whistle, mandolin, octave mandolin, banjo; Mike Clarke, double bass; and Miles Kelly, guitar, banjo) presents a repertoire that includes songs from Irish and American traditions, from “The Bog Down in the Valley” to “Shenandoah” to “Whiskey in the Jar,” to contemporary material: “From Clare to Here,” “Raglan Road” and even a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” Besides the requisite clubs and pubs, they’ve played at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium, and their music has been featured on the Hulu TV show “Castle Rock.”
For more about the event, go to castlehillmedia.ticketspice.com/celtic-night.