Visits by some legendary Celtic fiddlers – Scotland’s Alasdair Fraser and Ireland’s Kevin Burke and Nollaig Casey – highlight Irish/Celtic events taking place in the Greater Boston area this month.
• Alasdair Fraser will perform with his longtime collaborator, cellist Natalie Haas, in two shows at Harvard Square’s Club Passim on May 3 and 4, both at 8 p.m. Fraser and Haas, who have recorded four albums together, are known for their distinctive “ducking and diving” duets, in which they exchange riffs, trade off melody versus rhythm, and otherwise converse in various tones of emotion and intensity. Their draws on Scottish and other Celtic traditions, but also elements of Scandinavian, Breton, American, classical, jazz, and other music forms.
Meanwhile, Haas’s husband, Quebecois guitarist Yann Falquet, will play at Passim on May 2 at 8 p.m. with fiddler Pascal Gemme – who, along with Falquet, is a member of the French-Canadian trio Genticorum – and guitarist/pianist/mandolinist/vocalist Keith Murphy, who is versed in the music of Eastern Canada, Quebec and New England, and a solid performer in his own right as well as a much sought-after accompanist.
On May 8 at 3 p.m. will be the Passim debut of The Sound Accord, a Phoenix-based “chamber folk” string sextet – two fiddles, a viola and three(!) cellos – that blends traditional and contemporary Scottish and other Celtic instrumental music with classical influences.
A week later, on May 15 at 7:30 p.m., another strings-driven ensemble, local quintet Scottish Fish, will appear at Passim. The band’s five young members have been strongly influenced by performers such as Fraser and Haas, Hanneke Cassel, Katie McNally and others in the “American-Scottish” style, and in the past year have established themselves as a local favorite through appearances at BCMFest and other events.
For tickets to these shows, and other information about Club Passim, see passim.org.
• Kevin Burke, renowned for his work with the pioneering Bothy Band during the 1970s, will be at The Burren Backroom series on May 18 at 7:30 p.m. Burke was born in London of parents from Sligo, with its storied fiddle tradition that included major figures in Irish music like Michael Coleman, James Morrison, and Martin Wynne. After a stint with singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie, Burke moved to Dublin and became immersed in the Irish music scene; in addition to The Bothy Band, Burke was a member of Patrick Street and later the Celtic Fiddle Festival. A resident of Portland, Ore., since 1980, Burke was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship in 2002.
May 25 will bring a double bill to the Backroom: the fiddle-guitar duo of Nollaig Casey and Arty McGlynn, and singer-songwriter and social activist Tommy Sands. Casey and McGlynn have been playing since 1979 (and married since 1984), recorded two well-received albums, “Lead the Knave” and “Causeway,” and contributed music for two feature films, “Moondance” and “Hear My Song.” Sands, a Co. Down native, has written and recorded some of the most compelling songs in recent Irish history, including “There Were Roses” and “Your Daughters and Sons,” some of them covered by Joan Baez, Kathy Mattea, Frank Patterson and Sean Keane, among others. He’s also published an autobiography, The Songman: A Journey in Irish Music.
The Backroom will see the Boston debut on May 4 of The Young Irelanders, eight accomplished performers – all in their 20s and 30s – of Irish traditional music, song and dance, including Colin Farrell (fiddle, whistles, vocals), Kieran Munnelly (flutes, whistle, percussion, vocals), Damien Mullane (accordion, melodeon) and Niamh Farrell (vocals). Between them, the members’ credits include “Riverdance,” PBS specials, and concerts at Radio City Music Hall, the Kremlin State Palace in Moscow and China’s Great Hall of the People. Their sound mixes Irish tradition with many other influences from world, jazz, country and popular genres.
Also on tap in the Backroom this month will be a concert on May 11 at 7:30 p.m. by the duo of David Power and Willie Kelly. Power is a former All-Ireland champion on uilleann pipes whose teachers have included Ronan Browne and Jimmy O’Brian-Moran, and was a member of Liam Clancy’s “Fairweather Band”; he has three solo recordings. Kelly, who in addition to fiddle plays uilleann pipes and flute, was influenced by musicians from West Limerick, Clare and Galway and has been a regular at the Catskills Irish Arts Week in upstate New York.
For tickets and other information on The Burren Backroom series, see burren.com/Backroom-Series.html.
• The OCC Music series at the Original Congregational Church in Wrentham will host local band Boston’s Erin Og on May 13 at 7:30 p.m. The trio of Bobby Mullis (vocals, tin whistle), Stephen Gill (vocals, guitar) and Stuart Peak (mandolin, banjo, guitar) follows in the tried-and-true Irish ballad band tradition of The Dubliners, Clancy Brothers and Wolfetones. “BEO” has performed throughout the US as well as Greater Boston in a variety of settings.
For ticket information and other details, see musicatocc.org.
•The Irish trio Fódhla will perform on May 28 in the Arts at the Armory Café, 191 Highland Avenue in Somerville, sponsored by notloB Music. Fódhla – which released its first album, “Notes from the Mill Pond,” in December – is fiddler Ellery Klein, who is fluent in Irish and American styles and is a former member of bands Gaelic Storm and Long Time Courting; flutist Nicole Rabata, whose musical experiences include a four-year sojourn in the west of Ireland and contributing along with Natalie MacMaster to the film “The Heavenly Angle”; and guitarist Bethany Waickman, a frequent accompanist of fiddler Lissa Schneckenburger and a member of contra dance band Anadama. [Read an interview with Fódhla’s Ellery Klein elsewhere in this issue.]
On June 1, notloB will celebrate its ninth anniversary with a special concert at the Arlington Center for the Arts (41 Foster Street) with two stalwarts of the Cape Breton music scene, Andrea Beaton and Wendy MacIsaac, accompanied by Boston-area native Eric McDonald. Beaton is an award-winning fiddler, dancer and tune composer who has passed along her family’s beloved music tradition. MacIsaac excels on both fiddle and piano, and has released or appeared on a number of recordings – her 2013 CD with singer Mary Jane Lamond, “Seinne,” won two “Traditional Album of the Year” honors. McDonald has performed and recorded with the Scottish band Cantrip, fiddlers Andrea Beaton, Katie McNally and Brendan Carey Block, and Scottish piper Will Woodson.
For more on these and other notloB events, see notlobmusic.blogspot.com.
• An all-ages ceili dance will be held on May 15 at 4:30 p.m. in the First Baptist Church of Lexington, led by local dancer/teacher Jackie O’Riley, with music by Nora Smith (fiddle), Caroline O’Shea (flute) and John Coyne (bouzouki). Admission is $10, $20 family. The First Baptist Church is located at 1580 Massachusetts Avenue in Lexington.
•Greater Boston trio Ceol Corvus will visit the Not Just Another Coffeehouse at the Unitarian Church of Sharon on May 21 at 7 p.m. The band (Emily Peterson, concertina, whistle, vocals; Steve Levy, vocals, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki; and Sean Smith, vocals, guitar, bouzouki, bodhran) plays mainly traditional Irish songs and tunes, combining the spirit of a session with contemporary influences and arrangements. See notjustanothercoffeehouse.org for more information.