July BCM Fest Report

A column of news and updates of the Boston Celtic Music Fest (BCMFest), which celebrates the Boston area’s rich heritage of Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton music and dance with a grassroots, musician-run winter music festival and other events during the year. —SEAN SMITH

Happy campers—The advent of fiddle camps in New England and elsewhere in the US during the past decade has helped create a new generation of talented up-and-coming musicians with a love for Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, and other Celtic music — more than a few of whom happen to reside in the Greater Boston area. This month’s BCMFest Celtic Music Monday concert will showcase some of the best local young fiddle camp “alumni,” who have attended the Boston Harbor Scottish Fiddle School, the Maine Fiddle Camp, and Alasdair Fraser’s Valley of the Moon Camp in California, among others.

The July 11 event at Club Passim in Harvard Square features the fiddle duo of Katie McNally & Abbie MacQuarrie, and the band Chasing Redbird, which boasts a fiddle-trio-and-guitar sound.

McNally is a former New England Scottish Fiddle Champion and two-time runner-up Junior National Scottish Fiddle Champion who has performed at Club Passim, BCMFest, the New Hampshire Highland Games, the Cantab Lounge and Boston College’s Gaelic Roots series, and as a member of the fiddle ensemble Childsplay. MacQuarrie, who supplements her fiddling talents with bodhran and stepdancing, has studied under eminent fiddlers like Buddy MacMaster, Jerry Holland, Alasdair Fraser, and Hanneke Cassel, and played at various events and venues in Boston, New England, Cape Breton, and the British Isles. The two were members of the band 5 AM, which formed several years ago at the Boston Harbor Scottish Fiddle School.

Rhythmically compelling and energetic, Chasing Redbird (fiddlers Sarah Collins, Ayelet Kershenbaum, and Liz Kershenbaum, and guitarist Eamon Sefton) represents another outgrowth of the Boston Harbor Scottish Fiddle School, where the four met in 2006. Weaving intricate melodies with passion and enthusiasm, Chasing Redbird draws inspiration from the music of Hanneke Cassel, Laura Cortese, Lissa Schneckenberger, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, Crooked Still, and many others. The band appeared as part of the BCMFest 2011 finale concert.

The Celtic Music Monday July 11 show will give a taste of the energy, creativity and inspiration to be found at fiddle camps such as Boston Harbor, which typically offer a program of classes and workshops (and not necessarily just in fiddle) taught by some of the foremost performers in the US and elsewhere. Campers often have the opportunity to explore a variety of styles, techniques and traditions, whether formally or through numerous jam sessions that invariably pop up.

Ask Ayelet Kershenbaum what fiddle camp is all about, and she is happy to give an unqualified endorsement: “Where else can you stay up all night playing old Cape Breton tunes and singing bawdy Irish songs? Where else are you allowed – expected, even – to stomp your feet loudly and cheer during performances, and join dances you’ve never learned before? Where else will a Danish tune played in a Scottish style be taught in Chinese and German?”

Most importantly, however, Kershenbaum credits fiddle camps she has attended for helping her develop her playing “in leaps and bounds,” and instilling a “whole new outlook on the beauty and versatility of the violin.” And, of course, there are all the friendships she’s made, whether musical, personal or both. “Celebrating an amazing set of musical traditions with others who love and appreciate them just as much – it can’t get better.”

Admission to the 8 p.m. concert is $12, $6 for members of Passim, WGBH and WUMB. See passim.org for more information. Celtic Music Monday also will be streamed live over the Internet via Concert Window [concertwindow.com].

Performer applications—BCMFest is still accepting applications for existing acts, imaginative cross-genre collaborations, participatory and/or family events for the 2012 festival, January 6 and 7. Just go to bcmfest.com/performers and download the application form. Deadline for submissions is August 5.

Keep in touch—News and updates on BCMFest are available on bcmfest.com, and you can also sign up for the BCMFest e-mail list. You can also follow BCMFest on Facebook and Twitter [twitter.com/bcmfest].