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Arts and Entertainment

A June two-step for Boston Irish Festival : Celtic potpourri will enliven ICCNE’s campus

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, May 30, 2014

Black 47 will play at this year’s Boston Irish Festival as part of its Last Hurrah performance tour.Black 47 will play at this year’s Boston Irish Festival as part of its Last Hurrah performance tour.
There’ll be a last hurrah from Black 47, plus return engagements for Irish-world music fusion act Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul and indie folk-pop crossovers The Screaming Orphans when the Boston Irish Festival’s music weekend takes place June 6 and 7 at the Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton.
The following Saturday, June 14, will see some of New England’s best Irish step dancers flock to the ICCNE for the second annual Boston Irish Festival Feis (BIFF), a daylong competition for all ages and levels.
The Feis, co-organized with the Walpole-based Harney Academy of Irish Dancing, will cap the first year of a new format for the Boston Irish Festival, with events taking place across three weekends instead of one (the festival began on May 31 with a day of sporting events and children’s activities). Read more

A time to recall, and mourn: Paddy Cronin, Henry Varian

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, May 1, 2014

The late winter/early spring of 2014 held some sadness for Boston’s Irish music community, which mourned the passing of two of its stalwarts: Paddy Cronin, 88, a talented and influential fiddle player; and Henry Varian, 72, a singer, musician, raconteur, and co-owner of one of Boston’s legendary Irish music pubs. Read more

‘The Lazy Farmer’ – incisive fusion of Irish and American sound

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, May 1, 2014

Like many musicians throughout Greater Boston – and beyond – Flynn Cohen feels he owes a lot to the late guitarist-mandolinist John McGann, a much-beloved figure in the area’s Irish music community. Along with considerable amounts of advice, inspiration, and wisdom that he bequeathed to Cohen over the years, McGann had a key role in planting the seed for a fascinating music project that has now borne fruit.
That project would be Cohen’s Deadstring Ensemble, which explores the connections between various acoustic genres, principally Irish and old-time Appalachian, but also bluegrass, folk-rock, and even early music. They’ve just released their first CD, “The Lazy Farmer” (Wepecket Island Records), and will mark the occasion with a concert at Club Passim in Harvard Square on May 5.
McGann was an original member of the band, whose ranks also include Matt Heaton and Danny Noveck. His death in April of 2012 came about a year after the Deadstring Ensemble’s founding; their album is dedicated to McGann, described as “mentor, friend, bandmate, plucked-string virtuoso, musical and comic genius.” But as Cohen relates, McGann’s contribution to Deadstring goes back a few years before it actually came together. Read more

Yet another salute for Seamus Connolly

By BIR Staff Report, special to the BIR, May 1, 2014

The honors keep rolling in for master fiddler Seamus Connolly, director of Irish music programs at Boston College and one of the area’s most celebrated traditional Irish musicians. Last month, Connolly – who is the Sullivan Artist-in-Residence at BC – was presented with the university’s 2014 Faculty Arts Award, which recognizes faculty members for their accomplishments and contributions to the arts. Read more

Féile Cheoil Boston, Round 2: Return to Melrose on May 17

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, May 1, 2014

One of the newer celebrations of traditional Irish music in Boston returns for its second go-round this month, when Féile Cheoil Boston takes place on May 17 in Melrose. The day-long (10 a.m.-10 p.m.) event, established by Boston’s Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCE) Reynolds-Hanafin-Cooley Boston School of Music to showcase area Irish musicians – especially young ones – includes competitions in instrument and vocal categories, children’s activities, performances, sessions, and an evening concert headlined by the trio Open the Door for Three. Read more

Heatons offer music ‘as a conversation’

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, May 1, 2014

Local launch of ‘Tell You in Earnest,’ at The Burren May 14
When you’ve been a musical duo, and a couple, for as long as Matt and Shannon Heaton – and we’re talking well into the second decade – you tend to know when you’re onto something good.
So a couple of years ago, the Heatons – one of Boston’s most popular and high-profile Irish music acts – saw a common thread in the newest batch of songs they’d been putting together in anticipation of recording their next album. “They really had a strong quality of dialogue between characters,” says Shannon. “It’s not that we haven’t had those kind of songs in our repertoire before, but as we looked at the material we’d been working on, we got excited about bringing a focus to this new album: the idea of music as a conversation.” Read more

Twice upon a time

By R.J. Donovan, Special to the Reporter, special to the BIR, May 1, 2014

Aimee Doherty journeys “Into The Woods”
Fairy tales are filled with princes and witches and monsters and magic.  Whatever trials the characters face, the stories usually build to a happily-ever-after ending.  But did you ever wonder what happened after that?
That’s the jumping off point for “Into The Woods,” the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine retelling of some of the world’s most enduring fairy tales.  Lyric Stage Company presents the 1987 Tony Award-winning musical from May 9 to June 15. Read more

From history to the theatre, Simmons has a story to tell

By R.J. Donovan, special to the BIR, April 1, 2014

By R. J. Donovan
Special To The BIR

As a writer, director and arts administrator, Dawn M. Simmons wears a lot of hats. For the past nine years she has been director of programs at StageSource, the respected non-profit that provides leadership and services to advance the art of theater in the Greater Boston region.
Among its missions, StageSource is dedicated to increasing cultural participation through advocacy, communication, and education. Read more

Bridget Fitzgerald CD project

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, April 1, 2014

By Sean Smith
The recordings that Bridget Fitzgerald kept from her unreleased album with Carol Barney were deeply loved treasures – reminders of a partnership, and friendship, that ended far too soon when Barney died 14 years ago this month.
But Fitzgerald, a founding member of Cherish the Ladies and a widely recognized wellspring of traditional Irish song from Connemara who has lived in New England for 50 years, never let go of her desire to finish the project. And now, thanks to the assistance and encouragement of a group of friends, the album will finally see the light of day. Read more

Bud Sargent: A chat with the maestro of ‘Four Green Fields’

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, April 1, 2014

This year, Bud Sargent is celebrating three decades as a broadcaster of Irish music and culture via “Four Green Fields,” Saturdays from 10 a.m.-noon on WCUW, 91.3 FM (and via the web at A native of Worcester who works as an attorney for his “day job,” Sargent also has become a high-profile promoter for Irish music events in and around Central Massachusetts. He recently spoke with Sean Smith of the Boston Irish Reporter about his 30 years behind the mike. Read more