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Arts and Entertainment

Irish fests at Music Circus, Melody Tent, and much more

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

The South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset will hold its first-ever Irish music festival on Aug. 21, featuring renowned fiddler Eileen Ivers and her world-music band Immigrant Soul, along with The Fighting Jamesons and Celtica: Pipes Rock. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the concert begins at 7 p.m. Read more

An unforgettable trip to Calvary – via Sligo

By Peter Stevens, BIR Staff, special to the BIR, August 1, 2014

“Calvary” is a darkly brilliant film that tackles emotional, cultural, and religious, and regional issues on a cinematic canvas both broad and insular. That may read oxymoronic, but writer-director John Michael McDonagh and a splendid cast pull off exactly that. Among that cast, as Sligo priest “Father James,” Brendan Gleeson delivers one of the finest performances of his stellar career. So, too, do Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Dylan Moran, Aidan Gillen, and the rest of the troupe. Read more

Much ado as festival makers strut stuff

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, July 2, 2014

Kathleen Parks and Ricky Mier of the band Cat and the Moon share a duet during the Boston Irish Festival music weekend. 	Sean Smith photoKathleen Parks and Ricky Mier of the band Cat and the Moon share a duet during the Boston Irish Festival music weekend. Sean Smith photo

Dancers small, tall, and in between swarmed the Irish Cultural Centre of New England campus June 14 for the second Boston Irish Festival Feis, a day of Irish step dance competitions that attracted some 450 participants of various ages and levels from across the Northeast, as well as from Toronto, South Carolina, and even New Zealand.
Co-organized with the Harney Academy of Irish Dancing, the Feis was the third of three consecutive weekend Boston Irish Festival events celebrating popular Irish pursuits at the Canton-based ICCNE, which is marking its 25th anniversary. On May 31, the festival featured a day of sporting events – notably hurling and Gaelic football – and children’s activities. The middle portion of the festival, June 6-7, showcased top-line Irish/Celtic acts Black 47, The Screaming Orphans, and Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul, as well as numerous musical performers from the Greater Boston area and elsewhere in the region.
Misty, murky weather greeted the Feis, and a steady, 45-minute drizzle at mid-day posed a potential threat to the styled hair and make-up sported by some of the competitors. But most of those present, being pretty experienced in matters of feis, seemed unperturbed by the damp and focused on the task at hand – although a number of younger dancers found the temptation of the center’s playground facilities irresistible. Read more

From Worcester to Broadway: Tony Award winner McGrath bringing ‘The Odd Couple’ to Cape Playhouse

By R.J. Donovan, special to the BIR, May 30, 2014

Michael McGrath (pronounced McGraw) is a lucky guy. And he knows it. The Worcester native first came to the attention of Boston audiences in Gerard Alessandrini’s musical spoof “Forbidden Broadway” back in the 80s. He costarred with Toni DuBuono, the lady who would eventually become his wife.
Since that time, he has established a successful career on Broadway and beyond. Along the way he has picked up a Tony Award (along with Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle honors) for his role opposite Matthew Broderick and Kelly O’Hara in the Gershwin musical “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
His impressive Broadway credits also include “Memphis,” “Born Yesterday,” “Wonderful Town,” and creating the role of Patsy, King Arthur’s long suffering sidekick, in “Monty Python’s Spamalot.” This month he returns to The Cape Playhouse in Dennis to play Oscar Madison in Neil Simon’s classic comedy “The Odd Couple” from June 9 to June 21. Read more

Larry Kirwan ruminates about the end of the run

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

For almost exactly a quarter-century, Black 47 has made raucous, often provocative, sometimes outrageous, and always full-hearted music, a distinctive brand of Irish/Celtic rock mixed with hip-hop, jazz, and reggae and imbued with a zeal for social justice and history – and an equally robust spirit of pride, fu,n and mischief.

But in November, 25 years to the date of their first gig, the band will ring down the curtain. Among the stops on their final tour will be the Boston Irish Festival, June 6-7 at the Irish Cultural Centre of New England [see separate story], where they’ve frequently appeared over the years throughout the festival’s various incarnations.
Recently, Black 47 co-founder, guitarist, lead vocalist, and songwriter Larry Kirwan shared his thoughts on the band’s legacy, their final album, “Last Call,” and a few more subjects, with Sean Smith of the Boston Irish Reporter.

Q. Any second thoughts or regrets within the band since announcing that this will be the last hurrah?
LK. I don’t think so. Of course, I can only speak for myself. But I reckon you make a big decision and then you go for it. Second-guessing life is no life. Read more

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