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Arts and Entertainment

A Long Way to Tipperary . . . or to Slane

By Thomas O'Grady, special to the BIR, January 31, 2014

For the past few weeks, I have been thumbing back and forth through a massive hot-off-the-press coffee table book, The Great War: a Photographic Narrative. A project of Great Britain’s Imperial War Museums, the book offers a starkly candid photographic record of the horrific reality of life in the various “theatres” that constituted World War I: the trenches and the battlefields of the Western Front, of course, but also the beaches and the slopes of Gallipoli, the Zeppelin-bombed streets of England, the deserts of the Middle East, and the high seas. For the most part, this gathering of images is not for the faint of heart.
Obviously, the publication of this book anticipates the centenary of The Great War—1914-1918. It thus holds intrinsic interest for anyone invested in Irish matters: More than 200,000 Irishmen enlisted in the British forces and more than 30,000 died in combat. No doubt the next four years will see this under-written chapter of Irish history given its long overdue attention—and appropriate commemoration—by scholars, by the Irish government, and by the general public. Read more

L.A.’s Abarta has found a new home in a place where ‘things are going on’

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, January 31, 2014

Piper a fixture in local music scene
Coming to Boston represented both a commitment and a leap of faith for Joey Abarta.
By his early 20s, the Los Angeles native was already an accomplished uilleann piper, having toured with the likes of Mick Moloney and Athena Tergis. But if he was going to make Irish music his full-time vocation – and all manner of signposts and tea leaves seemed to indicate this was what he should do – he knew that, as his friends told him, “I needed to be where things were going on.”
New York City was one such place, but an opportunity to go to Massachusetts, and Boston, presented itself, and off Abarta went. Although he’d visited Boston before, and had some contacts in the area, there was certainly every chance that things wouldn’t work out, and he’d have to drag himself back to California. Read more

Leigh Barrett up for challenge in Sondheim’s ‘Company’

By R.J. Donovan, special to the BIR, January 31, 2014

With wit and neurotic comedy, Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” stirred things up when it premiered on Broadway in 1970 following an out-of-town tryout right here at Boston’s Shubert Theatre.
Lacking a linear storyline, it was one of the first “concept” musicals. Written as a series of vignettes focusing on the reality of adult relationships, the show appears to have no chronological order. And unlike many traditional musicals, it steers clear of delivering up a tidy “happily-ever-after” ending. Read more

The grand finale at BCMFest will feature Celtic dance

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

Celtic dance – in both a traditional and contemporary vein – will be the focus of the BCMFest Nightcap, the grand finale for the 11th annual BCMFest (Boston’s Celtic Music Fest), on Sat., Jan. 11.
A grassroots celebration of local Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, and other Celtic music, BCMFest takes place over two days at venues in Harvard Square. The festival is a program of Passim, the nonprofit folk and acoustic music-oriented performance and education center. Read more

The Murphy Beds: Laid back, but also deceptively elaborate

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

The Murphy bed is one of those quintessential Irish-American success stories, born (allegedly) of romance and determination. As legend has it, San Franciscan William L. Murphy came up with his namesake invention at the turn of the 20th century because it was improper for a gentleman to host a lady in a room containing a bed – which made wooing his intended difficult, since he lived in a one-room apartment. So he devised a special hideaway bed to turn his bedroom into a parlor, got himself a patent, and did very well for himself; the company he founded is still in operation. Read more

Gaelic Roots spring schedule is set

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

Change of date: the Keenan/Noonan performance is Thursday, Jan 23.
Uilleann pipes virtuoso Paddy Keenan and Boston College faculty musicians Jimmy Noonan and Sheila Falls will be among the performers featured during the spring 2014 Gaelic Roots series of traditional music that starts this month.
Directed by Sullivan Artist-in-Residence and master fiddler Séamus Connolly and sponsored by the Boston College Center for Irish Programs, the series brings to campus acclaimed musicians and experts in Irish, Scottish, and other related Gaelic music traditions.
Gaelic Roots events, all of which begin at 6:30 p.m., are free and open to the public. Read more

Playwright Walsh hails the magic of ‘Once’

By R. J. Donovan, special to the BIR, January 2, 2014

“Once” first sparked to life as a tiny, 2007 independent Irish film about the power of music to draw people together. The two main characters are simply called Guy and Girl. Guy is a struggling Dublin street musician who has lost faith in his talent and his life. He crosses paths with Girl, a Czech immigrant who shows him his work is not yet done. Over the course of one fateful week, they diligently collaborate on music and an unlikely love emerges. However, complications follow. Read more

Tom Courtney’s first CD is a thank you to those who helped his music take off

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

Dublin native Tom Courtney regards his debut CD as a tribute album of sorts: an expression of gratitude to songwriters and singers who have inspired him the most since he started performing seriously more than two decades ago. “I’ve played these songs for quite a while,” says Courtney, a Boston resident since 1991, who released the 10-track “Guysborough Train” this past year. “I wanted to record them with the sense that I’m giving something back, and saying ‘Thank you for writing these great songs.’” Read more

Dot’s Warren back home in ‘I Love Lucy’

By R.J. Donovan, special to the BIR, December 2, 2013

Lucy: Carolynne Warren misses Dorchester’s sense of neighborhood.Lucy: Carolynne Warren misses Dorchester’s sense of neighborhood.
Christmas is coming a little early for Dorchester native Carolynne Warren, who has built a successful career as an actress and entrepreneur in Los Angeles. The actress will find herself onstage at Boston’s Colonial Theatre from Dec. 3 to Dec. 22 as a member of the national tour of “I Love Lucy: Live On Stage.”

When she was growing up on Geneva Avenue in Fields Corner, she says she never dared dream of such a gig. Her Boston story includes local iconic highlights like the school dances at Florian Hall, Mass at St. Peter’s, dance classes at Fields Corner, high school at Boston Latin, and regular appearances “in my Nana’s kitchen.” Along the way, she picked up a diploma from Harvard University along the way.

Warren has been a member of Second City in Chicago, has appeared in several one-woman shows, and is the founder of Hey Dollface! Productions. She was back in Boston previously to appear in “Menopause: The Musical” at the Stuart Street Playhouse and “The Light In The Piazza” at SpeakEasy Stage. Read more

New CD and concert DVD in hand, Childsplay troupe is hitting the road

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, December 2, 2013

It’s another landmark year for the Boston-based all-star fiddle ensemble Childsplay, which heads out on its annual tour this month on the heels of a new CD, “As the Crow Flies,” and concert DVD, “Fiddlers, Fiddles and Fiddlemaker.” Read more