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Arts and Entertainment

Masterly with the fiddle and violin, Sheila Falls ‘never stops learning’

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, August 30, 2013

Next stop in a busy life: Teaching at Boston College
By Sean Smith
Special to the BIR
The way Sheila Falls sees it, playing Irish fiddle and classical violin doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.
For a goodly part of her life, Falls — a Rhode Island native now living in North Attleborough – has happily engaged in both pursuits, reaping considerable achievements and prestige in the process: winning an All-Ireland Fiddle Championship at age 15 (the first New Englander to do so, in fact) and three North American Fiddle Championships; attending the renowned Tanglewood Music Center on a fellowship; playing with such legendary Boston-area Irish musicians as Seamus Connolly, Larry Reynolds, Joe Derrane, and Joe Joyce; and performing and touring extensively with the New World Symphony and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. Read more

Looking at the All-Ireland Fleadh in a new light

By Ed Forry, August 29, 2013

By Susan Gedutis Lindsay
Special to the BIR
While her Irish music colleagues were still coming down from the high of the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Derry this August, the author and occasional BIR contributor Susan Gedutis Lindsay was drawing her own conclusions about traditional music and innovation over a newspaper and coffee in a Kuala Lumpur hotel.
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, and HONG KONG – In August, the Malaysian Ministry of Education announced its Education Blueprint (2013-2025), a plan built upon six attributes, one of which is national identity. Earlier in the week, while in Malaysia on an educational/business visit with the Berklee College of Music, I sat beside Tuan Haji Zainudin Abas, Malaysia’s Director of the Department of Curriculum and Arts, at a press conference luncheon at the International College of Music. In informal conversation, he pondered one of his charges under this new plan. He wondered aloud, “How can Malaysia establish formal performance and learning benchmarks in the study of its native traditional music?”
May I humbly suggest: Look no further than Ireland, Minister. Therein may lie your answer. Read more


By Sean, special to the BIR, August 29, 2013

Heatons, McEvoy, Gaelic Storm top lineup

By Sean Smith
Special to the BIR
Eleanor McEvoyEleanor McEvoy

Performances by Boston/New England acts Matt and Shannon Heaton, Lissa Schneckenburger and Annalivia, the return of popular Celtic rockers Gaelic Storm, and rare appearances by Connie Dover, Eleanor McEvoy, and The Waterboys highlight Irish/Celtic concerts in the Boston area this month.
The Heatons’ “Back to School” concert on Sept. 17 in Harvard Square’s Club Passim combines, in typical fashion, traditional songs with whimsy. The husband-and-wife duo will perform selections from their still-in-formation CD project, “Tell You in Earnest,” which Shannon describes as “all-dialogue ballads – narratives and stories that are each like a two-person play.” Playing on the beginning-of-school-year theme, the Heatons will add a pedagogical dimension to the proceedings. Read more

Concertina players are coming to fore; instrument’s versatility is called a key

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, July 31, 2013

Q. How do you make a concertina?
A. Cross an accordion with a stop sign.
It’s not as if the concertina has never gotten respect in the traditional Irish music world – maybe it’s just overlooked, in comparison with, say, the fiddle, uilleann pipes, flute, whistle, and accordion.
But what with the emergence over the past few decades of eminent concertina players like Noel Hill, Mary MacNamara, Jackie Daly, John Williams, Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh, and Niamh Ni Charra (not to mention New England’s own Christian Stevens), perhaps the squeezebox’s moment has arrived. Read more

Why Irish genealogists should travel in packs

By Mary E Choppa, special to the BIR, July 31, 2013

First the disclaimer: I am the current president of The Irish Ancestral Research Association (TIARA). If you haven’t heard of us, we’re a group of like-minded Irish genealogists who try to help each other find our Irish origins. We have an international membership, but our home is in Boston. We hold monthly meetings and participate in festivals and conferences as much as possible for an all-volunteer organization. We also run research trips, sometimes locally or to other locations in the United States. But we almost always run a trip to Dublin every year and trips to Belfast every other year for the benefit of our members.
I never considered myself a “joiner,” as far as travel was concerned. I’ve always felt I can enjoy a trip much more as an independent traveler. Group trips were just not my style. However, that was before I went on my first TIARA trip. I’ve been hooked ever since. For a touring vacation, I’ll still stick with independent travel. But as family researchers, we need to travel in packs. Read more

Family ties distinguish two bands who will play at the Irish Cultural Centre in August

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, July 31, 2013

Two family-based bands with different approaches to Irish music will make appearances this month at the Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton.
On Aug. 3, the ICCNE will feature Michigan quartet Finvarra’s Wren as part of the center’s Tiny Cottage Series. And on Aug. 23, the Makem and Spain Brothers will perform an outdoor concert. Both events begin at 8 p.m. Read more

Tristan MacManus brings dancer’s sizzle to sparkling version of ‘Ballroom With A Twist’

By R.J.Donovan, special to the BIR, July 31, 2013

Dust off your dancing shoes, because several of the professionals from “Dancing With The Stars” are hitting the road and bringing the sizzle straight to New England. From the Samba to the Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Jive and more, the evening promises a frenzy for the eyes and ears.
“Ballroom With A Twist,” starring Tristan MacManus, Peta Murgatroyd, and Anna Trebunskaya with an international company of dancers including finalists from “So You Think You Can Dance,” is coming to North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly on August 8 and 9. “DWTS” 2013 Champ Derek Hough will also be making an exclusive appearance in Beverly along with “American Idol” finalist Melinda Doolittle. (“Ballroom” also plays Cape Cod Playhouse through August 3 and The Ogunquit Playhouse from August 27 through 31, although some casting is subject to change.) Read more

Devri the band: a fetching blend of personalities and temperaments

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, July 31, 2013

Devri, a band? Don’t tell them that – they’re too busy having a good time.
OK, yes, Devri is in fact a band, for all practical purposes. But Devri also defies the conventional idea of the “Irish band from Boston” in a few ways:
Start with the band’s name: Contrary to expectations, “Devri” is not an obscure Celtic deity, or some long-lost hamlet out on the Aran Islands, or a Gaelic word referring to food, drink, or sport (or all of the above). And what’s more, the band members didn’t even choose the name themselves – it was thought up practically on the spot by a photographer covering one of their gigs, based on the initials of those members who happened to be playing at the time. Read more

Féile Cheoil Boston debut earns high marks

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, July 3, 2013

It was a promising debut for Féile Cheoil Boston, as some 60 musicians and singers from greater Boston and eastern Massachusetts signed up to take part in instrument and vocal competitions among several different categories at the event, held June 22 in Melrose.
But organizers with the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Reynolds-Hanafin-Cooley Boston School of Music were looking at more than numbers as indicators of success for the Féile, which was established to showcase the talents of area Irish musicians – especially young ones – and celebrate the Irish tradition’s presence in Boston. Read more

Lyric First Stage nurtures tomorrow’s artists today

By R.J.Donovan, special to the BIR, July 3, 2013

Where do tomorrow’s actors, directors, and theater professionals come from? Many teenage theater students start in programs such as that of Lyric First Stage.
Lyric First Stage is a unique, five-week summer program operated by Lyric Stage Company of Boston for 25 young artists, ages 14 to 20. The program creates an environment where a company of enthusiastic teens, working alongside professional mentors, can explore and refine their confidence and artistry. Participants generally come from local communities. However, past seasons have included young people from as far away as Israel and Mexico. Read more