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Arts and Entertainment

‘New sounds’ emphasis helps keep Celtic Sojourn a ‘fresh’ attraction

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

Boston-area musicians Maeve Gilchrist and Mariel Vandersteel will be among the featured performers as “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn” begins its second decade of flavoring the Christmas holiday season with music, song, dance, and storytelling from Irish, Scottish and other Celtic – even non-Celtic – traditions. Read more

Fiddler of Dooney (Boston) is an artist of the Midwest

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

Irish literature fans know “The Fiddler of Dooney” as one of W. B. Yeats’s most famous works, with its memorable opening lines: “When I play on my fiddle in Dooney/folk dance like a wave of the sea.” But the poem also is the namesake of a venerable Irish fiddle competition in Sligo whose winners have included such luminaries as Seamus Connolly, Kathleen Collins, Seamus McGuire, Paddy Glackin, and Cathal Hayden.
And now, the Boston area has its own Fiddler of Dooney. Read more

BCMFest set for January 10-11 at Harvard Sq. venues

By Sean Smith, Special to the BIR, special to the BIR, October 31, 2013

This January, BCMFest (Boston’s Celtic Music Fest) will begin its second decade of celebrating the Boston area’s abundance of Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, and other Celtic-related music and dance traditions.
The 11th annual BCMFest, which takes place on January 10-11, 2014, will once again bring together dozens of local musicians, singers and dancers to present performances as well as participatory music and dance events. Family-friendly and genuinely grassroots, the festival is held in the heart of Harvard Square, starting with the Friday night “Roots and Branches” concert at Club Passim and the Boston Urban Ceilidh – BCMFest’s always-popular Celtic dance party – just around the corner at The Atrium, 50 Church Street. Read more

Róisín O is now in hot pursuit of her own voice, her own words

By Sean Smith, Special to the BIR, special to the BIR, October 31, 2013

At one point between songs during her recent performance at The Burren, Róisín O’Reilly – more familiarly known as Róisín O – tuned her guitar, adjusted the capo, and gave the audience a sly smile.
“I assume,” she deadpanned, “that most of you know who my mommy is.”
There was applause and laughter from the crowd, because, yes, most of them do in fact know that her mother is Mary Black, one of Ireland’s most celebrated female singers. Read more

Moonbox presenting ‘Earnest’ in Boston Allison Olivia Choat in the director’s chair

By R.J. Donovan, Special to the Reporter, special to the BIR, October 31, 2013

“The Importance of Being Earnest” stands as one of the world’s most enduring plays. Written by Dublin-born Oscar Wilde in 1895, the witty comedy of good manners is set in Victorian London and filled with mistaken identities, secret engagements and baffled suitors.
At its heart, it’s populated by characters who create fictitious personas in order to avoid social obligations they find tiresome. More than a century later, Wilde would no doubt marvel at the abundance of questionable Facebook pages and fictitious dating profiles splashed across the Internet. The play shows the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Allison Olivia Choat is directing the latest production of “Earnest,” presented by Moonbox Productions at The Boston Center for the Arts from November 22 to December 14. Read more

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