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Arts and Entertainment

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

Fleadh achievers reflect on what they got out of it

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

For some Boston-area Irish musicians, early summer might be called Between-the-Fleadhs season. It’s the period following the Mid-Atlantic Fleadh Cheoil – the annual regional Irish music competition, which this year took place May 10-12 in Parsippany, NJ – and the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, or “the All-Irelands” as it’s often called, the summit of Irish music competitions.
Those fiddlers, accordionists, flutists, singers, and others who participated in the May fleadh are reflecting on the experience, while a subset – those who placed first or second in their particular age, instrument, and performance categories – are also making (or trying to make) plans for the All-Irelands, which will be held for the first time at a Northern Ireland location, in Derry, from Aug.12 to Aug.18. Read more

Colin Hamell explores lost dreams of The Titanic

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

From Hollywood to Broadway, the world has long romanticized the sinking of the Titanic. Further, the story of the 1912 tragedy has focused strongly on the ship being a luxury liner that took to its watery grave a fairly well-to-do list of passengers.
What many people don’t realize is that the Titanic – the largest ship in the world at the time – was designed to transport emigrants. And, that it was built in the shipyards of Belfast.
These two points play a pivotal role in the Tir Na Theatre production of the new play, “Jimmy Titanic,” being presented by New Repertory Theatre in Watertown June 19 to 30. Directed by Carmel O’Reilly, the production had its world premiere last fall at the Origin Irish Theatre Festival in New York. Following a run in Philadelphia, “Jimmy Titanic” made its Irish debut in Donegal in April.
By Belfast journalist-turned-playwright Bernard McMullan, the play is set 100 years after the disaster in the north Atlantic, revisiting the journey of Jimmy Boylan and Tommy Mackey, two proud, young, Belfast shipyard workers aboard the ship’s ill-fated voyage. Read more

The Yanks are coming’ – to the Burren- Backroom series feature on June 19

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

A New York City-based Irish band called The Yanks might seem a tough sell in the hub of Red Sox Nation, but Bostonians shouldn’t leap to conclusions: As fiddler Dylan Foley explains, he and his mates did not choose the moniker as a tribute to a certain baseball team.
“ ‘Yanks’ are what the Irish call obnoxious Americans, and we are Americans playing Irish music,” says Foley. “And we are obnoxious – sometimes.” Read more