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By Bob Donovan, Special to the BIR, special to the BIR, January 7, 2013

Frank McCourt’s ‘The Irish And How They Got That Way’ Opens Jan. 24 at Davis Square
by R J Donovan
Special to the BIR

Frank McCourt, born in Brooklyn and raised in Limerick, will forever be known as the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Angela’s Ashes.” What may not be as well known is that he also wrote the musical revue “The Irish And  How They Got That Way,”  which premiered at the Irish Repertory Theatre in 1997.  Recounting the tumultuous history of the Irish experience, both on the Emerald Isle and here in America, the evening is a colorful tapestry of music and dance with a healthy dose of irreverent humor added.  The musical numbers include:  “Galway Bay,” “The Rose of Tralee,” “Finnegan’s Wake,” “Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?,” “Harrigan,” “No Irish Need Apply,” “Skibbereen,” and others. Read more

A Q & A with Clannad’s Moya Brennan

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, November 30, 2012

Forty years ago, a quintet from Gweedore, Donegal – siblings Moya, Pol, and Ciaran Brennan, and their twin uncles, Noel and Padraig Duggan – first made its way into the Irish music scene, joining a generation of influential performers like Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Paddy Keenan, Triona Ni Dhomhnaill, Michael O Domhnaill, Donal Lunny, Paul Brady, Kevin Burke, Frankie Gavin, Dolores Keane, and many others who helped reshape Irish traditional music. Read more

‘Sojourn’ notes a decade of delights

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, November 30, 2012

It’s a bona-fide Boston holiday tradition that, 10 years along, has now captured wintertime fancies in other parts of New England.

This month, “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn” celebrates its first decade of bringing to the stage an inimitable blend of Celtic music, song, dance, and storytelling, with a series of performances from December 15-22 at venues in Worcester, Providence, Rockport, and Derry, NH, as well as the Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston. Read more

‘Christmas Revels’ sets sail with Irish bent on a better life

By R.J. Donovan, special to the BIR, November 30, 2012

Symbolizing the holiday season as indelibly as the welcoming fragrance of evergreen, “The Christmas Revels” returns to historic Sanders Theatre in Harvard Square from December 14 - 27. This year, the participatory theatrical solstice celebration that is filled with joyful music, dance, comedy and carols will focus on Irish immigration. Read more

Childsplay en route to Lexington this month

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, November 2, 2012

Childsplay, the all-star fiddle ensemble featuring many musicians with ties to the Boston area, makes its annual visit later this month to the National Heritage Museum in Lexington and perform three concerts.

The group – whose repertoire is taken mainly from Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, French Canadian, Scandinavian, and American folk traditions – will appear at the museum on Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m., then return on December for two shows, at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Read more

Cathie Ryan’s time to look within

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, November 2, 2012

It has been an eventful last few years for Cathie Ryan. Among other developments, she moved back to the US after living for nine years in Ireland, got inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame in her native state of Michigan, was named as Irish Female Vocalist of the Decade by, and recently released “Through Wind and Rain,” her first album since 2005 – all of this taking place in the 25th anniversary year of her debut as lead singer with Cherish The Ladies, which put her firmly in the spotlight as one of the Irish music scene’s most endearing and talented performers. Read more

Playing the Grinch at the Wang

By R.J. Donovan, special to the BIR, November 2, 2012

When “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” brings its tinsel and bows into The Citi Wang Theatre for a two-week run (November 23-December 9), it’s unlikely you’ll recognize Jeff McCarthy in the lead role.

It’s not that you haven’t seen the six-foot-two baritone before. He’s got 250 theater productions under his belt, eight starring roles on Broadway – including “Les Miserables,” “Chicago,” “Side Show” and “Urinetown” – six feature films, and almost four dozen TV appearances to his credit. Read more

Lehane takes on the Roaring Twenties in new novel

By Bill Forry, Managing Editor, special to the BIR, November 2, 2012

“South Boston punk becomes a Florida crime boss.” That’s how one newspaper boiled down Dennis Lehane’s latest novel. Sure, that’s one way of summarizing “Live by Night,” the Roaring Twenties gangster page-turner that will also be a big-studio film some day soon, but any sting that Lehane might suffer from the blunt summary is soothed by the source: The New York Times Book Review noting that his latest novel has debuted at No. 8 on the paper’s bestseller list. Read more

Remembering Larry Reynolds, fiddler: ‘He never, ever got tired of the music’

By Sean Smith, special to the BIR, November 2, 2012

Larry Reynolds: Photo by Bill BrettLarry Reynolds: Photo by Bill BrettHe was the big, amiable fellow from Galway who worked with wood in his profession and in his music, and who seemed to know, personally, just about anybody who’d ever so much as touched a fiddle, accordion or flute, or sang an Irish song.
In fact, Larry Reynolds knew, and touched the lives of, so many people that there was literally no room for all of them to come and say goodbye to him.
Reynolds died on Oct. 3, leaving behind an extraordinary six-decade legacy as musician, organizer, and pioneer in the Boston Irish music scene. The Waltham resident, a carpenter by trade and fiddler by inclination, was 80 years old. Read more

Five years out, Annalivia adopts new persona: Celtic-Americana

By Sean Smith, Special to the BIR, special to the BIR, August 31, 2012

Few bands go looking for the metaphorical crossroads, but once they encounter it, there’s no turning back. So was the case last year with Annalivia, the Greater Boston-based group that since its beginnings five years ago has drawn plaudits for its intelligent union of Irish and other Celtic and British Isles traditions with American roots music, plus a gradual incorporation of original material.

The band underwent a membership change, as fiddler Brendan Carey Block and string bassist/banjo player Stu Kenney departed, and fiddler-vocalist Mariel Vandersteel, with solid foundations in Celtic and old-timey/Appalachian as well as Scandinavian music, joined co-founders Flynn Cohen and his wife Liz Simmons, and fiddler-vocalist Emerald Rae. With a string of performances this year that includes New Bedford Summerfest, BCMFest, One Longfellow Square in Portland, Me., The Basement in Northampton, and the New Haven International Festival of Arts and Ideas, and now, their brand new CD (and third overall), “The Same Way Down,” Annalivia has moved well along from the crossroads of 2011. Read more