By Sean Smith
A look at some upcoming Irish/Celtic-related music events. All subject to change pending possible Covid-related developments.
• The Burren Backroom series is justifiably celebrated for its traditional music offerings, but organizer Brian O’Donovan and crew have never been shy about exploring other iterations of Irish/Celtic sound – and that’s just what will happen on August 10 when Limerick singer-songwriter Emma Langford comes to the Backroom stage. Langford has drawn comparisons to the likes of Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian and Norah Jones, merging folk, pop and jazz influences with a vocal presence that can be anywhere from dreamy to emphatic and a storyteller’s craft – check out her “The Winding Way Down to Kells Bay,” written in memory of her great-granduncle. She’s won an RTÉ Folk Award for Best Emerging Artist in 2018 and was in the running for Best Folk Singer in 2020 and 2021, and she earned an Arts Council Agility Award last year to support her musical exploration of women in Irish history.
The Gothard Sisters (Greta, guitar, violin, octave mandolin; Willow, violin, mandolin, bodhran; Solana, violin, bodhran, djembe, percussion) will be in the Backroom on August 31. The Pacific Northwest natives play original music built around traditional and modern Celtic styles as well as world and classical influences, featuring Oireachtas-level dance as well as instrumental and vocal firepower (they boast other talents, too: Greta does the filming and editing for their music videos, while Willow sews the costumes they use in concert). Their 2021 album “Dragonfly” saw them adopt a more layered, sophisticated sound, their songs built around the themes of strength, courage and resilience in times of hardship.
Both shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Links to Burren Backroom shows are available at burren.com/music.html.
•Club Passim’s offerings of outdoor summer concerts includes a free performance in Cambridge’s Danehy Park on August 9 at 6 p.m. by Boston-born quartet Corner House, whose easygoing, groove-centric sound encompasses Irish, Scottish, Appalachian string band, New England contra dance and bluegrass, while combining traditional and original material. Louise Bichan (fiddle, vocals), Ethan Setiawan (mandolin, vocal), Ethan Hawkins (vocal, guitar) and Casey Murray (cello, vocals) met as students at the Berklee College of Music and found a rapport that is delightfully evident on their recordings, the most recent being their first full-length album, “How Beautiful It’s Been,” released in May.
Bichan also will play a solo gig at Club Passim on August 14 at 7 p.m. Born in Orkney, a group of islands in the north of Scotland with a distinguished fiddle tradition, Bichan has broadened her musical influences and interests to include American, Scandinavian and Canadian, while adding her own compositions to her stock of traditional tunes – her 2016 album, “Out of My Own Light,” is a musical interpretation of her grandmother’s journey as a young woman from Scotland to Canada. At Passim, she’ll be accompanied by Corner House bandmate Setiawan and brothers Conor and Brendan Hearn (the former is half of the duo Rakish), performing selections from “Out of My Light” as well as her new not-quite-finished album.
North of Bichan’s native Orkney lies Finland, the home of innovative fiddle band Frigg, who will be at Passim on August 22 at 7 p.m. What started 22 years ago as a group of teenage musicians celebrating the new millennium with a weekend of jamming has now resulted in 10 albums, about a thousand gigs in some 30 countries, and a sound that interpolates Nordic traditions (often compared with those of Celtic origins) with modern-day Americana – “nordgrass,” as it’s been dubbed. Their current line-up is Alina Järvelä, Tero Hyväluoma and Tommi Asplund (fiddle); Esko Järvelä (fiddle, piano, harmonium); Petri Prauda (mandolin, cittern, bagpipes); Topi Korhonen (guitar); and Juho Kivivuori (double bass).
Tickets, details at passim.org.
• The Parlour Concert series, formerly centered in Boston-area venues and now a little further west in the town of Harvard, will present a concert of eclectic fiddle music by the duo of Hannah O’Brien and Grant Flick on August 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Fivesparks arts collaborative (7 Fairbank Street). The two had significantly different musical paths: O’Brien, now studying at New England Conservatory, had classical training but also a strong interest in Irish music; Flick went for American improvisational forms, like jazz, but wound up learning the Swedish nyckelharpa. When they met at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance three years ago, something clicked, and they created a repertoire of original compositions as well as traditional tunes, played on double fiddle but also sometimes with Flick on tenor guitar or nyckelharpa. Last year saw them release their debut recording, “Windward.”
Admission is by free-will offering, with these suggested donation amounts: adults $15-20; teens and seniors $10; children $5. See tinyurl.com/notlobeventbrite.
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It’s not local, obviously, but from August 18-21 you can enjoy some of the Milwaukee Irish Fest – one of the longest-running (this will make 41 years) Irish/Celtic festivals around – from your living room, bedroom, porch, backyard, or wherever else you can set up a computer. Its YouTube channel includes livestream from the festival, which this year features Dervish, Eileen Ivers, Aoife Scott, We Banjo 3, Danny Diamond and Dáithí Sproule, JigJam, Atlantic Wave, House of Hamill, Enter the Haggis, Rory Makem and Donal Clancy Emma Langford and many others. Information and links at irishfest.com/Milwaukee-Irish-Fest.