BIR's Calendar of Events for December

Naturally enough, holiday-themed events – like “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn” (see story elsewhere in this issue) – are plentiful in this month’s Irish/Celtic calendar.
• At Club Passim in Harvard Square, festivities include “A Fine Winter’s Night” on Dec. 8 at 8 p.m., a concert by popular local duo Matt and Shannon Heaton based on their 2007 album of the same name: traditional Irish songs and tunes as well as Heaton originals, all featuring their flute/whistle/guitar/bouzouki mastery and exquisite vocal harmonies.
A bevy of local folk/acoustic musicians and singers will unite on Dec. 19 for “Wintery Songs in Eleventy Part Harmony.” Organized by singer/songwriter Jennifer Kimball, this now-annual event features sacred, secular, and contemporary/pop music for the holidays, arranged for fiddles, cellos, guitars, and other instruments, as well as for numerous voices. Among the participants will be Hannah Read, Mariel Vandersteel, Val Thompson, Laura Cortese, Natalie and Brittany Haas, Lauren Rioux, and Aoife O’Donovan. Shows will take place at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Harpist-vocalist Aine Minogue will perform her yearly holiday show on Dec. 23, at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. A native of Tipperary, Minogue is widely recognized as a premier Irish harpist and singer who conveys the lyricism and richness of Irish music, mythology, and poetry, and is attuned to the traditions, rituals, and celebrations associated with the ancient Celtic world. She will present music of the winter solstice and Christmas, with tunes and carols that have roots in ancient traditions of the British Isles.
For tickets and other information about Club Passim events, go to
• On Dec. 2, the Cabot Theatre in Beverly will host “A Celtic Family Christmas” with award-winning fiddle stars Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy. Representing the union of two legendary family music traditions, MacMaster and Leahy have now started one of their very own: Their children will be among the array of musicians joining the pair for a concert of powerful, uptempo instrumentals as well as intimate, heartfelt melodies. The concert begins at 8 p.m. See for details.
• Some of Berklee College of Music’s finest singers will be on hand when the Berklee Celtic Vocal Ensemble presents “The Holly Bears the Crown” on Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m., a holiday concert of traditional and contemporary songs from Ireland and the British Isles. The event, which is free, takes place at the David Friend Recital Hall, 921 Boylston St., Boston. Information is available at
• Singer and musician Nórín Ní Riain and her sons Owen and Mícheál Moley Ó Súilleabháin will perform “A Celtic Christmas” on Dec. 7 as part of the Boston College Gaelic Roots series. Ní Riain – who has appeared with artists such as Sinead O’Connor, John Cage, and Paul Winter – is an authority on Celtic music as well as sacred and spiritual songs from across the ages. “A Celtic Christmas” will feature song and story, celebrating the wisdom, charm, and wit of the Celtic tradition. The concert takes place at 6:30 p.m. in the Cadigan Alumni Center on BC’s Brighton Campus; admission is free, but registration is required – go to for the link.
• Not a holiday concert per se, but certainly a gift for guitar enthusiasts: Tony McManus will make an all-too-rare Boston-area appearance at The Burren Backroom series on Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Scots native McManus is able to convey the complex ornamentation of Celtic music normally associated with fiddle or pipes through his virtuosic finger-style guitar-playing. His long list of collaborations includes Alasdair Fraser, Seamus Tansey, Kate Rusby, Catriona MacDonald, as well as a stint with Johnny Cunningham, Kevin Burke, and Christian Lemaitre in the band Celtic Fiddle Festival.
Go to
• The accordionist John Whelan and the guitarist Flynn Cohen will come to the Irish Cultural Center of New England in Canton on Dec. 4 for a workshop (6 p.m.-7 p.m.) followed by an open session at 9 p.m. A seven-time All-Ireland champion, Whelan is thoroughly ensconced in the Irish music tradition yet also active in numerous projects that put the tradition in new, exciting contexts, playing with the likes of fiddler Eileen Ivers, with Nashville stalwarts Tim O’Brien and Jerry Douglas, and African and Latino musicians. He has also appeared often with Cohen, a former Boston-area resident now in Vermont, who is a founding member of the trad/roots band Low Lily (formerly Annalivia) and a frequent accompanist who has toured with Aoife Clancy and Cathie Ryan, among others.
Details at