November 30, 2018
Singer-songwriter Ashley Davis will team up with Lúnasa at the Burren Backroom on December 9.
Not surprisingly, holiday-themed performances – such as “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn” and the Robbie O’Connell-Rose Clancy “Celtic Christmas” benefit [see stories elsewhere in this issue] – are plentiful amidst this month’s offerings of Irish/Celtic music events in the Greater Boston area.
• It’s not exactly a Christmas show, but The Burren Backroom in Davis Square will host Irish super-group Lúnasa with special guest singer-songwriter Ashley Davis – whose discography includes a 2015 Christmas album with guitarist John Doyle – on Dec. 9 for two performances, at 4 and 7 p.m. Lúnasa has been a consistently creative force in Irish music for more than two decades, and in recent years has supplemented its all-instrumental repertoire by inviting vocalists to perform and record with them – as was the case on their most recent album, “Cas,” which included Natalie Merchant, Daoirí Farrell, Tim O’Brien, Eric Bibb, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Kansas native Davis has cultivated a pastoral, pensive brand of Celtic-Americana original music, and in addition to Doyle has worked regularly with Lúnasa members Patrick Doocey and Colin Farrell.
The New England Irish Harp Orchestra will perform a Christmas concert at The Burren Backroom on Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. NEIHO is a multi-generational group of harpists who play, in various combinations as well as a full ensemble, Irish traditional tunes, slow airs and songs, and snippets from other music genres as well.
• Irish harpist-vocalist Áine Minogue will present her annual program of music celebrating the winter solstice and Christmas, with tunes and carols that have roots in ancient traditions of Ireland and the British Isles, on several dates including: Dec. 3, Peabody Institute Library, Peabody; Dec. 10, Jonathan Bourne Public Library, Bourne; Dec. 16, Coffeehouse Off the Square, Hingham; Dec. 20, First Church of Boston; and Dec. 21, Club Passim, Harvard Square.
For tickets, times and other information, see aineminogue.com/events.
• On Dec. 16 at 4:30 p.m., the Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton will host “An Irish Christmas with Chloë Agnew,” featuring the former “Celtic Woman” star, now pursuing a solo career as a singer-songwriter. Agnew had already amassed considerable stage experience and released two albums when she joined “Celtic Woman” as its youngest member at age 14; she stayed with the ensemble for nearly 10 years, during which time she recorded two more albums and earned Female Vocalist of the Year honors at the 2012 Irish Music Awards. In addition to her solo work, she has performed as a guest with Celtic Thunder and appeared as part of “The Voice of Ireland” and “A Celtic Christmas.” Agnew recently issued a five-track EP, “The Thing About You,” which includes four original songs.
For more details about the concert, go to irishculture.org.
• A Celtic-Americana stage production based on the popular PBS special, “Christmas with The Celts” will come to the Cabot Theatre in Beverly on Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. The Celts are centered around the duo of Ric Blair (vocals, guitar, bodhran, piano), a one-time jazz musician based in Nashville, and Scottish native Laura McGhee (fiddle, vocals), who are joined by an array of renowned musicians, singers, and dancers. Since its debut in 2010, “Christmas with The Celts” has aired on more than 220 PBS stations in the US and Canada, and on the BBC in Ireland, sparking demand for a touring version. The show presents a combination of modern Christmas hits, Irish carols, Irish dance, humor, as well as a children’s choir and lush string arrangements.
See thecabot.org for tickets and other details.
• The Irish Tenors – Ronan Tynan, Finbar Wright and Anthony Kearns – present their Christmas show on Dec. 9 in the Lynn Auditorium at 7 p.m. It’s the 20th anniversary year for the trio, which has performed at Radio City Music Hall, Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall, The Hollywood Bowl, and other major concert halls throughout the world, appeared regularly on PBS, and recorded many best-selling CDs and DVDs. Their repertoire includes classic songs from Irish tradition such as “Danny Boy,” “Whiskey in the Jar” and “Fields of Athenry” and contemporary favorites with Irish/Celtic connections such as “Fairytale of New York” and the “Titanic” theme song “My Heart Will Go On.”
Go to lynnauditorium.com for information.
• On Dec. 17, The Berklee Celtic Vocal Ensemble will present “The Holly Bears the Crown,” a concert of ballads, sea chanteys and jigs from the British Isles performed by singers from the Berklee College of Music, accompanied by an eight-piece Celtic band. The free event takes place at 7:30 p.m. in the David Friend Recital Hall (921 Boylston St.).
• In addition to the Áine Minogue concert on Dec. 21 [see above], Club Passim in Harvard Square hosts three other seasonal-festive events with local acts this month. On Dec. 7, Matt and Shannon Heaton will give their annual “Fine Winter’s Night” concert, 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. Fiddles-and-cello quintet Scottish Fish offers its own Scottish/Cape Breton-flavored holiday show on Dec. 8. The Kelly Girls, who perform Celtic and traditional Irish tunes and songs as well as contemporary folk and original music, will present “A Celtic Christmas Show” on Dec. 11.
Also at Passim this month will be another Massachusetts-based band, Fellswater, on Dec. 20. With a collective background that includes classical, contemporary folk/folk-rock and fife-and-drum corps in addition to Celtic influences, the seven-piece ensemble plays tunes and songs from, or inspired by, the Scottish, Irish, Canadian and Breton traditions utilizing violin, cello, flute, whistle, Celtic harp, guitar, acoustic bass guitar, octave mandolin, bagpipes and percussion. Fellswater has released three albums, the most recent being 2017’s “Skipping Stones.”
For tickets and other details on Passim events, see passim.org.
• A celebration of a different sort will take place on December 9: the annual Larry Reynolds Memorial Scholarship Benefit Ceili Mor, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Canadian American Club of New England (202 Arlington Street in Watertown). Proceeds from the event, which is hosted by Boston’s Hanafin-Cooley-Reynolds branch of Comhaltas Ceóltoirí Êireann, will benefit aspiring young musicians studying traditional Irish music. There will be live music and dancing, as well as a cash bar and food, and raffle prizes. Admission is $12. More information via firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The Canadian American Club also will be the venue for the Boston Uilleann Pipers Club Series, which gets under way Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. with a performance by Kieran O’Hare and Liz Knowles. O’Hare (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle) and Knowles (fiddle), who are two-thirds of the acclaimed trio Open the Door for Three, are highly respected throughout the Irish music scene, known for their mastery of traditional, contemporary, and original material. Their credits include stints with “Riverdance,” Cherish the Ladies, Celtic Legends, the String Sisters and even artists such as Bonnie Raitt and Paula Cole; among the venues where they have performed are Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, L’Olympia in Paris, and on Broadway. For more details on the event, see facebook.com/BostonUPC or e-mail email@example.com.
– SEAN SMITH