BIR’S Calendar of Irish Music events for May 2019

The Burren Backroom series has another full calendar of Irish/Celtic music, starting on May 5 with a 4 p.m. matinee performance featuring a pair of spousal duos. West Coast-based Noctambule is Marla Fibish and Bruce Victor, a quiet but steady presence in Irish traditional music also known for their acoustically eclectic settings of poetry by the likes of Service, Tennyson, Neruda, and St. Vincent Millay with mandolin, mandola, bouzouki, cittern, guitar, and tenor guitar; Fibish in particular has drawn accolades for her mandolin playing. Locals Lindsay Straw and Jordan Santiago mesh Irish instrumental music and British Isles song tradition with bluegrass, jazz and American fiddle tunes on guitar, mandolin and fiddle.
A pair of young musicians with intriguingly contrasting backgrounds, Haley Richardson and Quinn Bachand, come to the Backroom on May 8 at 7:30 p.m. New Jersey native Richardson, all of 16, is a seasoned fiddler in the traditional Sligo style who has performed all over Ireland, Scotland, England, Canada, Thailand, and the US (including locally at the Backroom and in “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn”), and has won multiple All-Ireland championships as well as Junior Fiddler of Dooney honors. Berklee College of Music alumnus Bachand, from British Columbia in Canada, is a guitarist of considerable and distinctive ability who, in addition to his equally talented fiddler/vocalist sister Qristina, has collaborated with performers like Jeremy Kittel, Ashley MacIsaac and Natalie MacMaster.
Opening will be The Ruta Beggars, a quintet of students in the Berklee College American Roots Music Program (Micah Nicol, guitar, vocals; Ariel Wyner, mandolin, vocals; Sofia Chiarandini, fiddle, vocals; Trevin Nelson, banjo; Noah Harrington, bass) that blends bluegrass with other folk/acoustic influences and original material.
Jarlath Henderson, a masterful singer as well as a brilliant uilleann piper, flutist, and whistle player, will make his debut at the Backroom on May 15 at 7:30 p.m. Henderson is a three-time All-Ireland champion who has played with Paddy Keenan, LAU, Michael McGoldrick, and Salsa Celtica, among others, and in recent years has drawn notice for his solo work, including his well-received album of traditional songs “Hearts Broken, Heads Turned,” which features electronica and jazz elements alongside pipes, fiddle, and other acoustic instruments.
Galway singer-songwriter and one-time Boston-area resident Don Stiffe returns to the Backroom on May 19 at 7:30 p.m. During the past decade or so, Stiffe has become a mainstay in Irish music on the strength of compositions like “Missing Galway” and “Grosse Isle” – and particularly “You’ll Always Be My Mother,” inspired by his search for his birth mother – and interpretations of other contemporary songs. He has also toured and recorded with Cherish the Ladies; his cover of Dermot Henry’s “Shadow of a Singer and His Song” appears on the band’s most recent album, “Heart of the Home.”
Karan Casey, one of Ireland’s most high-profile female singers of the past two decades, will be at the Backroom on May 22 for two shows, at 7:30 and 10 p.m. Casey’s career as a musical performer has included stints in jazz as well as folk and traditional music, and of late has seen her emerge as a songwriter: In 2014, she released her first album of all-original material, “Two More Hours”; last year, she came out with “Hieroglyphs That Tell the Tale,” which included two of her own songs and another she co-wrote with guitarist Sean Og Graham, as well as covers of Bob Dylan’s “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” and Eliza Gilkyson’s “Man of God.” Casey also is the lead vocalist for Boston’s fiddle ensemble Childsplay, and appears on its 2018 album, “The Bloom of Youth.”
Galway’s BackWest will be at the Backroom on May 29 at 7:30 p.m. Formed in 2016, the group features the Browne siblings, Maureen (fiddle) – formerly with Arcady and the Alan Kelly Gang – and Brendan (accordion), whose resume includes a stint with “Riverdance” and as a trio with Maureen and famed bodhran player Johnny “Ringo” McDonagh; Peter Vickers (bodhran, step dance), with vast experience in major stage productions including “Lord of the Dance”; and their newest member, Fabian Joyce (guitar, vocals), a former Boston-area resident who has played with the Kane Sisters, Pauline Scanlon and David Munnelly. Their repertoire includes many instrumentals and songs – “The Flower of Sweet Strabane,” “Nancy Whiskey” – from the heart of Irish tradition. BackWest released its second album, “Heritage Hall,” earlier this year.
The evening will open with a set from The Burren’s owners, traditional musicians Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello, plus a special guest. For links to ticket reservations and other information, go to
• The recently launched Folk and World Music Concert Series at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford will feature The Vox Hunters on May 26 at 4 p.m. Armand Aromin and Benedict Gagliardi – who between them muster fiddle, concertina, banjo, whistle, and a few other instruments besides – have been active for some years in both the Rhode Island and Boston-area Irish music circles, but extend their repertoire to other traditions, with fine harmony singing and a good sense of humor to boot.
For more information, see
• Club Passim in Harvard Square will present McKasson, McDonald and McLane, a trio of Americans with deep interest and involvement in Scottish music, on May 8 at 8 p.m. Ryan McKasson has become one of the West Coast’s leading fiddlers in the modern Scottish style, which incorporates contemporary and improvisatory elements into the tradition; he has performed and recorded with such artists as Hanneke Cassel and Alasdair Frasier and Natalie Haas. Guitarist-mandolinist-vocalist Eric McDonald became involved at a young age in the Greater Boston folk music and dance scene, and has gone on to many fruitful collaborations, most recently as part of the trio Daymark. Accordionist-pianist Jeremiah McLane has been a key figure in the resurgence of New England folk/traditional dance music, as a founder of Nightingale (along with Keith Murphy and Becky Tracy, who’ll also be at Passim this month) and the Clayfoot Strutters.
Irish fiddle virtuoso Martin Hayes, at left, will give a solo concert on May 9 at 7:30 p.m. Hayes grew up immersed in his native East Clare’s fiddle tradition, but in his 20s experimented with other kinds of music, notably with the jazz-rock band Midnight Court. Since then, he has paired with guitarist Dennis Cahill to produce mesmerizingly lyrical renditions of traditional Irish music; he and Cahill in turn are members of The Gloaming, which produces a unique sound in which the Irish music tradition is both framework and point of departure. The recipient of awards from the Irish Arts Center of New York, BBC, RTE and TG4, Hayes also has performed on stage with Sting and Paul Simon and recorded with Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project. He is the artistic director of Masters of Tradition, an annual festival in Bantry, Co. Cork and a co- curator for the Marble Sessions at the Kilkenny Arts Festival.
On May 12 at 7 p.m., Club Passim hosts wife-husband duo Becky Tracy and Keith Murphy, solid, dynamic interpreters of the numerous music traditions found in New England and the Northeast, from Irish to Quebecois to the Canadian Maritimes and more. Tracy’s fiddling has the drive cultivated via years of playing for New England contra dances but also the sensitivity for accompanying slower tunes. Murphy’s percussive, infectious guitar rhythms – enhanced by his foot percussion – and tender, expressive singing in French as well as English have made him an outstanding soloist as well as a much-admired accompanist. Tracy and Murphy, along with Jeremiah McLane (see above), were part of the pioneering New England trio Nightingale.
Fiddler Christine Delphine Hedden will celebrate the release of her debut solo album, “When the Aster Blooms,” on May 19 at 4 p.m. Hedden, a Connecticut native, became interested in Irish traditional music at an early age and set out to adapt it for viola. Over time, she developed an affinity for English traditional and classical music, and later electronica and improvisation, and has sought to find and promote connections between different genres and styles. All the while, Hedden has continued to refine her love of composing and writing, rooted in a spiritual, and magical, view of the world. On “When the Aster Blooms,” she has created a diverse storybook of original tunes and songs, inspired by New England and Irish music.
DuoDuo Quartet, a diverse grouping of folk/trad-rooted talents and interests, will perform shows on May 21 and 22, both at 8 p.m. As the name implies, this ensemble is the pairing of two duos: inventive Celtic harpist Maeve Gilchrist and Nic Gareiss, a singer and versatile dancer drawing on multiple traditions; Natalie Haas, who’s helped bring the cello to the forefront of Celtic music, and Yann Falquet, vocalist and guitarist with the Quebecois trio Genticorum.
For tickets and information, go to
• The Mari Black Trio comes to the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport on May 5 at 7 p.m. A Boston native, Black – who has appeared locally at The Burren Backroom series and BCMFest – has distinguished credentials that include fiddling competition championships in Scottish and Canadian Maritime traditions. Her repertoire includes not only Irish and Scottish traditions but also American folk music, Argentine tangos, and even classic swing tunes, to name a few.
See for tickets and information.
• For a different kind of Irish-oriented entertainment, the Fiddlers’ Green Pub in Worcester will present “Jokes My Irish Father Told Me,” with Dave Kane, on May 17 at 7 p.m. The native Rhode Islander has worked successfully as a radio host, stand-up comedian, and author. His radio career has spanned more than four decades at several New England stations, including WARA in Attleboro, where he serves as host of “Kane and Company” on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. For years, he has presented his one-man show, “Misgivings,” playing the character of an Irish Catholic priest, and contributed to many fundraising and charity events.
The Fiddlers’ Green website is