Performances by some of Greater Boston’s best Celtic musicians will provide a festive climax to the Independence Day holiday weekend, when the seventh annual Summer BCMFest (Boston Celtic Music Fest) takes place in Harvard Square’s Club Passim on July 4 at 7 p.m.
Summer BCMFest will feature both in-person and pre-recorded performances. A limited number of tickets will be available for those wishing to attend (the pre-recorded performances will be screened at the club); the complete event also will be livestreamed at www.passim.org/streams. The BCMFest website is at passim.org/bcmfest.
This year’s line-up includes the duo of fiddler Hanneke Cassel and guitarist-vocalist Keith Murphy; uilleann piper Joey Abarta with fiddler Nathan Gourley; Rakish (Maura Shawn Scanlin and Conor Hearn); and the trio Calico.
Summer BCMFest – the warm-weather counterpart to the winter BCMFest, and a program of Cambridge non-profit Passim – celebrates the area’s richness of music, song and dance from Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton and other Celtic traditions.
A look at the Summer BCMFest 2021 performers:
•Hanneke Cassel and Keith Murphy—An ongoing, long-time partnership between masterful musicians makes a welcome return to BCMFest. Cassel is known for her expressive, emotive and energetic brand of American Scottish fiddle, featuring many of her own compositions as well as tunes from Scottish and Cape Breton traditions, and has been a highly influential as well as popular figure in the Celtic music world. She recently released her seventh solo album, “Over the Sea to Skye,” in remembrance of her foundational musical experiences during a 1993 trip to Scotland. Murphy has been a mainstay in the New England folk music scene for years, renowned for his percussive, infectious guitar rhythms and tender, expressive singing, with a repertoire that encompasses Irish, English, Canadian, Quebecois and French traditions. He and his wife, fiddler Becky Tracy – two-thirds of the pioneering trio Nightingale – released “Golden” last year, their first full-fledged recording as a duo in nearly three decades of playing together.
•Joey Abarta and Nathan Gourley—Two continually active, high-profile members of Boston’s Irish music scene, Abarta and Gourley have drawn praise for the energy and purposefulness they bring to traditional music, individually and in various collaborations.
Abarta’s skill on the uilleann pipes, honed through his relationships with master pipers, has been recognized with the top prize at the 2014 An tOireachtas – the first such achievement for an American-born piper in more than four decades – and a traditional arts apprenticeship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Gourley, who has taught and performed at festivals in Ireland, New Zealand and throughout the United States on fiddle and guitar, is part of a duo with Laura Feddersen and a member of the now world-famous “Virtual Behan Session” – a quartet of regular musicians at the Brendan Behan Pub that continued its weekly sessions online during the pandemic. A crowning achievement for Abarta and Gourley was their album “Copley Street,” named for the street in Boston where they lived at the time they recorded it, but also in reference to the legendary record label that issued recordings of some of Boston’s most prominent Irish musicians.
•Rakish—Maura Shawn Scanlin (fiddle, vocals) and Conor Hearn (guitar, vocals) combine a solid grounding in Irish and American folk traditions with a shared interest in and love for chamber music and jazz. Scanlin is a two-time US National Scottish Fiddle Champion and a winner of the Glenfiddich Fiddle Competition, wields the technical range of an accomplished classical violinist and the deep sensitivity of a traditional musician. Hearn, a native to the Irish music communities of Washington, DC, and Baltimore, has played for a number of traditional music acts and bands. Rakish has appeared on Front Row Boston, The Burren Backroom series, and broadcasts of WGBH’s “A Celtic Sojourn,” as well as the 2020 “Christmas Celtic Sojourn.” Rakish released an EP in late 2018 and is at work on a new recording.
•Calico—The trio of Casey Murray (cello), Jesse Ball (guitar, mandolin, accordion, feet) and Eric Boodman (fiddle, feet, vocals) explores the multi-faceted music traditions of New England in idiosyncratic fashion, from old-timey cello to Quebecois fiddle and foot percussion to rousing contra dance tunes. They describe themselves as “a wind-up toy gone crazy” – having so much fun playing together, it’s hard for them to stop. Calico has played for contra dances and listening audiences alike throughout the region.
For more about BCMFest, see passim.org/bcmfest.