The Boston Irish Music Events Calendar May 2023

Dublin singer-songwriter Lisa O'Neill is at Club Passim on May 3.

A look at some upcoming Irish/Celtic-related music events in Greater Boston (and perhaps a little farther afield):

•You can read elsewhere in the BostonIrish entertainment section about local fiddler Hanneke Cassel’s May 12 appearance at the Second Fridays Concert series in Belmont and about Boston-area native Doug Lamey’s return to his old haunts. Cassel has a new album out (“Infinite Brightness”) and Lamey will launch “True North,” his second release of Cape Breton fiddle music, on May 14 at the Burren Backroom.

Cassel also will be performing as part of Club Passim’s annual Memorial Day Campfire festival, on May 26 [see farther down].

•Yet another musician with local ties will be through here this month to celebrate a new album: pianist Neil Pearlman, who’s at the Scandinavian Cultural Centre in West Newton on May 10 at 7:30 p.m. Pearlman is familiar to many around these parts in his stints with, among others, Katie McNally, Kevin Henderson, Soulsha, and Alba’s Edge, in performances at “St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn,” BCMFest,  Club Passim and elsewhere (he also hosts the “TradCafe” podcast). This show, however, is all about Pearlman’s first solo recording, “Refractions,” which showcases his innovative approach to playing traditional Scottish music, whether sticking to the melody or employing variations and improvisations that bring out different, and often fascinating, facets of the particular tune. “I often describe my solo piano pieces as looking at a tune through a prism,” he says.

Tickets, location details at

•The Burren Backroom series brings in the Seamus Egan Project on Wed., May 3, at 7:30 p.m. A talented multi-instrumentalist (including tenor banjo, mandolin, nylon-string guitar, flute and low whistle), composer and arranger, co-founder of groundbreaking Irish American band Solas and musical director for the annual “Christmas Celtic Sojourn” production, Egan has in the past few years devoted most of his time and energy to this “Project”: bringing his traditional Irish music into orbit with his manifold interests and influences in Americana, classical and progressive folk to create a fascinating sound that defies easy description, as evidenced by the 2020 album “Early Bright” (late last year, Egan released another album of original music, “Good Winter”). Joining Egan are Boston-area fiddler Jenna Moynihan (who also performs with the aforementioned Hanneke Cassel), guitarist Kyle Sanna, and bouzouki/harmonium player Owen Marshall.

Massachusetts-based Fellswater plays a Sunday matinee at the Burren Backroom on May 7.  

Fellswater plays a 4 p.m. matinee in the Backroom on May 7. Now in its 15th year, the Massachusetts-based Celtic ensemble is known for its scrupulously arranged sets of Scottish, Irish, Breton, and other Celtic-related music for instruments such as fiddle, viola, Celtic harp, cello, nyckelharpa, Scottish small pipes and border pipes, flute, acoustic bass, whistle, guitar, banjo, mandolin, and percussion. In addition to its instrumental core of Elizabeth Ketudat, Sarah MacConduibh, Dave Cabral, Kyle Forsthoff, and Andrew McIntosh, the band has a vocal component in husband-wife duo Chris and Diane Meyers. Fellswater has three albums to its credit, the most recent being 2018’s “Skipping Stones,” and in March presented its “Celtic Crossroads” show with the Metropolitan Chorale at the JFK Presidential Library.

Links for tickets available at

•The duo that put the Celtic fiddle-cello dynamic on the map, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, will be at the Groton Hill Music Center on May 6 at 8 p.m. Fraser is one of the leading Scottish fiddlers of the past few decades, and Haas has been a foundational figure in the use of cello in various forms of traditional music. In their duets, the two exchange riffs, trade off melody versus rhythm, and otherwise converse in various tones of emotion and intensity, drawing on Scottish and other Celtic traditions, as well as elements of Scandinavian, Breton, American, classical, jazz, and other music forms. In 2020, they marked their 20th anniversary with the release of their sixth album, “Syzygy,” consisting of original compositions.

For more, go to

•Club Passim in Harvard Square hosts tradition-inspired Irish alt-country, indie-rock singer-songwriter Lisa O’Neill on May 3 at 8 p.m. O’Neill is widely considered among the vanguard of 30-/40-something Dublin-based artists like Lankum, Ye Vagabonds, and Eoghan O Ceannabhain who have reached into Irish tradition for form and content to create an intense, often dark sound, to go with commentary and observations about contemporary Ireland. O’Neill – whose unfiltered, swooping, keening singing voice has drawn comparisons with the legendary street singer Margaret Barry – has integrated themes and narratives from traditional songs into her work, such as “John-Joe Reilly,” which recasts the “wren boys” custom in a modern, complicated context; she’s also done renditions of “The Galway Shawl” and “The Factory Girl.” (If you’ve watched the “Peaky Blinders” series, you probably heard her cover of Bob Dylan’s “All the Tired Horses.”) She’s just released her newest album, “All of This Is Chance.”

Sligo-style fiddler Gerry O’Connor, who’ll be at Passim on May 11 at 8 p.m., has a resumé about the size of his native Dundalk. He has toured and recorded with the likes of The Chieftains, Boys of the Lough, Bothy Band and De Dannan, and co-founded three exceptionally high-quality bands: Skylark (whose other members included accordionist Mairtin O’Connor and singer Len Graham); La Lúgh, with Eithne Ní Uallacháin – their only album, “Brighid’s Kiss,” is a treasure for those who’ve heard it, especially the Irish Music Magazine readers who voted it album of the year in 1996; and Orialla, along with flutist and vocalist Nuala Kennedy, accordionist Martin Quinn, and guitarist Gilles le Bigot. A violin maker himself, he has put out two solo albums and been honored with the Bardic Award by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann for his contribution to the traditional arts. And he served as a consultant for the film "Boys and Girls of County Clare” and worked as fiddle coach with Colm Meaney, Andrea Corr, Bernard Hill, and Patrick Bergin. 

The day before his Passim gig, May 10, O’Connor will be giving a fiddle workshop from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Irish Cultural Centre of Greater Boston in Canton. You can register by going to

As noted earlier, Hanneke Cassel will perform May 26 at 9:30 p.m. as part of Passim’s annual Memorial Day Campfire Festival. On May 28 at 3:30 p.m., you can catch the Young Tradition Youth Commission, which may sound awfully institutional but is in fact an opportunity for next-generation New England musicians to get some experience in public performance. The featured performer, 17-year-old Fiona Stowell, is a fiddler from Montpelier, Vt., who has keyed in on Cape Breton, Quebecois, and old-time styles, and is a singer and dancer besides. As the 2022-23 Young Tradition Vermont Commissioned Artist, Stowell has assembled an ensemble that includes Massachusetts Folklife Center Folk Arts apprentice Fern Tamagini-O’Donnell (fiddle, step dance, vocals) of Wareham – who’s working with renowned fiddler Laurel Martin – as well as Grace Martin (mandolin, guitar, vocals) US National Junior Scottish fiddle champion Owen Kennedy (fiddle, vocals), and Emmett Stowell (piano, banjo, vocals).

For tickets and details on all Club Passim events, see