October 2023 calendar of Irish/Celtic events

Boston's own Scottish Fish plays at the Burren Backroom on October 4.

A look at Irish/Celtic music events in Greater Boston over the next few weeks:

•Donegal fiddler Oisín McAuley, a member of Danú who’s also performed with bands like Cran and Stockton’s Wing – and happens to be director of summer programs at the Berklee College of Music – will team up with Lúnasa uilleann piper and low whistle player Cillian Vallely for a special collaboration, “Emerald Jazz,” that also features four eminent Boston jazz musicians: saxophonist Stan Strickland, pianist Witness Matlou, bassist Ron Mahdi and drummer Ron Savage on October 26 at the Regattabar in Cambridge. They’ve performed together a few times, including a concert broadcast by WGBH, and the result was astounding: Strands of Irish and jazz, separate at times, then wrapped around one another snugly – notably on an absolutely gorgeous instrumental rendition of “The Water Is Wide.”

For details, go to regattabarjazz.com.

•If there’s one person who embodies the bond between Irish and Americana, it’s Tim O’Brien, who’s appearing with his wife Jan Fabricius at Club Passim in Harvard Square on October 2. The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has been a fount of old-time and bluegrass music for decades (he was a co-founder of progressive bluegrass band Hot Rize), and his compositions have been covered by, among others, Garth Brooks, Kathy Mattea and the Dixie Chicks. But O’Brien has been active on the Irish/Celtic front as well, appearing in performances and/or recordings with, among others, The Chieftains, Kate Rusby, Karen Matheson, Karan Casey and Kris Drever.

Fiddler Louise Bichan, a native of Scotland’s Orkney Islands now living in Maine, will be at Passim on October 15. Bichan began playing the distinctive Orkney fiddle style as a schoolgirl, and picked up some additional influences while attending college in Glasgow, before coming to Boston in 2015 on a scholar to the Berklee College of Music. While in Boston, she co-founded the quartet Corner House, and has since formed a duo, Hildaland, with fellow Corner House member Ethan Setiawan. Over the years, Bichan has broadened her musical interests to include American, Scandinavian and Canadian, while adding her own compositions to her stock of traditional tunes – her debut 2016 album, “Out of My Own Light,” is a musical interpretation of her grandmother’s journey as a young woman from Scotland to Canada. Also a talented photographer, she’s at work on her second album, due out next spring.

Italian trio Ensemble Sangineto brings its impressive array of traditions and genres to Passim on October 19. Adriano Sangineto (Celtic harp, vocals) and Caterina Sangineto (bowed psaltery, flutes, vocals, bodhran) – children of harp and psaltery maker Michele Sangineto – along with Jacopo Ventura (guitar, bouzouki, vocals) blend their arrangements of Irish, Scottish, Breton and Italian tunes and original compositions with influences that encompass classical, folk, Gregorian and pop as well as Celtic. Among their projects and collaborations is the musical show “A Celtic Christmas Night,” which includes a pipe band and Irish step dancers. Last year saw their release of "Le Grand Tour Vol. 1," the first of a two-volume set conceived as a tribute album to Italian traditional music with fresh interpretations of a folk tune from each of the 20 Italian regions.

•Dublin-born vocalist and self-described “carrier of tradition” Niamh Parsons, accompanied by guitarist Graham Dunne, will be in town for two performances: on October 11 at the Burren Backroom (burren.com/music.html) and on October 12 at the Boston College Gaelic Roots Series (events.bc.edu/group/gaelic_roots_series). Parsons began her career in 1990 and is regarded as among a select group of performers who helped establish a new, high-profile role for women in Irish music. She has six studio albums and one live album to her credit, and recordings with the bands Arcady and the Loose Connections.

•Also on the Burren Backroom slate is local favorite Scottish Fish, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary year, on October 4. Since their first appearance at BCMFest in 2014, “The Fish” – fiddlers Ava Montesi, Maggie MacPhail, Julia Homa and Caroline Dressler and cellist Giulia Haible (who shares piano duties with Homa) – have become a highly experienced and assured ensemble, their performances of traditional and contemporary Scottish and Cape Breton reels, jigs, strathspeys, and the like woven together from years of fiddle camp and session music handed down from generations of the tradition's finest players. Whether it’s traditional or contemporary tunes or their own material, “the Fish” play all with imaginative, engaging, and downright fun arrangements. As a commemoration of its first decade, the band released its second full-length album, “Upscale,” which includes “Jupiter” – an adaptation of Gustav Holst’s hymn “Thaxted” that makes up the middle part of the “Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity” movement of his orchestral suite “The Planets.”

Jim Malcom, easily one of Scotland’s foremost singer-songwriters of the past few decades, and his wife Susie Malcolm will perform on October 18. Formerly with Old Blind Dogs (who were at the Backroom back in August), he has gone on to record eight solo albums and three with Susie, including 2022’s “Auld Toon Shuffle.” Complementing his warm, affable vocals with deft guitar and harmonica accompaniment, Jim – together with Susie’s bright harmonies – offer up a repertoire that includes songs from Scottish tradition (“Daemon Lover,” “Pad the Road,” “Braw Sailin’”) and from songwriters ranging from Ewan MacColl to Karine Polwart to Jack Foley to – naturally – Robert Burns. But Jim is quite adept at the pen himself, with songs like the bittersweetly nostalgic “Blindness of My Youth”; his retelling of a Scottish legend, “Corrievrechan”; and the humorous “Cleaning Out My Moat.” (The Malcoms’ daughter, Beth, meanwhile, won the BBC Scots Singer of the Year honors this past spring).

Another Scottish folk institution, the Tannahill Weavers, stop by the Backroom on October 25. A key part of the modern Scottish folk music revival and enshrined in the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame, the “Tannies” – the first professional Scots group to incorporate full-sized Highland bagpipes in performance – celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2018 with the release of the album “Órach,” featuring appearances by past members including Dougie MacLean and special guests like Alison Brown and Aaron Jones. Co-founders Roy Gullane (vocals, guitar) and Phil Smillie (flute, whistles, bodhran, vocals) continue to hold forth, with more recent additions Iain MacGillivray (Highland bagpipes, fiddle, whistles) and Malcolm Bushby (fiddle, bouzouki, harmony vocals). Along with prodigious talent and energy, the Tannies have an equally generous supply of humor, which they gladly share on and off the stage (when asked in a 2011 interview to list their nominations for the five “dumbest” songs, they included “Barbie Girl” and the English sea shanty “Serafina”).

See burren.com/music.html.

•Transcendent Quebecois quintet Le Vent du Nord is at City Winery Boston on October 29, co-presented with the Global Arts Live series. During its two decades – commemorated with the release last year of "20 Printemps" – the band (Nicolas Boulerice, hurdy gurdy; Oliver Demers, fiddle; Simon Beaudry, guitar, bouzouki; Andre Bruent, fiddle; and Rejean Brunet, accordion, bass) has continually shown vitality and inventiveness in incorporating contemporary material – some of it their own compositions – alongside the traditional, and with an awareness of global influences. They’ve also broadened their already considerable appeal through various projects, including the recent album "Les Voix du Vent: Avec Cordes et Piano," in collaboration with The Trad Quartet and pianist Philippe Prud'Homme; “Le Vent du Nord Symphonique” with the Portland Symphony and Orchester Symphonique de Québec; and involvement in the annual “La veillée de l’avant-veille” year-end event in Montreal. Not surprisingly, the band has a bushel of honors and nominations from, among others, the Juno Awards, Canadian Folk Music Awards and North American Folk Music & Dance Association. 

More at citywinery.com/boston.

•Tipperary-born harpist/vocalist Aine Minogue will play at the Peabody Institute Library in Peabody on October 30. Minogue’s work is marked by a serene, meditative sound, with elements of new age and world music blended with those of Irish and other Celtic traditions, and an abiding interest in the spirituality and mythology found in the ancient Celtic world and its traditions and rituals – as demonstrated in albums such as the holiday-themed “To Warm the Winter’s Night” and “The Spirit of Christmas,” and “Circle of the Sun,” a collection of songs and tunes that mark the passage of seasons. She’s also recorded “Eve,” an album of all-original music that explores the “many definitions and varied manifestations” of Eve, from the Bible to pop culture.

Go to peabodylibrary.org/concerts for details and tickets.

•Boston-area fiddler Laurel Martin will be at Waltham’s Gore Place on October 18 along with guitarist Jim Prendergast, multi-instrumentalist Mark Roberts and dancer Kieran Jordan. All four are individually accomplished and heralded performers in traditional Irish music and have often joined forces in various configurations or as part of other collaborations. Martin, Roberts and Jordan, for example, often appeared with the fiddle ensemble Childsplay, while Prendergast has played alongside Martin and Roberts at BCMFest. 

The New England Irish Harp Orchestra, which performs at Gore Place on October 25, is a multi-generational group of harpists who play Irish traditional tunes, slow airs, and songs in various combinations as well as a full ensemble – including with fiddlers, flutists, and singers. Earlier this year, members of NEIHO toured Ireland, giving concerts in Stradbally, Killarney, Tralee, Salthill and Doolin. The group has released four albums.

For details, see goreplace.org/whats-on.

•If you feel like participating, as opposed to sitting and watching, the Canadian American Club of Massachusetts in Watertown will host a square dance with fiddler Richard Wood and pianist Neil Pearlman on October 7.

See canadianamericanclub.com