BostonIrish Arts Calendar March 2024

Open the Door for Three will appear at the Groton Hill St. Patrick’s Day Celebration (March 16) and the Burren Brian O’Donovan Legacy Series (March 13).

So, here we are, in what is arguably the most active month on the Irish/Celtic music calendar – especially here in Greater Boston/Eastern Massachusetts. A sampling of what’s coming up follows.



We’ll start with the Burren’s Brian O’Donovan Legacy Series, which will present Dàimh on March 6.  Based in the Isle of Skye and West Lochaber, the quintet – former winner of Folk Band of the Year honors at the Scottish Traditional Music Awards – focuses on the wildly beautiful music traditions of the Scottish Highlands and islands. Angus Mackenzie (bagpipes) and Gabe McVarish (fiddle) lead the melodies, backed by Ross Martin (guitar) and Murdo “Yogi” Cameron (mandola, accordion); vocalist Ellen MacDonald imbues the songs, in Scottish Gaelic, with a full emotional range. They also have their own YouTube channel of teaching videos, “School of Dàimh.”

Breaking Trad comes in the following day, with a new line-up that pairs recent arrival (and Worcester native) fiddler David Doocey with accordionist Dónal Murphy, both of them multiple All-Ireland champions. Guitarist Mike Galvin is experienced in different musical styles, but he certainly understands how to propel traditional Irish tunes along energetically and tastefully.

There’s not a lot of subtlety or variation to Breaking Trad’s approach – and truth to tell, none is particularly necessary: Murphy and Doocey set a groove with their tight playing, and Galvin drives things along in a splendidly brisk manner. Rumor has it they’ll be marking the release of their new album, “Drive.” (Breaking Trad also will perform on March 10 at the Irish Cultural Centre of Greater Boston in Canton; see below.)

Open the Door for Three, a trio of Irish musicians whose penchant for scholarship complements their talents for arrangement and performance, will officially launch their new album on March 13.  The band comprises Maine-based spouses Kieran O’Hare (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle) and Liz Knowles (fiddle) and Dublin-born and current Chicagoan Pat Broaders (bouzouki, vocals), and their individual histories in the music scene are considerable and impressive. The three are also known for their diligent research, digging into books, collections, recordings, and other sources, and for the harmonies and well-crafted arrangements that typify their sound. (Open the Door for Three also are part of the Groton Hill St. Patrick’s Day Celebration on March 16; see below)

On March 20, it’s bluegrass-folk-Irish performers JigJam. The band – Jamie McKeogh, Daithi Melia, Gavin Strappe, and its newest member, St. Louis native Kevin Buckley – boasts extensive traditional Irish credentials, with quite a collection of All-Ireland titles at Fleadh Cheoil competitions. To this they add an appealing blend of bluegrass and Americana styles and a lively stage presence, not to mention dapper wardrobes – a combination that, along with their four albums, has brought them acclaim well beyond Ireland.

(Read more about the Brian O’Donovan Legacy Series.)

Also at the Burren this month is The Kings of Connaught (March 14), a trio from Galway that last year embarked on its first US tour that included a stop in the Boston area. The three – Liam O’Grady (vocals, five-string banjo), Mark Costello (vocals, guitar), and Thomas Ryan (whistle, harmonica, guitar) – all work at tried-and-true “day jobs”  but have fashioned a very winning sound in the ballad-band mode, with classic songs like “The Rocky Road to Dublin” and “The Irish Rover” alongside instrumentals (“Planxty Irwin” and Finbar Furey’s “Lonesome Boatman”) and covers of contemporary numbers, from Richard Thompson’s “Beeswing” to The Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” 

You can’t talk about the Burren’s March calendar without mentioning the St. Patrick’s Day special variety dinner show, masterminded and headed up as always by indefatigable owners Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello, with various friends and acquaintances lending their talents. The show is on March 15 at 7 p.m., then with multiple performances on March 16 and 17.

For more on Burren events, see

•The Cherry Street Music Americana series will hold a “Celtic Soiree” on March 9 at 7:30 p.m. with some local flavor. Flute/guitar duo Matt and Shannon Heaton – whose new album, “Whirring Wings,” has been discussed in these pages – will perform at the event, which takes place at the Allen Center in West Newton, along with their special guest, uilleann piper Joey Abarta, who released a fine solo recording, “King of the Blind,” during the past year. 

Details available at

•City Winery Boston begins its observance of St. Patrick’s Weekend on March 16 with Enter the Haggis, known for its prodigious – even quirky – blend of rock, fusion, bluegrass, traditional Celtic fare, agitpop, folk, and other strains. From head-banging, arena-friendly Celtic rock to more nuanced, lyrical, indie-type offerings, ETH  (Craig Downie, bagpipes, guitar, keyboards, whistle; Brian Buchanan, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, accordion; Rose Baldino, fiddle; Trevor Lewington, guitar, mandolin, keyboards; Mark Abraham, bass, banjo; and Bruce McCarthy, drums) combines a versatile repertoire with sociopolitical conviction, all of which is in evidence on their most recent album, “The Archer’s Parade,” which they released at the very beginning of the pandemic. 

On the day (or “the Day,” if you prefer) itself, you’ve got options: In the City Winery’s Haymarket Lounge will be a tribute set to Shane McGowan and the Pogues by Big Bad Bollocks. Formed in 1989, the Western Massachusetts-based band (John Allen, vocals, accordion, whistle; Pino, lead guitar; Bob Richards, drums; Ernie Wilson, bass) is known as one of the earliest Pogues-inspired groups in the US. They’ve released four albums and made guest appearances on recordings by the Dropkick Murphys and Mighty Mighty Bosstones, with whom they’ve also shared the stage, as they have with Stiff Little Fingers, Bo Diddley and KRS-One, among others.

Or you can go to the main stage and catch Leahy, one of Canada’s most esteemed progressive folk-roots bands. Leahy’s members are from an Ontario family with Irish and Cape Breton ancestry – national and cultural legacies they proclaim through their high-energy music and performances. In addition to their studio and live recordings, which have sold well more than half a million copies worldwide, Leahy has been featured in three PBS television specials, including their memorable “Gael Force” appearance with The Chieftains that showcased the band’s dancing as well as instrumental prowess. Their 2021 album, “Good Water,” showed the band moving into new territory, spotlighting their song and instrumental compositions, as well as the influences – rock, choral, country, classical – that have inspired them. (The performance is co-presented with Global Arts Live.)

Information at

•Rockport’s Shalin Liu Performance Center will host an “Upstairs on Main” event on March 7 with North Shore singer Michael O’Leary and friends. O’Leary is a singer of Irish, Scottish, and maritime ballads and songs who has appeared at BCMFest, Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival, Rockport Celtic Festival, Irish Connections Festival, New England Folk Festival, and other events and venues in New England. He also organizes music cruises in Gloucester Harbor and sessions on the North Shore. In 2003, O’Leary was co-recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant that enabled him to study the traditional Irish sean-nos singing style from Bridget Fitzgerald.

Genre-busting fiddler Eileen Ivers is at Shalin Liu on March 21. A Grammy-winning performer, co-founder of Cherish the Ladies, and the featured fiddler in the original “Riverdance” production, Ivers has long taken inspiration from the music she heard on and around the streets of her native New York City, including African, Latin, jazz and rock (The New York Times once called her “the Jimi Hendrix of the violin”). Her interest in blending music, cultures, stories and emotions from all corners has not only brought her acclaim, but an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Iona College, which praised her “lifelong commitment to innovation, excellence and deep dedication to bringing people together through music.” Ivers is accompanied by her band “unIVERSal roots”:  Buddy Connolly (accordion, whistles, keyboards); Colin Forhan (guitar, banjo, concertina, vocals); Lindsey Horner (upright and electric bass, saxophone) and Dave Barckow (percussion, guitar, vocals).


•The pride of Dhún na nGall, Altan, will be at Somerville’s Crystal Ballroom on March 24, where they will introduce their brand new album titled, appropriately enough, “Donegal,” and brand new member, fiddler/vocalist Claire Friel (one-third of the Friel Sisters). Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (fiddle, vocals), Martin Tourish (accordion), Ciarán Curran (bouzouki), and guitarists Mark Kelly and Dáithí Sproule continue to mine the richness of the Donegal tradition while making connections to music of other cultures and genres. “Donegal” is the band’s first album since 2018’s “The Gap of Dreams,” which celebrated the valuable role of music, songs, dance, and stories played in helping past generations cope with the demands of rural life, as well as famine, conflict, and emigration. They also have released a book, Altan: The Tunes, the only collection of Donegal music currently in print, comprising 222 melodies collected and recorded over their lengthy history and including interviews with band members.

Tickets available through

•The fine Boston-born Anglo-Celtic trio Bellwether is on hiatus, but their accordionist, pianist, and vocalist Alex Cumming will be at Club Passim on March 20 to celebrate the release of his first solo recording, “Homecoming.” Along with Bellwether, Cumming has been part of numerous other collaborations playing vocal and dance music from British Isles and related traditions. “Homecoming” includes songs and tunes from both sides of “the pond,” among them the maritime ditty “Boston Harbour” – appropriately enough, since Cumming moved to the Boston area in 2015 before subsequently relocating to Brattleboro.

Details, tickets at

•If you’re the participatory sort, then you should come to the traditional Irish ceili hosted by the Boston College Gaelic Roots series on March 22 at 6:30 p.m. in BC’s Gasson Hall. There’s no experience necessary to join the dancing, because Kieran Jordan will teach and direct the proceedings. Live music will be provided by Gaelic Roots director Sheila Falls Keohane and friends. Costs nothing to get in.


There also will be an all-ages “Community Ceili” organized by the Powers Music School on March 30 from 6-8 p.m. at the Tracy Powers Concert Hall in Belmont, with caller Jackie O’Riley and open band led by Natasha Sheehy, Devin McCabe, and Ellery Klein.

Details at

•The Irish Cultural Centre of Greater Boston in Canton will have its St. Patrick’s Day celebration, of course, but there are two other events of note. On March 8 will be a show with Green Road and Irish soprano Clodagh Kinsella, celebrating the close Ireland-US ties. Green Road combines Irish folk and ballad standards with a country and bluegrass tint, from “Galway Shawl” and “Leaving of Liverpool” to “Only Our Rivers Run Free” to “Sonny’s Dream” – a celebration of “the connections between folk music at home and abroad,” as they say. Its members (P.J. Sinnott, lead vocals, five-string banjo; Jon Reville, mandolin, tenor banjo; Tony McCabe, bass, vocals; Ned Wall, uilleann pipes, low whistles; Fergal O’Hanlon, guitar, vocals) have a long track record in Ireland’s pubs and clubs, sessions and fleadhs, and theater and TV performances.

Kinsella’s repertoire of well-known Irish American concert hall classics by the likes of John McCormack and Frank Patterson only covers part of her portfolio. A violinist and pianist as well as a singer, she attended the Royal Irish Academy of Music and has given solo performances of works by Haydn, Mozart and Handel. She has also been part of Ensemble Dagda, regarded as one of Ireland’s most vibrant “HIPster” (Historically Informed Performance) ensembles, bringing playful, engaging arrangements to lesser-heard works of 17th-century music.

The following day, Trevor Sexton and Ger O’Donnell will be at the ICC. The singer-songwriter duo offers up traditional and original material, with compelling vocals and multi-instrumental accompaniment. Sexton counts Bob Dylan, Bob Marley  and Pete Seeger among his influences, and leans on a storyteller’s style in creating his songs. A music educator, arranger and composer, O’Donnell started out on classical flute and fife before finding his calling as a crafter of songs – his singles “Turquoise Ink” and “Talk About Heroes” both reached number 1 in the Irish charts. Sexton and O’Donnell were featured by TG4 in its broadcast of last year’s Fleadh Cheoil and have appeared in concert with Cherish the Ladies.

As noted earlier, Breaking Trad is at the center on March 10.

See for details and tickets.

•There’ll be two opportunities to catch the Groton Hill St. Patrick’s Day Celebration on March 16, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. In addition to Open the Door for Three (also at the Burren’s Brian O’Donovan Legacy Series, as noted above), the event will include sets by fiddle-piano duo Katie McNally and Neil Pearlman and guitarist-vocalist Keith Murphy.  McNally’s exuberant, passionate fiddling and Neil Pearlman’s dynamic piano-playing – mixing elements of jazz, Latin, and other musical forms – make for a fascinating modern outlook on Scottish and Cape Breton music while maintaining a healthy respect for those traditions. 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.

Go to

•Singer, producer and TV host Michael Londra will bring the stage version of his popular “Ireland with Michael” series to Beverly’s Cabot Theater on March 17. A native of Wexford – renowned as a wellspring of opera – Londra first achieved stardom in 1998 as the lead tenor in the “Riverdance on Broadway” production, a role he was to play in the show’s subsequent U.S. tour. His other artistic achievements include his five albums, among them “Celt” and “Beyond Celtic”; the PBS concert special “Beyond Celtic” he produced, earning two Emmy awards; guest appearances with bands such as De Dannan and Téada; and his performance with Judy Collins for the Kennedy family in commemoration of John F. Kennedy’s 1963 trip to Ireland. In 2021, “Ireland with Michael” debuted on PBS, in which Londra takes viewers on a musical tour around Ireland as he visits various cultural, historical, and social settings; the stage version of the show was launched last year and toured 21 cities in the US.

More at

•Speaking of “Riverdance,” another famous stage spectacle of similar stature will be at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on March 14: the 25th anniversary edition of Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance.” The show was Flatley’s first project after his breakout role in “Riverdance,” and following its 1996 premiere in Dublin, “Lord of the Dance” proved to be a hit in London, Australia, South Africa and then the US. Flatley created an expanded version, “Feet of Flame,” which toured Europe and then the US; he gave his final performance with the show in 2016. In 2023, the show returned to Dublin to formally celebrate 25 years. The 2024 version includes novel musical elements and choreography, updated costumes, state-of-the-art technology and special effects, and a cast of 40 dancers led by veterans Matt Smith and Cathal Keaney. (This show was rescheduled from last November.)

Go to

•While we’re on the subject of significant milestones, Celtic Woman is in the midst of its 20th-anniversary tour, which will bring them to Medford’s Chevalier Theatre on March 21 to present their wildly popular concert-hall mix of traditional Irish music with other material ranging from folk to contemporary pop. The group has revamped its line-up over the past few years, and currently includes fiddler Tara McNeill and Muirgen O’Mahony with newest members Emma Warren and Mairéad Carlin. They’ll be touring their just-released “Celtic Woman 20th Anniversary” album, with old reliables like “The Parting Glass,” “Amazing Grace,” “You Raise Me Up” and “Danny Boy” as well as some excursions into Gaelic language songs: “Dúlamán,” “Is Sinne Mná na hÉireann” and “A Stór Mo Chroí.”


The Red Hot Chilli Pipers are at Cary Memorial Hall in Lexington on March 10. RHCP has gained renown for its inimitable “bagrock,” a mix of traditional pipe tunes and contemporary pieces — including classic rock hits like “Smoke on the Water,” “We Will Rock You,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Many of its members have competed at the highest level of bagpiping and drumming, and some have completed degrees at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The band has released nine albums, including 201’s “Fresh Air,” and appeared on the soundtrack to “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”


Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy head to Worcester’s Hanover Theater on March 9 as part of the Music Worcester Presents series. Representing the union of two renowned family Canadian Celtic music traditions, these fiddling and step-dancing spouses – MacMaster from Cape Breton, Leahy from Ontario – have earned numerous honors, including JUNO and East Coast Music Awards, and have started a new family music tradition with their children, who typically travel with them on tour and join in their concerts of powerful, up-tempo instrumentals as well as intimate, heartfelt melodies. Last year, they released their second album together, “Canvas,” which goes beyond their previous takes on Celtic music, embracing a global/international perspective as well as more contemporary production and innovative arrangements, incorporating new instrumentation and contributing musicians – among them cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Grammy-winning Americana/Appalachian musician and singer Rhiannon Giddens.  

Go to

•Down on the Cape, you can take in a “Prelude to St. Patrick’s Day” at Highfield Hall and Gardens in Falmouth on March 10 at 4 p.m., featuring the band Golden Lane (John MacDonald, fretted instruments, vocals; Pat Black, bodhran, whistle, vocals; Bill Black, fretted instruments, vocals; Colin Everett, uilleann pipes, whistle; Mark Oien, whistle) and members of the Maureen Haley School of Irish Dance.


Please note: Some events may already have sold out by this calendar’s  publication date.