Boston College's Gaelic Roots series hosts multi-instrumentalist Caoimhín Ó Fearghail on January 25
With 2023 over, ahead of us lies a new set of 12 months during which we can anticipate many fine Irish/Celtic music events in the Greater Boston area. Here’s a look at January:
•The 21st Boston Celtic Music Fest (BCMFest), which takes place Jan. 11-14, is the big happening this month. Festival events will take place in Harvard Square’s Club Passim as well as the Crystal Ballroom, The Burren, and The Rockwell in Davis Square. You can read about it here.
•Fiddler-banjoist-vocalist Maura Shawn Scanlin, one-half of local duo Rakish, is launching her solo album at Club Passim on January 18. More here.
•Speaking of new albums, Medford’s Matt and Shannon Heaton have at long last come out with their sixth recording, “Whirring Wings,” which they’ll commemorate with a concert at The Burren on Jan. 24 as part of the Brian O’Donovan Legacy Series. Known for stellar musicianship (Shannon on flute and whistle, Matt on guitar, bouzouki, and bodhran) and vocals, an extensive knowledge of Irish traditional music, and an engaging stage presence, the Heatons – in addition to their albums – have a distinguished resumé of concert and festival appearances around and well beyond the US. An emphasis on fostering and maintaining community also has been a staple of the Heatons’ modus operandi over the years, through teaching, a healthy social media presence that includes their regular Virtual Guided Session on YouTube, and projects such as Shannon’s “Irish Music Stories” podcast.
This form holds true with “Whirring Wings,” for which the Heatons have published a companion book that includes sheet music as well as notes on the tunes. It’s a package that, as they explain, is a tribute to the Shanachie Records LPs of the 1970s, which featured distinguished tradition-bearers like Paddy Carty, Tommy Peoples, Kathleen Collins, Andy McGann, and Paddy Reynolds along with accompanying material such as tune transcriptions and essays.
An upcoming BostonIrish story will explore “Whirring Wings” in more detail and include an interview with the Heatons.
The Brian O’Donovan Legacy Series also will feature what promises to be a fascinating two-fer on Jan. 17, with Limerick singer-songwriter Emma Langford and the dynamic Irish American quartet The Consequences. Langford, who came to The Burren in 2022, merges folk, pop, and jazz influences with a vocal presence that can be anywhere from dreamy to emphatic and a storyteller’s craft that, among other undertakings, has led her to research and write about women in Irish history. Langford also has promoted the importance of mental health care and been forthcoming about her own experiences, including being diagnosed as autistic a few years ago – a revelation she said has crystalized many aspects of her personal and musical life. She has won an RTÉ Folk Award for Best Emerging Artist in 2018 and curates the Limerick Lady Festival, an event that promotes women in music and aims to tackle gender imbalance in the industry.
The Consequences’ members are all part of a new generation of musicians with a solid background in Irish tradition – all of whom have earned All-Ireland honors: Lexie Boatright of Washington, DC (concertina, harp); Texan Cara Wildman (bodhran); New Jerseyan Ryan Ward (piano, accordion); and Queens, NY, native Jake James (fiddle). Their trad credentials are patently obvious, but so is their exuberance and willingness for imbuing the music with contemporary grooves, as evidenced by their 2023 debut album “When You Weren’t Looking” – witness Ward’s piano backing on their rendition of “Beare Island,” for example, or their canny arrangement of the jig set “Maids of Selma/McIntyre’s Fancy/The Homecoming.”
Tickets, details available via burren.com/music.html.
•Co. Waterford multi-instrumentalist Caoimhín Ó Fearghail will kick off the second part of the 2023-24 Boston College Gaelic Roots series organized by Sheila Falls, on Jan. 25 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Connolly House (300 Hammond Street in Chestnut Hill). Ó Fearghail is barely in his mid-30s but already a highly accomplished musician (with awards from RTÉ Radio 1 and TG4 on his resumé) proficient on flute, fiddle, guitar, and uilleann pipes as well as one of the more in-demand accompanists in the Irish traditional scene – oh, and he sings, too. He has performed as part of Caladh Nua and Danú; appeared on albums by Edel Fox and Neill Byrne, Caitlín Nic Gabhann, and Boston-area fiddler Christine Hedden; and recorded with fiddler Paddy Tutty as a duo. In his piping, Ó Fearghail has drawn inspiration from the old masters like Seamus Ennis, Patsy Touhey, and Willie Clancy but also from those of later generations such as Liam O’Flynn, Mick O’Brien, and Jimmy O’Brien-Moran – as he demonstrated on “Uilleann Piping from County Waterford,” a solo album he recorded as part of a series produced by Na Píobairí Uilleann.
For more on Gaelic Roots, see the Boston College Irish Studies home page at bc.edu/irish.
•Massachusetts-based Celtic ensemble Fellswater performs at Sanctuary Maynard on Jan. 27. The septet, now in its 16th year, 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. Its past performances include appearances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the New Hampshire Highland Games & Festival, and the JFK Presidential Library with the Metropolitan Chorale.
Details at sanctuarymaynard.com
•The Red Hot Chilli Pipers have made a habit of starting the new year by bringing their inimitable “bagrock” to the Cabot Theatre in Beverly, and they’ll be back there again on Jan. 27. For more than two decades, RHCP have mustered bagpipes, drums, keyboards, and guitars to present a repertoire 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’.” But it’s a band with some legit credentials: 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, appeared on the soundtrack to “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” garnered two “Best Live Act in Scotland” honors, and received a “Big-Hearted Scotland” nomination for its charity work.
For more, go to thecabot.org.