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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sligo Town = Cheoil + Craic



Right now, thousands of Irish musicians from around the world are practicing their arpeggios and fine tuning their instruments.   Dancers are checking their costumes and polishing their footwork.  From Boston to Sydney, musicians, dancers and music-lovers alike are booking their rooms and making plans to meet in County Sligo, from August 10-17, when the 2014 FleadhCheoil takes place.  

If you haven’t been to Ireland’s annual Fleadh Cheoil, this is the summer to go.  The week-long musical competition pits the very best traditional Irish musicians, singers and dancers from around the world in a week long competition that crowns the All-Ireland champions, a distinction that lasts a lifetime.

This year’s Fleadh is being held in Sligo Town, the first time since 1991.  It’s always appropriate to talk about traditional Irish music and Sligo, since so many great musicians have come from that county. Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Paddy Killoran, Lad O’Beirne, Seamus Tansey, Fred Finn, Kevin Burke, Carmel Gunning… the list goes on.

The caliber of music is surely the draw, but so is the craic (fun) that ensues in this celebratory setting of an entire town of people brought together by their collective love of Irish traditional music.  Enjoy yourselves!

For travel information, contact Discover Ireland




Friday, June 27, 2014

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh Named "Irish American of the Year" in 2014 by Irish America Magazine


Congratulations to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has been named the 2014 "Irish American of the Year" by the New York-based publication, Irish America Magazine.

Mayor Walsh accepted the award at a luncheon held on Thursday, June 26, 2014 at the Seaport Boston Hotel, hosted by the non-profit group, the Irish American Partnership.

Patricia Harty, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Irish America Magazine, praised Walsh for his empathy and for overcoming challenges early in his life, saying, “Who better to embody the tough, tireless, tender trajectory of our Irish story than Mayor Marty Walsh, son of immigrants and champion of the working class. We are thrilled to honor him as our Irish American of the Year.”

Mayor Walsh, who was profiled in the February/March 2014 issue of Irish America Magazine, is the son of Irish parents who emigrated from Connemara in County Galway to Boston in the 1950s and settled in the city's Dorchester neighborhood.

Upon accepting the award, Mayor Walsh said, "John F. Kennedy spoke of an 'emerald thread' running through the history of the Irish and surviving in all their descendants around the world, and this pattern runs deeply through the fabric of Boston. Irish-American identity is not something that survives without some effort. It has to be cultivated and encouraged, or else it can fade away into a distant memory.

"This award is about gathering together and recognizing that the heritage we share is meaningful and worth preserving," the mayor continued. "It's a great honor to receive this award."

Also speaking at the awards ceremony were Ireland's Consul General for Boston, Breandan O Caollai, and Mary Sugrue McAleer, executive director of the Partnership, who said that "Mayor Walsh has been a long-time supporter of the Partnership's efforts to honor our Irish heritage by supporting education and community programs in Ireland, North and South."

State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry and  State Representative Brian Honan, along with Jim Brett, president and CEO of the New England Council, and Joe Leary, president and CEO of the Partnership, also attended the event. 

Walsh is the twelfth Boston Mayor of Irish descent to hold the office, which began with the election of Hugh O'Brien, an immigrant from County Cork, who served from 1885-88.

For more about Boston's Irish heritage, visit IrishHeritageTrail.com.





Thursday, June 26, 2014

Irish Step Dancer Kevin Doyle Wins 2014 Fellowship from National Endowment for the Arts


Congratulations to Irish step dancer Kevin Doyle of Barrington, Rhode Island, winner of a 2014 Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) in Washington DC.  Doyle is one of nine recipients of this year's award.  Here is the NEA press release.

Kevin and his sister Maureen started dancing lessons as children, taught initially by their mother Margaret Taylor Doyle, who came from Roscommon.  Their father John's parents emigrated to Providence from County Longford in the early 1900s.

Renowned for his technical brilliance, engaging personality and inventive footwork (both Irish  step dancing and tap dancing), Doyle has won various awards throughout his career, and is one of the most popular performers on the Irish/Celtic circuit in New England.  He is a frequent performer at the Blackstone River Theatre and Summer Solstice Festival in Rhode Island, as well as the Christmas Celtic Sojourn concerts held each year throughout the region.

Noted Irish music author and critic Earle Hitchner writes that "Kevin Doyle joins an elite list of NEA National Heritage Fellowship honorees who have drawn national attention and added  luster to the inimitable traditional and folk arts create by the Irish American community in the United States."

Other New Englanders who have received the prestigious award include fiddler Seamus Connolly, who won in 2013, and accordionist Joe Derrane, who won in 2004.

This summer, Kevin will be performing locally at the Irish Cultural Center with Atlantic Steps in Canton on July 11, the Lowell Folk Festival on July 25-27, and the John Brown House Museum in Providence with Pendragon on August 7, 2014.  Here is Doyle's performance schedule through the fall.

Find year round details on Irish culture in New England by visiting IrishMassachusetts.com.












Tuesday, June 24, 2014

PEI Group Vishten Performs at Burren Pub on Wednesday, June 25


Vishten, a trio of musicians from Prince Edward Island who play a unique fusion of Celtic and Acadian music, performs at the Burren Pub in Davis Square on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, at 7:00 p.m.  Tickets are $23.00 and can be purchased online or at the venue. 

The concert is part of the Burren Back Room Series hosted by Brian O'Donovan, radio DJ on the show Celtic Sojourn, aired on WGBH. The Burren is run by two fine traditional musicians, Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello

Opening for Vishten are local performers Matt Heaton, Armand Dale Aromin, and Benedict Gagliardi. 

Find year round Irish music in greater Boston by visiting IrishBoston.org





Sunday, June 22, 2014

Solas Nua Presents Staged Reading of The Buddhist of Castleknock at Burren Pub


An Irish arts company new to Boston, Solas Nua, is giving a staged reading of Jim O'Hanlon's play, The Buddhist of Castleknock, at the Burren Pub in Davis Square, Somerville, on Monday, June 23, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.

The play is directed by Jason McCool, a Brockton native who has performed on various theater and musical stages, and who is currently doing doctoral work in musicology at Boston University.

The Back Room at the Burren is a perfect place to experience live theater and music in an intimate, close-up setting.  Here's a schedule of live concerts coming up this summer.  Here's a profile on Tommy McCarthy and Louise Costello, owners of the Burren.

For year round details on Irish cultural activities in greater Boston, visit IrishBoston.org.




Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer Solstice Festival - Event of the Month - Taking Place June 21


The 4th annual Summer Solstice Festival, taking place in Cumberland, RI on Saturday, June 21, 2014, has been named "Event of the Month" by the cultural tourism group Boston Irish Tourism Association.

The all-day festival features top Irish and Celtic performers continuously throughout the day, as well as an inviting range of food courts, arts and crafts vendors, dance exhibitions and casual music sessions off-stage.

Here is an interview with Russell Gusetti, producer of the festival, which is part of the Blackstone River Theatre, a year-round non-profit cultural group in Rhode Island.

Here is a schedule of Irish/Celtic festivals in New England + Quebec this summer and fall.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Milton Music Festival features Frankie Gavin & De Dannan on June 22


The Milton Music Festival, organized by We Are Milton, is staging a two day celebration on June 21-22, 2014 that features fireworks, food, music and dancing, including one of Ireland's foremost traditional bands, Frankie Gavin and De Dannan.

The festival takes place at Governor Hutchinson's Field on Adams Street in Milton, and is free to the public, according to organizer Mary Swanton.

On Saturday, June 21, the Neville sisters and the Brady Academy of Irish Dance along with jazz and choral performers, take the stage starting at 5:00 p.m..  The concerts culminate in a fireworks display at 9:45 p.m.

Then on Sunday, June 22,  the festival presents Celtic Sunday from 1:00 - 7:00 p.m., an afternoon of Irish traditional music featuring Galway's great fiddler Frankie Gavin his band De Dannan, plus a line-up of great local performers, including singer Pauline Wells and traditional bands Devri, the Fenian Sons, Cat and the Moon, and Erin's Melody.

Request more information about the festival.

Here is a schedule of Irish and Celtic festivals in New England this summer and fall.

For year round details on Irish cultural activities in greater Boston, visit IrishBoston.org







Friday, June 13, 2014

Massport Dedicates South Boston Park in Memory of Tom Butler


Massport is dedicating a new freight corridor and public park in South Boston in honor of the late Tommy Butler, a local legend known for his community activism, volunteerism, and leadership as a government official.

The Thomas J. Butler Freight Corridor and Memorial Park on East First Street in South Boston represents a significant improvement to the neighborhood by redirecting trucks along a new haul road and away from neighborhood streets, while also improving shipping operations at the busy Conley Terminal, which handles nearly 1.5 million metric tons of cargo each year.

In addition, the project features a public park along East First Street, with amenities that include a walking path, new trees, a bike rack, water fountain and a memorial dedicated to Butler.

Butler worked for Massport for 25 years as its community relations director, and worked closely with the communities affected by Logan International Airport.  He was also an early advocate for expanding international tourism and helped build the city's cruise ship trade that has become an  important component of the tourism industry.

A lifelong resident of South Boston, Butler was a leader in the community, with a special interest in American and Boston Irish history.  He helped organize the Revolutionary War activities around Evacuation Day each year, and also the St. Patrick's Day Parade.  He was a member of the South Boston Irish-American Society, the Castle Island Association and the South Boston Boys and Girls Club.

The groundbreaking for the Thomas J. Butler Freight Corridor and Memorial Park is taking place on Friday, June 13, 2014.


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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Boston Harbor Hotel's Summer in the City Features Free Music & Movies, June 12 - August 29


One of Boston's favorite summer treats - Boston Harbor Hotel's Summer in the City series - is launching on Thursday, June 12, 2014 with a concert by legendary blues guitarist Jeff Pitchell.

Now in its 16th year, the twelve-week, free Summer in the City program brings to Boston's waterfront an assortment of great music and movies, from June 12 through August 29, 2014.

Tuesdays are devoted to soul music; Wednesdays feature the "Rat Pack" music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.; Thursdays are blues night, and Fridays are classic movies, ranging from Casablanca to West Side Story.

Stephen Johnston, General Manager of the Boston Harbor Hotel, says, "There really is nothing that quite compares to watching bands perform from the hotel’s floating barge stage while enjoying cocktails or dinner – it is what summer in New England is all about."

Long recognized as one of Boston's premier hotels, the Boston Harbor Hotel faces the Rose Kennedy Greenway and overlooks the city's glistening new waterfront.

For more cultural activities in greater Boston this summer and year-round, visit IrishBoston.org

For visitor information, go to BostonUSA.com and MassVacation.com.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Win Tix to Willie Nelson & Alison Kraus in Boston, June 17


The Boston Irish Tourism Association is giving away a pair of tickets to see Willie Nelson & Family, along with Alison Krauss & Union Station, performing at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion in Boston's Seaport District, on June 17, 2014, starting at 7:00 p.m.

Enter the contest here. The winner will be announced on Friday, June 13.

Or, you can purchase your tickets directly online.

The Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, formerly called Bank of America Pavilion, sits on Boston's beautiful waterfront, looking out at the harbor and the city skyline.  Here is a schedule of concerts this summer.

For other cultural activities in greater Boston throughout the year, visit IrishBoston.org

For visitor information, go to BostonUSA.com or MassVacation.com.




Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Boston Irish Feis taking place at Irish Cultural Centre in Canton on June 14


Hundreds of Irish step dancers from around New England will compete in the upcoming Boston Irish Festival Feis, taking place at the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton on Saturday, June 14, 2014, beginning at 8:00 a.m.

The feis is hosted by the Harney Academy of Irish Dance, an award-winning troupe based in Walpole headed by All-Ireland Champion Liam Harney.  Here is a 2012 story on the academy's championship dance program.

A full day pass for the feis is $15, and $10 for ICC members.  Order tickets online.

For year round details on Irish cultural activities in Massachusetts, visit IrishMassachusetts.com.




Saturday, June 7, 2014

BITA's Summer 2014 Travel & Culture Guide Now Available Online


Boston Irish Tourism Association has issued its 2014 Summer Travel & Culture Guide, a compendium of Irish festivals and concerts in New England, as well as travel information to Ireland and Northern Ireland.

You can pick  up a free copy of the Guide at visitor kiosks and cultural venues around Massachusetts.  Here is a list of locations where the Guide is available.


Celtic Music Host Brian O'Donovan Wins Eire Society Award


The Eire Society of Boston is presenting its annual Gold Medal Award to Brian O'Donovan, well-known radio host and musician who has spent the past four decades promoting Irish traditional music and other Celtic music in the New England region.

The award is being presented at a reception and dinner on Thursday, June 12, at the Neighborhood Club of Quincy. Find details here

A native of Clonakilty, County Cork, O'Donovan emigrated to Boston in the early 1980s and became part of the burgeoning traditional music scene at the Village Coach House in Brookline Villlage.  For a time, he was a radio host on WERS-FM as a graduate student at Emerson College, and since 1987 has been host of A Celtic Sojourn on 89.7 WGBH-FM, a weekly radio program that explores the music of the Celtic nations.  

O'Donovan also created A Celtic Sojourn concert series each Christmas and St.Patrick's Day season to bring live performances to the region.  Here is an interview with O'Donovan that appeared in BITA's Travel & Culture Guide. 

Formed in 1937 the Eire Society of Boston is one of New England's leading supporters of Irish cultural expression.   The Gold Medal award is granted to recipients who have dedicated themselves to the study and preservation of Irish arts or to the betterment of Ireland itself.  Past recipients have included John F. Kennedy, filmmaker John Ford, and architect Charles Maginnis.

Find year round details on Irish culture in Massachusetts by visiting IrishMassachusetts.com.





Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Celtic Festivals in New England in Summer/Fall 2014

Burning Bridget Cleary

With 20% of the New England region claiming Irish or Scottish ancestry, Celtic festivals have long been a staple of the region’s summer music season.  Add to that Canadian and American music, and you’ve got a full schedule of music, dance and cultural activities to suit everyone.

Kicking off this year’s schedule on June 6-7 is the Irish Cultural Centre’s annual Irish Festival taking place in Canton.  Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul, Black 47, Devri and Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann are some of the headliners, a fitting spectrum of Irish fusion, rock, ballads and traditional music.

Larry Kirwan of Black 47 says “Boston audiences are amongst the most demonstrative in the country, and right from the opening chord,” for the band’s high-energy, politically informed music, though this was not always the case.  “There was a time when I’d have to warn (the band) that Boston audiences typically don’t show their appreciation until the end of the show.”  Kirwan credits the Dropkick Murphys for helping local audiences open up.

Following the festival, the Centre is hosting a feis dance competition the following Saturday, June 14.  Organized by the Harney Academy of Irish Dance, the all-day feis will bring dancers from all over New England to compete.

On Saturday, June 21, the Blackstone River Theatre presents its 4th annual Summer Solstice Festival, taking place at Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland, RI.  Russell Gusetti, executive director of BRT and festival producer, says the festival line-up typically includes top local and regional bands alongside two or three groups from outside the area.

This year, Burning Bridget Cleary from the Lehigh Valley/ Philadelphia area, is a headliner.  “They have a new fiddler/singe and a great new CD since we heard them last, and are one of the hottest young bands out there, though they don’t get to New England often.”

Another festival highlight is Panache Quartet, featuring Cape Breton fiddler Andrea Beaton, Franco-American fiddler Donna Hébert, Southern-style fiddler Jane Rothfield and Québecois fiddler Véronique Plasse.

“Unlike a lot of Celtic festivals, I don’t book Celtic rock bands or serve alcohol, so I pick the performer solely on the strength of their performance,” he says.  Gusetti’s own band, Pendragon, is performing, along with local favorites Laurel Martin, Mark Roberts & Kieran Jordan, Robbie O’Connell, and the Heatons.

Also on June 21, traditional duo John Blake and Ruairi McGorman perform at the Chatham Fiddle Company in Chatham, Cape Cod.

On Saturday, July 19, the 21st annual Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival takes place at Look Park in Florence, MA. The festival features Albannach, Prydein, Charlie Zahm and the Bell Family, plus clan gatherings, Scottish games, food courts, vendors and spinning and weaving demonstrations.

Peter Langmore, chairman of the festival, describes the event’s appeal. “With the diverse population we have in the US, people find it very important not to lose their ethnic roots,” he says. “Plus, many people are interested in learning about other cultures, or like to travel to other countries, or just want to have fun.”

On July 25-27, the 28th Lowell Folk Festival runs in downtown Lowell’s National Park. This year’s festival showcases Irish traditional band James Kelly, Donna Long & Sean Kean, along with various performers representing dozens of cultures.

South of Boston, two great outdoor summer venues are presenting an Irish Music Festival: the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset on August 21, followed by the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis on August 22. The music line-up at both venues includes fiddle star Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul, the Fighting Jamesons and Celtica: Pipes Rock.

Also on August 22, check out the Irish Rovers at the Barnstable Performing Arts Center in Hyannis, on their ‘Farwell to Rovin’ tour.

On August 23, the 16th annual Newport Waterfront Celtic Rock Festival opens at the Newport Yachting Center in downtown Newport, RI. It features Gaelic Storm, Eileen Ivers, Black 47, Tartan Terrors, Celtica: Pipes Rock, the Fighting Jamesons and more.

North of New England, the 8th annual Quebec Celtic Festival takes place on September 3-7 at the Morrin Center in Quebec City, Canada. Expect to hear terrific Canadian Irish and Celtic bands, plus a showcase of Gaelic games, a parade and family activities throughout the week.

On September 19-21, the 39th annual New Hampshire Highland Games take place at Loon Mountain, NH. The popular duo, Alastair Fraser and Natalie Haas are headliners.

iFest Wraps Up the Season

And finally, on September 26-28, Boston is excited to welcome a major new festival called iFest (ifest.ie), at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston.  Described as a premium showcase of contemporary Irish culture, entertainment and innovation, iFest features an all-star cast of culinary masters, leading musicians and dancers, fashion designers and athletes to present a taste of modern Ireland.

iFest is sponsored by Tourism Ireland, the dynamic agency that markets the island of Ireland in North America.

As always with an Irish gathering, there is plenty of music at iFest.  On the traditional side, uilleann piper Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains performs along with accordion maestro Damien Mullane.  Ireland’s Indi-Pop band Heathers, featuring twin sisters Louise and Ellie Macnamara, is performing, plus the break-out rock band Riptide Movement.

The Irish Food Board and Culture Ireland are iFest participants, so expect cooking demos and food displays, along with literary events, genealogy classes and an art display from Irish museums.  The Gaelic Athletic Association has a traveling exhibit and film highlights of some of Ireland’s classic matches over the years.  Fashion designer Louise Kennedy and Chef Darina Allen are attending, along with an assortment of Irish writers, athletes and dancers.

(SIDEBAR)  The Burren Pub (burren.com) in Davis Square, Somerville, has some great traditional music this summer.

June 18/ Liz Carroll, w/ Mari Black opening
June 25./ Vishten from Prince Edward Island, w/ Padraig Rynne and Ryan McIvor
July 23/ Matt Cranitch, Jackie Daly & Paul DeGrae
July 30/ Teada w/ Seamus Begley

Find more about Irish activities at irishmassachusetts.com
(This story appeared in the Irish Echo Newspaper)