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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Massachusetts – a summer of great music

If you're looking for great outdoor music this summer - Irish, classical, popular, rock n roll, R&B - Massachusetts is the place to be.

Topping the musical bill this has to be two great musicians from Belfast Northern Ireland – Sir James Galway and Van Morrison.

Sir James is on a worldwide tour celebrating his 70th birthday and is playing on July 30 and August 1 at Tanglewood in Lenox. The first night he’ll be joined on stage by his wife, Lady Jeanne Galway, a renowned flutist in her own right, and pianist Phillip Moll.

Van Morrison, the legendary songwriter, singer, performer and poet, comes to the Wang Theater in Boston on Tuesday, August 4. He’ll be performing songs from Astral Weeks, the classic album first recorded in 1969 and then recorded again last year at the Hollywood Bowl.

Another singing legend, Tom Jones, performs at the Bank of America Pavilion on Boston’s waterfront, July 25, and two days later at the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis. The Welsh-born singer has perfected his brand of throaty blues and engaging pop hits and remains an artist worth seeing.

Speaking of the Melody Tent, you can catch the Saw Doctor’s – Galway’s favorite rockers – on August 15, followed on August 19 by Great Big Sea, the Celtic-fused rock band from Newfoundland. Great Big Sea also plays the South Shore Music Circus in Cohasset on August 20.

North of Boston, Eileen Ivers and her band Immigrant Soul, play a special outdoor concert on August 21 at Boarding House Park in Lowell, as part of the Lowell Summer Music Series.

The Lowell series, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has a great line-up of acts, from Blues Traveler and Derek Trucks to Jakob Dylan and Livingston Taylor. Finishing off the series on September 18 is Gaelic Storm.


There’s an enjoyable New England circuit of Irish and Scottish festivals, starting with the 16th annual Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival, July 18, in Florence, just west of Northampton.

Popular Canadian group, Enter the Haggis, headlines, and is joined by The Rising, Boston Blackthorne, Charlie Zahm, the Bell Family and more.

“It’s a celebration of Celtic cultures, food, music and crafts, and attendees come from all of the East Coast and Canada,” says festival director Peter Langmore.

The 7th annual Blackstone Valley Celtic Festival takes place July 25 at Indian Ranch in Webster, on the shores of Lake Chaubunagungamaug (the name given to it by local Nimpuc Indians).

Among the Blackstone festivities: a Celtic Kids pavilion with crafts, face painting, mini-golf and bowling as well as balloon artists, Celtic cutouts and more. Interpreters from the nearby Higgins Armory Museum demonstrate how a Celtic knight might have dressed back in the age of Camelot. And you’ll meet skilled artisans demonstrating the art of blacksmithing.

This year’s headliners include Burning Bridget Cleary, Cady Findlayson Band, Charlie Zahm, Coyote Run and Jug o’Punch, plus comedian George Casey and popular pipe band, Worcester Kiltie.

Slightly outside the region is the 15th annual Catskills Irish Arts Week in New York. Performers include tin whistler Mary Bergin, accordionists Jackie Daly and Billy McComiskey, flutist Joanie Madden and Boston’s own Seamus Connolly, who runs the Irish music program at Boston College.

The John Boyle O’Reilly Club’s 11th annual Irish Festival takes place on Saturday, August 8, an all day affair featuring Black 47 from New York and plenty of great local musicians.

If you’re looking for a perfect way to celebrate Labor Day weekend, head down to the 12th annual Newport Waterfront Irish Festival, which takes place at the stunning waterfront in downtown Newport. The annual event – which runs September 5-7, presents national stars like fiddle star Eileen Ivers and her band Immigrant Soul. Other top performers include the Makem and Spain Brothers, Black 47, Seamus Kennedy and the Screaming Orphans.

To round out festival season, usher in the fall at the New Hampshire Highland Games at Loon Mountain on September 18-20. The largest Scottish festival in the northeast features fiddle competitions, highland dancing, Gaelic speakers, and genealogy experts. Bagpipers, dancers, musicians, and performers roam the spacious grounds in one of New England’s most beautiful settings.

And if the weather is just right, you’ll be able to enjoy the start of New Hampshire’s fall foliage season, one of the glorious outdoor pleasures of the region.

For more details, visit

Select Irish, Scottish & Celtic Festivals

June 12-14
Worcester Irish Music Festival
Hibernian Center
Worcester, MA

July 12-18
15th annual
Catskills Irish Arts Week
East Durham, NY

July 18
Glasgow Scottish Lands Festival
Florence (Northampton), MA

July 25
Blackstone Valley Celtic Festival
Indian Ranch Performance Center
Webster, MA

August 8
Irish Festival
John Boyle O'Reilly Club
Springfield, MA

September 5-7
Newport Waterfront Irish Festival
Newport Yacht Club, RI

September 18-20
New Hampshire Highland Games
Loon Mountain
Lincoln, NH

October 11
Irish Heritage Festival
Adams Corner
Dorchester, MA