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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 (, 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 ( 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
(This story appeared in the Irish Echo Newspaper)

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