If it's cultural stimulation that you are looking for as March and St. Patrick's Day approaches, the choices abound. Here is a tour of the horizon for upcoming shows with a trad bent. The Waterford-based trad group Danu leads a wide array of talent to be seen over the next few weeks in a variety of venues in and around the greater New York area. Their first appearance will be at the fairly new South Orange Performing Arts Center (973-275-1114 or www.sopacnow.org) in the heart of town on Wednesday, March 4 at 8 p.m. which is only 30 minutes by train from New York's Penn Station. Led by the entrancing singer Muireann ni Amhlaoibh, Danu is still is one of the most vibrant acts in the trad scene whose U.S. visits may be less frequent but tasty nonetheless. For those in South Jersey you have two opportunities to catch them at Philadelphia's Annenberg Center on Saturday, March 7 at 8 p.m. or on Sunday at the Stockton Performing Arts Centre in Pomona on the 8th at 4 p.m. Full details of their extensive March tour are at www.myspace.com/danuband. The Towne Crier Cafe in Pawling, New York (845-855-1300 or www.townecrier.com) once again caters to the northern New York suburban fans of Irish music with three great shows in early March. First up is Solas on Friday, March 6 at 9 p.m., followed by the annual appearance of the Clancy Tradition (the Westchester family band) on the 14th at 9 p.m. and then the David Munnelly Band on the 15th at 7:30 p.m. Glucksman Ireland House has three events featuring Irish music and dance on March's first weekend. It actually begins on Thursday, March 5 at 7 p.m. with a book launch by Dr. Mick Moloney of Close to the Floor: Irish Dance from the Boreen to Broadway (Macater Press, 2009) containing papers and proceedings from the conference held there several years ago exploring the role of dance in modern Irish society. On Friday night, March 6 at 9 p.m. the Blarney Star Concert Series (www.blarneystar.com) welcomes Tipperary piper Michael Cooney with special guest fiddler Willie Kelly to its parlor spotlight. On Saturday, March 7 at 3 p.m. thanks to a grant from the Irish Government Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Seosaimhin ni Bheaglaoich makes a return visit for an afternoon interlude of traditional Irish-language songs that will teach vocabulary and pronunciation as well as entertain. All free to members of Glucksman Ireland House and NYU students (212-998-3950 or www.irelandhouse. fas.nyu.edu). Also, Moloney will feature versions of his Green Fields of America in free concerts on March 4, in New Brunswick with the Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Society and on March 12 at St. Patrick's Cathedral along with his Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra. Making a couple of New Jersey stops on a brief Culture Ireland-assisted tour to the North Texas Irish Festival and elsewhere is the University of Limerick inspired gals known as Liadan. The sextet displays a lot of charm and talent on stage, with clever musical arrangements on familiar chunes and songs with exceptional harmony that characterized the first self-titled album in 2006 and their upcoming new release Casadh na Taoise/Turning the Tide. On Friday, March 13 they'll be at the Ciccone Theater at Bergen Community College in Paramus and Saturday the 14th at the Algonquin Arts Theatre in Manasquan, New Jersey. Both shows are at 8 p.m. Check out www.myspace.com/liadanmusic. Slide, one of the Nua-Trad bands from Ireland also with Culture Ireland touring support, make an appearance at the Commodore Barry Irish Centre (www.theirishcenter.com) this Saturday, February 28 at 8:30 p.m. for the Philadelphia Ceili Group. Another outfit with a modern approach to traditional music is a more glitzy touring group called Celtic Crossroads (www.celticcrossroads.ie) on an extensive tour of America including three stops in the greater New York area. The first is this Friday night, February 27 at the College of Staten Island at 8 p.m. They return on Saturday, March 14 to the Raritan Valley Community College Theater in Somerville, New Jersey for an 8 p.m. followed by a St. Patrick's Eve show in Queens on Monday, March 16 at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City at 8 p.m. On Wednesday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. in New York's Capitol District, Albany's premier performance space known as The Egg for its outward appearance hosts the venerable Boys of the Lough featuring Cathal McConnell and Brendan Begley in a special benefit performance for the Irish American Heritage Museum there in Albany with a satellite museum in East Durham. Further details at www.theegg.org or 518-432-6598. For 35 years, the award-winning Chieftains (www.thechieftains.com) have toured America far and away playing before more people than any other Irish band, trad or otherwise in that time. There are some who couldn't celebrate the Holy Day without seeing the boyos around the country. The current tour dips into familiar territory for Paddy Moloney, Matt Molloy, Kevin Conneff (but sadly not Sean Keane who opted to stay home this tour) for its Celtic Connection 2009 tour. Along with the Flying and Dancing Pilatzkes (Nathan and Jon who also plays fiddle), dancer Cara Butler, harpist Triona Marshall, Scottish singer Alyth McCormack will join them. In addition, Paddy offers a Celt-Mex foretaste of an album due out later this year that will feature Linda Ronstadt and other guests from south of the border. But if you are looking for them at Carnegie Hall on the day itself, they will be hundreds of miles away in Toronto satisfying their fans north of the border. Plenty of opportunity though to see them at many of the finest venues in the Northeast as they wind up the annual tour like the Kennedy Center (March 9 in D.C.); Count Basie Theatre (March 12, Red Bank, New Jersey); Symphony Hall (March 13, Boston); Kimmel Center (March 15, Philadelphia) and New Jersey Performing Arts Center (March 16, Newark). So there is no need to sit at home these days. Get out and enjoy some live Irish music at these and many other events and help some wonderful artists keep the spirit and music alive now more than ever. If you are looking for a more affordable way to bolster that home library, Compass records has a sale until March 6 for almost 300 Celtic music CDs at$10 apiece which includes the whole catalog of Compass, Green Linnet and Mulligan recordings, including the about to be released Liz Carroll and John Doyle Double Play CD. Can't beat those prices, and they'll be delivered before your St. Patrick's Day soiree.
Must-see off the beaten track spots around Ireland (PHOTOS)