Given all the action that will be taking place over the next few weeks, I’m going to leap right into suggestions for a very trad St. Patrick’s season with lots of choice music events to pencil in on your calendar.
High on my list would be any opportunity to see and hear Altan, the venerable trad band honored on an Irish postal stamp a few years back who have been keeping the rich and varied Donegal heritage in song and tunes to the fore for over 25 years.
Still led by the singer and fiddler Mairead ni Mhaonaigh, from Gweedore, her vocals are more earthbound than some of the ethereal singers emanating from a neighboring village in Donegal.
Altan (Ciaran Tourish, Dermot Byrne, Ciaran Curran, Mark Kelly and Daithi Sproule join ni Mhaonaigh) are due in for a relatively short U.S. tour this March before hitting Disneyland Paris on St.
Patrick’s Day itself.
And they will be supporting a new CD, Glenn Nimhe (The Poison Glen), their first with new material recorded in a studio since Local Ground back in 2005 and named for a mysterious but inspiring place in the shadows of Mount Errigal which features prominently in the bands history.
Fans of the band will be delighted to hear 13 new tracks, including six songs from Ni Mhaonaigh, all of which will be new to many of their listeners though they contain a number of their favorite tunes and songs waiting to find a place on their recordings.
The tour kicks off in Minneapolis (home of Daithi Sproule) and Ann Arbor, Michigan before five dates in the Northeast. On March 6 they are at the Barns of Wolftrap in Vienna, Virginia, followed by the Sellersville Theater on March 7 in Sellersville, Pennsylvania.
On Thursday, March 8 at 8 p.m., City Winery hosts Altan for one night in Manhattan (155 Varick Street; 212-608-0555).
They move onto Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Friday, March 9 at the Music Hall before finishing the tour at the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Another of the big touring bands from Ireland is Dervish from Sligo featuring Cathy Jordan as lead singer. They have a three week tour ahead of them (www.dervish.ie for more details).
Also in the band are Tom Morrow, Liam Kelly, Shane Mitchell, Brian McDonagh and Michael Holmes.
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The tour begins on Saturday, March 3 at 8 p.m. at the Algonquin Arts Theatre (algonquinarts.com) in Manasquan, New Jersey which is down on the Jersey Shore area.
They too head up to Somerville for two intimate shows in the newly renovated back room of the Burren Pub owned by musicians Tommy and Louise McCarthy on Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. This is part of the new Burren Back Room Series initiated by WGBH Celtic Sojourn presenter Brian O’Donovan bringing some brilliant trad talent into a cozy setting in the pub built for music.
O’Donovan also has his seventh edition of “A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn” performing in the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford on Saturday, March 17 at 8 p.m. and the following Saturday at the Sanders Theatre in Cambridge at 8 p.m.
Slated to perform are Susan McKeown, Bee Eaters, Jeremy Kittel, Michael Brunnock, Jefferson Hamer and Eamon O’Leary, Tina Lech, Joey Abarta, Mark Roberts and the Kieran Jordan Dancers. For more info go to www.wgbh.org/celticsojourn.
Also on an extensive 17-venue tour from the Emerald Isle is Lunasa, who come into their familiar New York haunt, the Highline Ballroom (West 16th Street; 212-414-5994) on Monday, March 12 at 8 p.m.
They will also be making their first visit to a historic old theatre in Blairstown, New Jersey on Wednesday, March 21 at 8 p.m. for fans out in Northwest New Jersey (908-349-1428).