The St. Patrick’s season is tip-toeing towards us, and as usual I like to share some of the trad highlights coming our way that will mushroom when the calendar turns to March.
Getting a head start on his bandmates in Sliabh Notes, Corkonian fiddler Matt Cranitch (pictured above) is arriving stateside early to get a little fiddle tutelage in. Since he is one of the most popular teachers on the Catskills Irish Arts Week roster and author of a respected fiddle tutor book and an outstanding exponent of the Sliabh Luachra style of playing, one of his students, Phil Weir, organized a workshop in Middletown, New Jersey on Sunday, February 28 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. at the Middletown Arts Center.
Cranitch will lead a session in the Dublin House afterwards from 6-9 p.m. in nearby Red Bank, New Jersey, and rumor has it he may also be playing at the Saturday Lillie’s Session the day before from 4-7 p.m. in Manhattan.
Cranitch will then join his Sliabh Notes compadres, box player Donal Murphy and Tommy O’Sullivan, for a full concert on Thursday, March 4 at 7:30 pm in the Newtown Meeting House in Connecticut hosted by STIMS (www.shamrockirishmusic.org), sponsored by Culture Ireland, before heading over to the North Texas Irish Festival.
Now in their 15th year as a touring band, Solas (Seamus Egan, Winnie Horan, Mick McAuley, Eamonn McElholm and Mairead Phelan) just released another dynamic CD, The Turning Tide, on Compass Records (www.compassrecords.com).
Half of the tracks on the latest recording are new compositions by the veteran troupe, and it also includes contemporary songs from Josh Ritter, Richard Thompson and Bruce Springsteen. The hard-working and exciting outfit has an extensive tour underway in support of the CD, with the East Coast leg starting this Friday, February 26 at the Somerville Theatre in Massachusetts, the next night in Northampton, Massachusetts, and Sunday at the Egg in Albany.
There are two big gigs in the New York City area with an 8 p.m. show on March 10 at B.B. King’s Blues Club in Times Square, and for Long Island Solas fans at the Theatre at Westbury on March 11 at 8 p.m.
Both shows feature Bluegrass musician Sam Bush. For more details on other shows visit www.solasmusic.com.
Also plying the East Coast are Lunasa Light (flute and whistle player Kevin Crawford and uilleann piper Cillian Vallely), who made a fabulous duet recording a couple of years ago called On Common Ground.
They will appear in a variety of folk club venues and house concerts along with guitarist Ted Davis in Medford, Massachusetts on March 4, Tuftenboro, New Hampshire on March 5, New York’s Irish Arts Center for workshops only at 11 a.m. on March 7, where they are in concert in Coatesville, Pennsylvania in the evening,
They’ll headline the Blarney Star Concert Series on March 12 at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House, and finally Martha’s Vineyard on March 13 at the Katherine Cornell Theatre.
Danu are also in their 15th year, and on their annual March tour. They will play two concerts in the New York metropolitan area, and they are a great live act.
Danu features Benny McCarthy (accordion), Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (vocals, whistle and flute), Eamonn Doorley (bouzouki), Oisin McAuley (fiddle), Donal Clancy (guitar), Donnchadh Gough (bodhran and uilleann pipes) and Tom Doorley (flute and whistles).
They will be appearing at the Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College in Somerville, New Jersey on Saturday, March 6 at 8 p.m., (www.rvccarts.org for tickets) and on Sunday, March 7 at 3 p.m. at the Quick Center for the Arts at Fairfield University (www.quickcenter.com for tickets).
Also making a cameo concert appearance in the area are Beoga, featuring the terrific vocalist Niamh Dunne, Damien McKee, Sean Og Graham and Eamonn Murray. They’ll be at the Strand Theatre in Lakewood, New Jersey on March 4 at 8 p.m. with a fine German band playing Celtic music, CARA. They have been appearing at more and more Irish festivals as a double bill.
On Wednesday, March 3 at 7 p.m. Susan McKeown and Lorin Sklamberg, who won Grammy awards with the Klezmatics for the album Wonder Wheel, will appear in a joint concert they call Saints and Tzadiks at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place in Manhattan. Their show, which explores the Yiddish and Irish vocal traditions, is presented jointly by the Irish Arts Center and the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) always finds entertaining ways to separate the Irish from their cash, not unlike another institution that will remain nameless but deals in making us feel guilty.
The latest effort which will be hitting the airwaves big time in March is The Music of Ireland: Welcome Home, and it follows the PBS documentary survey of talking heads spliced with historic footage bearing out the themes contained in the new series.
The musical host and presenter is the bilingual Donegal singer Moya Brennan, whose Donegal family made up the popular group Clannad. She has a first-name familiarity with many of the colorful musicians who appear on the show like Bono, Christy Moore, Pete Seeger, Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains, Ronan Tynan, Sinead O’Connor and Larry Kirwan. The show also features the last video interview with Liam Clancy, who died shortly thereafter in December.
A well-coordinated release plan for the TV show, a DVD and CD has been coordinated by PBS and partners Tourism Ireland, Barnes and Nobles and Amazon and the following airdates have been scheduled. Check your local PBS station for air times; in New York, the show will air on WLIW 21 on March 2, 5 and 7.
There is a special Friday, February 26 concert and DADGAD guitar workshop at the Irish American Association of Northwest Jersey (www.iaanj.org) with the touring singer and guitarist Sarah McQuaid. For more details contact Iris Nevins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sunday, February 28 is a concert in White Plains at Good Counsel Church (52 North Broadway) at 2 p.m. featuring five exceptional musicians in the New York area who are appearing together that day, fiddler Rose Conway Flanagan and her protégée Dylan Foley, Linda Hickman on flute, John Nolan on accordion and Eamonn O’Leary on vocals and guitar.
Finally, a heads up to purchase tickets for the New York Film Fleadh showing of a great documentary about Liam Clancy called The Yellow Bitter to be showed on March 13 at the Tribeca Film Center, released just three months before his passing. The thoughtful film directed by Alan Gilsenan describes the Clancy Brothers’ era, and the last lonely days for Liam Clancy as his health deteriorated.