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).
Lunasa comprises Kevin Crawford, Sean Smith, Cillian Vallely, Trevor Hutchinson and Paul Meehan.
As a side note, Crawford has a new solo CD out called Carrying the Tune recorded with John Doyle, Mick Conneely and Brian Morrissey which will be available at the Lunasa gigs (www.lunasa.ie).
Dundalk native Nuala Kennedy is resident in New York City for a while, and one of the gigs the talented singer/flautist will be performing is a gig for the Minstrel Acoustic Concert Series for the Folk Project based at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship (211 Normandy Heights Road) in Morristown, New Jersey. The date is this coming Friday, March 2 at 8 p.m.
The prolific entertainer is also well versed in the music of Scotland, having studied and lived there. In her band are guitarist Kyle Sanna and fiddler Dana Lyn.
|Kyle Sanna, Nuala Kennedy and Dana Lyn|
On Tuesday, March 6 at Sacred Heart University’s Schine Auditorium in Connecticut is the second in a series of lectures by the Center for Irish Cultural Studies organized by Dr. Gerald Reid.
Dr. Mick Moloney will be lecturing on the “History of the Banjo in Traditional Irish Music” at 7:30 p.m. Call 203-371-7765 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next night the harping chanteuse from Donegal, Moya Brennan has a special presentation called “Weaving a Celtic Past” that she performs with Cormac De Barra and her daughter Edel Bhreatnach.
There will be a performance on Wednesday, March 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the American Irish Historical Society (991 Fifth Avenue; 212-288-2263).
On Friday, March 9 at 9 p.m. is the Blarney Star Concert at Glucksman Ireland House at New York University (1 Washington Mews, one block north of Washington Square Park on Fifth Avenue).
Two stylish musicians well matched for the evening are fiddler Willie Kelly from New Jersey and uilleann piper Michael Cooney from Tipperary by way of Lake Placid, New York.
Both musicians were very much favored by the late Mike Rafferty for their beautiful music and steady tempos that suited his sensibilities. For more information visit www.blarneystar.com.
Bringing us up to the big day is another mega-concert at Symphony Space produced by the Irish Arts Center and Dr. Mick Moloney.
Moloney did a tour earlier this around Appalachia and the collaboration spawned the idea for “Celtic Appalachia: The Wondrous Story of Irish And African Influences on Old Time American, Country and Bluegrass Music,” the theme for a show on Thursday, March 15 at 8 p.m.
Once again you will see the Green Fields of America ensemble along with the Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra on stage anchoring the show.
Special guests from Virginia’s Crooked Road include Sammy Shelor, Wayne Henderson, Linda Lay, Eddie Bono, Kirk Sutphin and Leigh Beamer with an African storyteller (griot) named Cheick Hamala Diabate. And for good measure, the sons of Micheal O’Suilleabhain, Eoin and Moley O’Suilleabhain are also on the card.
It all takes place at Symphony Space at West 95th Street and Broadway in Manhattan, and tickets go to symphonyspace.org or call 212-864-5400. If you use code earlybird you will receive a discount.