Monday, December 27, 2010

Boston Celtic Music Festival on the way

January in Boston is usually a time when the weather is unpredictable, maybe cold, might snow, a time that draws people to think of staying indoors. That plays a part in why the Boston Celtic Music Festival takes place then.

Festival founders Shannon Heaton and Laura Cortese are professional musicians, so they know that touring musicians are often off the road during the depths of winter. Thinking about that, they also saw a chance to create a festival that would bring together musicians of varied Celtic backgrounds who work in and around Boston. In addition to the widely known Irish music community, there are many top players and singers with ties to Cape Breton, Scotland, and other Celtic lands.

It was an inspired idea. The festival, which takes place this year on January 7th and 8th, is going into its eighth season. Over the years, the family friendly event has focused on varied themes, from music featuring Boston to rising young players. This year, Heaton and Cortese, who still serve on the board of the artist run festival, say that events will highlight the connections between players and singers, melody and words. “In our experience, we’ve found the fiddlers, flutists, accordionists and other musicians love hearing good singers and songs – just as singers appreciate musicians who excel at showing their love of the instrumental tradition” says Cortese. “So BCMFest’s point of view is, why separate tunes and songs? Let’s get everyone together and enjoy the whole spectrum of Celtic music.”

long time courting
hanneka cassel copyright kerry dexter

That idea will play out over an opening concert Friday night featuring Long Time Courting, a four woman group which is known equally for fine singing and strong instrumental chops on cello, flute, guitar, and fiddle. That will take place at Club Passim in Harvard Square. Over in Watertown, the Boston Urban Ceilidh will rock the Canadian American Club with likely some of the highest energy and most fun dancing you’ve come across, fueled by music from Cortese, Hanneke Cassel, Kimberley Fraser, and others.

On Saturday, DayFest Stages at Passim and at First Parish Church will include a range of concerts and sessions. Power Ballads, Celtic Style, will be one of the events planned around a theme. Lissa Schneckenburger, Bethany Waickman, and other will be part of Lift Every Voice, the Royal Scottish Dance Company of Boston will take the Sanctuary Stage at First Parish, and Shannon Heaton will present tunes from her album The Blue Dress. At present, about twenty events will take place during DayFest . Further concerts and performers may be added as schedules unfold

The festival will conclude, as has become its tradition, with a concert in the sanctuary of First Parish Church. The members of Halali -- Laura Cortese, Lissa Schneckenburger, Flynn Cohen, and Hanneke Cassel -- will perform, along with a range of special guests yet to be announced.

The Boston Celtic Music Festival lights up winter in New England. Go, if you at all can. More information about tickets, schedules, and performers may be had at the festival’s web site,

you may also wish to see

The Boston Celtic Music Festival: a look back
Hanneke Cassel: For Reasons Unseen
Another Fine Winter's Night: Matt & Shannon Heaton
Music Road: Best Music, 2010

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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