Pack up the car! It is outdoor festival season in New England, time to get on the highway and discover terrific Irish and Celtic-flavored festivals and concerts from Rhode Island all the way up to Quebec City this June through September. You’ll find plenty of great traditional and contemporary music, along with various cultural, athletic, literary and social activities that make festivals so appealing to all ages.
The season kicks off with the 22nd annual Boston Irish Festival on June 8-10 on the spacious grounds of the 46-acre Irish Cultural Centre in Canton. Gaelic Storm kicks off the festival Friday night, followed on Saturday and Sunday by the Prodigals, Screaming Orphans, Devri, and the ever-popular Comhaltas set dancing tent, featuring Galway fiddler Larry Reynolds and some excellent musicians.
The center’s new executive director, Mary McTigue, is excited about this year’s festival, especially the first-ever 5K road race on Saturday morning, followed by a massive gathering of red heads for the Guinness book of records that afternoon. As always, there’s GAA sporting matches, genealogy advice, author readings and children’s activities.
McTigue, formerly executive director of the Boston Center for Adult Education, is talking about adding language immersion courses and a strong author series at the Centre later in the year. A promising new festival which launched last year is the Summer Solstice Festival, organized by Russell Gusetti, executive director of the Blackstone River Theatre, taking place on Saturday, June 16 at Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland, RI.
“The name Solstice was suggested by Irish singer Robbie O’Connell to officially welcome summer,” says Gussetti. Gusetti books Celtic traditional bands and their variants, such as the Norwegian-Irish fusion band NØÍR, slated to play this year. Other performers include Girsa, the all-women trad band from New York; Aoife Clancy and Robbie O’Connell; Matt and Shannon Heaton, fiddler Laurel Martin, Scottish singer Archie Fisher and Celtic ensembles Fellswater, The Forge, Runa and Pendragon.
Follow us on social media
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo
On Saturday, June 23, the Worcester Irish Music Festival, which started in 2009, returns to the limelight after missing last year due to restructuring. It’s taking place at the AOH- operated Hibernian Cultural Center, an important Irish headquarters serving all of Central
Massachusetts year round.
This year’s festival features local favorites the Jolly Beggers, Billy Egan and the Rising and the Tom Lanigan Band, plus plenty of vendors, cultural activities for families, food and beverage courts and Irish dancing. In western Massachusetts, the 19th annual Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival, on Saturday, July 21at Look Park in Florence/Northampton, offers a full day of Scottish cultural activities, highland games, clan gatherings and the like, says organizer Peter Langmore.
Headlining this year is Toronto’s favorite Celtic rock band, Enter the Haggis; Prydein, a Celtic Rock group from Vermont; the ever popular Bell Family, and solo star Charlie Zahm. The 26th Lowell Folk Festival on July 27-29 is a United Nations-type gathering of the world’s most interesting ethnic groups, nationalities and races, who share their music, dance, food and culture.
Ireland is ably represented this year by Lunasa, which has brought down the house in years past. Also check out the Clare Lynch Bluegrass Band, Riley Baugus and Kirk Sutpin on old time banjo and fiddle, and French Canadian accordionists Denis Pepin and Susie Lemay.
Speaking of Canada, one of the emerging cool festivals in the northeast is the 7th annual Quebec Celtic Festival, about 400 miles north of Boston. The festival runs from August 30 to September 16 throughout Quebec City, at concert halls, outdoor parks and pavilions, Irish pubs, and grand buildings in this historic city.
Finishing up the 2012 festival season is the New Hampshire Highland Games, on September 21-23 at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, NH. The largest gathering of Scottish musicians, dancers, pipers, athletes and cultural artisans in the Northeast has over 60 clans gathering each year.
Scottish fiddle master Alasdair Fraser and cello master Natalie Haas are returning for another electrifying performance. Other top musicians include fiddler Roy Johnstone and guitarist Steve Sharratt from Prince Edward Island; the multi-talented Searson Sisters from Ottawa; Scottish duo Bruce and Walker; piano accordionist John Carmichael; and Celtica, a high-energy Celtic Rock band.
Find more details by visiting IrishBoston.org/festivals.php.
concerts worth seeing
In addition to the festivals, don’t miss these concerts taking place at concert halls, pubs, folk clubs and seasonal venues in New England.
• On June 11 the Boston Celtic Music Fest, a collaborative of musicians from various Celtic backgrounds, honors Comhaltas leader Larry Reynolds at Club Passim in Harvard Square.
• On June 14, Scottish harpist Maeve Gilchrist performs an outdoor concert in Kendall Square, Cambridge, sponsored by Passim.
• On June 22, Celtic-influenced band Carbon Leaf and the Jason Spooner Trio play on the Rock n Blues Cruise, departing from the World Trade Center Pier in South Boston for a trip around Boston Harbor.
• On June 28, Dublin singer Colm O’Brien plays at Four Green Fields in Boston.
• On July 9, Irish singer Terry Brennan plays at the Black Rose Pub in Boston.
• On August 1, Lunasa performs at the Burren Pub in Davis Square, hosted by WGBH radio personality Brian O’Donovan.
• On August 10, An Evening with the Celtic Tenors and Ronan Tynan takes place at theSouth Shore Melody Tent in Cohasset.
• On August 12, the Celtic Tenors and Ronan Tynan move their great show to the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis, Cape Cod.
• On September 22, Celtic Thunder performs its Voyage Tour 2012 at Citi Performing Arts Center, Wang Theatre in Boston.
• On September 26, the Celtic Thunder show moves to the Capital Center in Concord NH, and on September 28 it goes to Oakdale Theater in Wallingford, CT.
• On September 26, phenomenal flute player Nuala Kennedy performs from her recent album, the New Shoes, at the Burren Pub in Davis Square, Somerville.
Find year-round Irish events in New England at IrishBoston.org.