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Annual Celtic festival to include Karan Casey and Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas as special guest mentors
Boston Celtic Music Fest (BCMFest), a program of Cambridge nonprofit Passim, will mark its 18th year by bringing some of Boston’s favorite Celtic music and dance performers to homes throughout the world in a new virtual format. Continuing its mission of celebrating the Greater Boston area’s rich trove of music, song and dance from Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton and other related traditions, BCMFest will feature streaming performances and workshops from January 14-18, 2021.
BCMFest also spotlights renowned artists from the U.S. and abroad who have formed ties with the local Celtic music community. The festival continues one of its more recent innovations: inviting select performers to serve as special guest “mentors,” and share their insights and experiences as well as their talents. This year’s mentors are Irish singer-songwriter Karan Casey and the fiddle-cello duo Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas; they will take part in the BCMFest Nightcap finale concert, and also conduct workshops through the Passim School of Music.
BCMFest will offer diverse styles and sound sounds, whether strongly rooted in traditional styles or reflecting contemporary influences and perspectives. Among the acts scheduled to appear are Matt & Shannon Heaton, Joey Abarta, Hanneke Cassel & Yann Falquet, Katie McNally & Neil Pearlman, Scottish Fish, Jenna Moynihan, and the Atlantic Folk Trio.
BCMFest 2021 will kick off on Thursday, January 14, 7:00PM with the First Round Concert featuring Scottish Fish; Martin, Beaton & Brillhart; Joey Abarta; and Hanneke Cassel & Yann Falquet.
The festival continues with the Roots & Branches Concert on Friday, January 15 from 7:00PM with Jenna Moynihan; the Atlantic Folk Trio; The Quartet of Irish Musicians with Laura Feddersen, Nathan Gourley, Cara Frankowicz & Alan Murray; and Katie McNally & Neil Pearlman.
A full slate of performances is on tap for Saturday, January 16, with Dayfest (2:00-7:00 PM) with Molly Pinto Madigan; Elizabeth & Ben Anderson; Niamh McGillycuddy, Seamus Noonan & Yuriy and Misha Bane; The Treaty Trio; Will Woodson & Caitlin Finley; Rakish; Corner House; Yaniv Yacoby & Eric Boodman; Matt & Shannon Heaton; a screening of From the Floor, a “visual album” of Irish dance, and a showcase of young Boston-area Irish musicians (Niamh McGillycuddy, Seamus Noonan, and Yuriy and Misha Bane).
The festival continues Saturday evening at 8:00 PM with the Nightcap concert with Irish singer-songwriter Karan Casey and the fiddle-cello duo Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas. Karen Casey is an Irish native with a background that includes classical and jazz as well as traditional Irish music. A founding member of the acclaimed Irish-American band Solas and the lead singer for the Boston-based fiddle ensemble Childsplay, Casey has built a successful career as a solo artist and released seven solo albums, which showcase her songwriting as well as her interest in other musical forms, including jazz, blues and R&B. In 2018, she helped to found FairPlé, an organization aimed at achieving fairness and gender balance for female performers in Irish traditional and folk music.
A compelling partnership of sounds and sensations, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas have for years been among the most popular duos in the Celtic music scene. Fraser is one of the leading Scottish fiddlers of the past few decades, and Haas (a Boston-area resident since 2016) has been a foundational figure in the use of cello in various forms of traditional music. In their duets, the two exchange riffs, trade off melody versus rhythm, and otherwise converse in various tones of emotion and intensity, drawing on Scottish and other Celtic traditions, as well as elements of Scandinavian, Breton, American, classical, jazz, and other music forms.
The festival finishes with a number of virtual workshops presented with Passim School of Music including one presented by Karan Casey on January 17, in which she will explore songs related to social justice. Drawing from her extensive repertoire and exploring the texts and meaning behind the songs’ lyrics, Casey will speak on issues raised within a performance and how to navigate the need to speak on social justice and a sense of fairness towards the audience’s “night out.”
Fraser and Haas will talk about and demonstrate their music as part of a class on January 18. Molly Pinto Madigan will present a workshop on ballad-inspired songwriting (January 18, 11:00AM). Additional workshops will be announced soon.
BCMFest committee members say this year’s festival is about staying connected, not only to Boston but the wider world. During a year in which venues have closed and live events have been canceled, they note, Celtic performers have turned to technology as never before to share their music and dance, whether through social media, teleconferencing apps, MP3s, YouTube videos, or other means – and, in doing so, linking the Celtic music community in Boston with many others.
In a message earlier this fall to festival performers and attendees, the committee said, “Instead of lamenting the BCMFest we can’t have – where we’d be sitting in Club Passim and The Sinclair or dancing in The Atrium – we will explore new, creative ways to enjoy this music in a virtual setting, making full use of the possibilities this technology presents. And we believe that special BCMFest energy and vibe, which performers and audience alike know so well, will shine through.”
The 2021 festival will be available for viewing via the Passim YouTube site; schedule information and workshop registration is available at www.passim.org/bcmfest.
The mission of Passim is to provide truly exceptional and interactive live musical experiences for both performers and audiences, to nurture artists at all stages of their career, and to build a vibrant music community. Passim does so through their legendary listening venue, music school, artist grants and outreach programs. As a nonprofit since 1994, Passim carries on the heritage of our predecessors-the historic Club 47 (1958-1968) and for-profit Passim (1969-1994). We cultivate a diverse mix of musical traditions, where the emphasis is on the relationship between performers and audience and teachers and students. Located in Harvard Square, Passim serves Cambridge and the broader region by featuring local, national and international artists. Our ultimate goal is to help the performance arts flourish and thereby enrich the lives of members of our community. For a complete schedule, visit www.passim.org.