The fifth annual Boston Celtic Music Fest (BCMFest) took place this past weekend (Jan. 11 and 12), with more than two-dozen acts featuring music, song and dance from Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton and other Celtic and Celtic-derived traditions. Festivities began on Friday night with a "kick-off concert" at Club Passim in Harvard Square and the Boston Urban Ceilidh -- an occasional event that bills itself as "contra dance meets mosh pit" -- at Springstep in Medford.
The festival started up again Saturday morning and continued all afternoon, with concerts at Passim and three different stages in the First Parish Church of Cambridge. Among the featured acts this year were Matt and Shannon Heaton with Kieran Jordan and Dan Gurney; The New Tyme Sisters (Emerald Rae and Eden Forman with guest Emma Beaton); Flynn Cohen and Liz Simmons; The Boston Kiltics; The Burren Youth Session, an Irish music group comprised mainly of high school students; Tina Lech and Ted Davis; the trio of Helena Delaney, Chris Stevens and Andy Collins; Amanda Cavanaugh and Sean Gannon; and an ad hoc version of Local Hero, a Scottish music ensemble directed by keyboardist-accordionist Susie Petrov, who recruited cellist Natalie Haas, fiddler Calum Pasqua and -- from Edinburgh -- piper Dan Houghton for the occasion. A special event this year was a tribute to the landmark Andy Irvine-Paul Brady album of 1977, performed by Matt Heaton and Flynn Cohen.
A finale concert, "Celtic Roots, American Branches," in the First Parish Church topped off the weekend. Produced and directed by BCMFest co-founders Laura Cortese and Shannon Heaton, who led the evening's "house band," the concert had at least one representative from every act involved, and included some special guests, such as Lissa Schneckenburger, and tradition-bearers Brendan Tonra, Jack Conroy and Helen Kiesel.
Climaxing the concert was the debut of "Before We Sleep," a song penned by Cortese and Heaton to celebrate the spirit of BCMFest, followed by a lively, en masse version of the popular Irish reel "The Bucks of Oranmore."
As was noted during the concert, BCMFest is no longer a once-a-year affair; through a collaboration with Club Passim, BCMFest presents a series, Celtic Music Monday, on the second Monday of each month, that showcases some of the area's best Celtic music performers. (The series continues next month, Feb. 11, with brilliant young accordionist Dan Gurney and special guests, including guitarist Mark Simos.)
Photos, including those above, from this year's and previous BCMFests can be viewed at the BCMFest Myspace page, at http://www.myspace.com/bcmfest (you don't have to register to access them). For more information about BCMFest, go to http://bcmfest.com.