A music festival during the famously cold and changeable weather of New England in January? That’s a time when musicians are usually off the road and making plans for their next year of gigs and travels. As professional musicians, festival founders Laura Cortese and Shannon Heaton knew about that, and with their involvement in varied Celtic music projects around the Boston area, they realized something else: there was no single festival where musicians from Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, and other Celtic traditions which flourish in the region focused on getting together and interacting. So they started one: the Boston Celtic Music Festival, BCM Fest as it’s known for short. Nearly a decade later, this artist founded and still artist run festival is going strong.

This year, the festival takes place on January 6th and 7th, with all the events in venues near Harvard Square in Cambridge. Things kick off with a concert featuring many of Boston’s best Celtic singers and players at the intimate Club Passim. This is followed by the Boston Urban Ceilidh, an event which has been described as Celtic music meets mosh pit. Maybe that’s a bit extreme — or maybe not — but in any case there will be high energy dancing to high energy music music from across the Celtic world, along with instruction in Celtic dance steps if you like. The ceilidh has been held in different places around the area through the years. This time. it will be at The Atrium, close enough to Passim that there will be a sure to be fun procession from one venue to the other as the concert winds down and the dance begins.

On Saturday, the day will be be filled with concerts and workshops, back at Club Passim, and in several areas of First Parish Church nearby. NØÍR will offer a meeting of Irish and N Irish and Norwegian music, Ken Perlman and Jim Prendergast will play a range of Irish, Scottish, Canadian and American tunes and songs on five string banjo and guitar, Kyle Carey will bring her thoughtful original songs drawing on her experiences in Appalachia, Cape Breton, and Ireland, and Hannah Sanders and Liz Simmons will add rich voices in lead and harmony to traditional and contemporary folk song. That’s just an inkling of what will be going on during the day, and in keeping with what has become a BCMFest tradition of sorts there are bound to be a few less than serious things, too. Already scheduled are a Bawdy Breakfast set of songs and a look at several of Michael Jackson’s hits done Celtic style.

To close out the festival there’s another BCMFest tradition: a concert in the sanctuary of First Parish Church, a place whose spare setting and long connection with history and faith lend itself to welcoming music. Guitar wizards Matt Heaton and Flynn Cohen will present the concert, which will include many festival performers along with special guests, as all join to share celebration of music, winter, and the Celtic communities of New England.

there’s information about tickets, schedules and other festival things at
Boston Celtic Music Festival web site

you might also want to
check out a nearby place to eat: Oggi Gourmet at Harvard Square
take a look back at what things were like at earlier years of the festival
learn more about upcoming events at Club Passim

photograph of Matt and Shannon Heaton performing at Club Passim is by Kerry Dexter, and is copyrighted. thank you for respecting that.

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Kerry Dexter is one of six writers who contribute to Perceptive Travel’s blog. You will often find her writing about places, events, and people connected with music, history, and the arts in Europe and North America. You may find more of Kerry's work at her site Music Road as well as in Wandering Educators, National Geographic Traveler, Ireland and the Americas, and other places online and in print.

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