The Burren Backroom Series, launched in October of 2011, has firmly established itself as one of the premiere series, focusing on traditional music, in the world. A new CD featuring tracks from the first three years, was released in January of 2015 to much acclaim. The shows are now well known for their intimacy, pristine sound, and affable audience and the unique atmosphere created by well-known traditional musicians Tommy McCarthy & Louise Costello.

Hosted by Brian O'Donovan of "A Celtic Sojourn”, these gatherings feature core performers from many aspects of traditional Celtic music as well as special guests, and conversations around the music. They are broadcast regularly on WGBH radio in Boston on Saturday afternoons, and on the internet at www.wgbh.org/celtic.

Tickets prices vary, with a $5 discount for WGBH Members. If you are a member, send an e-mail to celtic@wgbh.org to get the discount code.

Upcoming Shows...

  Seating is VERY limited and most shows sell out in advance, so get your tickets today!
Colin Farrell, Johnny B. Connolly, and Cary Novotny
Wednesday July 12 @ 7:30pm


What a trio this brings together! Colin Farrell (regularly touring with Lunasa), Johnny B. Connolly (most recently of Solas) and Oregon-based guitarist, Cary Novotny. A great night of tunes and songs.

Jesse Smith, Sean Gavin, and John Blake
Wednesday July 19 @ 7:30pm

Touring to support the release of their new CD, Music from a Lost Continent, this trio of musicians bring a sensibility and sensitivity to their music that is second to none.

Jesse Smith and Sean Gavin are American born but from traditional music royalty, and John Blake, a multi-instrumentalist from London Irish background is one of my favorite accompanists - not to mention his formidable skills on the flute. This will be just a lovely night. Take a listen below to the wonderful blend of Jesse's fiddle and Sean on flute below. Outstanding...

Pauline Coneely and Dave Curley
Sunday Jul 23 @ 4pm

Both steeped in Irish music, dance and culture, Dave Curley and Pauline Conneely, two world-renowned musicians, will perform at the Burren Backroom Concert Series.

Pauline founded the band Chicago Reel, has performed with Grammy nominated Liz Carroll, The Chieftains, Cherish the Ladies and many others. She has recently been awarded with Best Solo CD of the Year [2016] by Irish American news.
Dave is a multi-instrumentalist and a member of the award-winning bands SLIDE and The Brock McGuire band. He's performed with Grammy winner Moya Brennan, Goitse, John Doyle, Mick Broderick, and others.


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Róisín O
Wednesday July 26 @ 7:30pm


Róisín O is an Irish singer, songwriter, and musician, and released her debut album The Secret Life of Blue in 2012, and was described by the Sunday Times as "evoking the likes of Joni Mitchell, Joanna Newsom and Kate Bush."  Her second CD (see video below) is getting a lot of well deserved attention, and O will be including a lot of material from it in her live performance.  

Róisín is the daughter of singer Mary Black and brings a deep family history of music into her performances and song writing.  Here brother, Danny O'Reilly is also in her band as well as his own project The Coronas.

Take a listen below.  


Makem and Clancy....the next generation..
Wednesday Aug 2 @ 7:30pm

The duo of Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy had a HUGE impact on folk music around the world in the 1970s and 80s. Some classic versions of songs and memorable performances came from the duo, and some of their recordings have passed into "classic" status in many collections.  

Well, their sons Rory Makem and Donal Clancy, no strangers to impactful music themselves, have decided to get together to explore the magic of their fathers while bringing their own very different experiences and talents to the mix.  I got to see them for the first time at Tommy McCarthy's benefit concert for mental health awareness at the National Concert Hall in Dublin last year. They had gotten together for the first time at Milwaukee Irish Festival the previous August, and their reception in Dublin convinced them they should get together again.    

They are coming back to Milwaukee and have decided to pay The Burren a visit.  They will perform two shows on this night, and if I was to bet, I would say both will sell out quickly.  This concert I think, will be a piece of musical folk history.  Don't miss out on it. Below, a Milwaukee audience member captured this magic redo of Brennan on the Moor.

Socks in the Frying Pan
Wednesday Aug 9 @ 7:30pm


A highly anticipated return of this brilliant and hilarious trio from Clare.  The last time they were with us, they sold out completely and fast!  They are a multi-award winning trio from County Clare on the West coast of Ireland, the universal hub of Irish traditional music. Their dynamic vocal harmonies, virtuosic musical ability and their onstage wit has captured and captivated audiences the world around. One of the most sought after groups in Irish music today, the worldwide Sock Invasion continues!  Check them out in the video below...



Coig. High impact from Nova Scotia...
Wednesday Sep 6th @ 7:30pm

This band just rocked our St. Patrick's Day Celtic Sojourn series of concerts back in 2014. What a punch they packed with dramatic piano accompaniment to fiddle, banjo, and great vocals.  Originally formed as a promo band for the burgeoning Celtic Colors Festival in Cape Breton, the audience reception was so gushing as to have them decide to stay together.

Just look at the accolades that have come their way.WINNER of the 2014 Canadian Folk Music Award for Traditional Album of the Year. WINNER of the 2015 East Coast Music Award for Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year.WINNER of the 2014 Music Nova Scotia Award for Traditional/Roots Recording of the Year

Now back with a new CD, they are looking at this as their Burren Backroom debut, and we are proud to host them.  Check out their sound below....

Còig - Studio Session


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The Jeremy Kittel Trio... Returns...
Wednesday Sep 13 @ 7:30pm


Returning to the Backroom Series for the second time, this trio sold out clean the last time they played with us, and wow! did they deliver to the packed audience.  

But don't take my word for it.  If you were there, you'll remember this below.  If not, get in on the action early.  This will be classic.  Oh my.  


The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc with Qristina & Quinn Bachand.
Wednesday Sep 27 @ 7:30pm

he Nordic Fiddlers Bloc with Qristina & Quinn Bachand

Holy smokes. This will be a rocking, rollicking night of roots music from all around the world - Celtic, Scandinavian, Bluegrass, Quebecois, Acadian, Classical... and god only knows what else - and I mean that in the very best way.

The Nordics have been with us before; for one of our more memorable Christmas Celtic shows in 2015, for a Burren Backroom Series just this past year, and several other area performances.  Canadian brother and sister duo, Qristina & Quinn Bachand, artfully meld heart-swelling, stomp and clap Celtic Roots with progressive Indie Folk, with results that are arresting, provocative, stimulating and thoroughly intoxicating.  From Canada's rugged and storied west coast, Quinn is part of the Jeremy Kittel trio and I saw him solo recently at Glasgow's Celtic Connections. Qrstina is fast gaining a reputation as one of the very best musicians in young roots-based music today.

Here are some examples, starting with the Nordic Fiddlers below.

Open the Door for Three. Liz Knowles, Kieran O'Hare, Pat Broaders
Sunday Oct 1 @ 4pm

Each time this band has played the series, the audience has left exhilarated.  "Road-tested, audience-approved, high-octane, fist-in-glove, laughing-out-loud trio of Irish musicians" is how this new trio has been described and if their new CD is any indication, this will once again, be one of the great nights of music in the Backroom Series this year.  

Each individually is well known in their field;  Liz as one of the best and most diverse fiddlers, Ciaran as a well travelled Piper (who was a star of the 2011 edition of A Christmas Celtic Sojourn btw), and Pat Broaders multi instrumentalist specializing on bouzouki, singer, and Dublin raconteur. (Liz btw, will be one of the star fiddlers we have lined up for the 2017 series of Christmas Celtic Sojourn, so watch for that.)  

Coming together as they have in a trio named after a well known Irish jig, a most interesting and entertaining concert of music, songs and wit is on tap with this one.

Check them out below.  

Open the Door for Three live at Celtic Colours International Festival 2015

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Night Tree: CD Release Party
Wednesday Oct 11 @ 7:30pm


Inspired by fiddler and Solas founder Win Horan, I went to see these guys in a recital at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall this spring and it was just jaw dropping. Taking the traditional base that Win had introduced and using all of the chops, skills, and musical curiosity these six musicians had assembled, a unique sound was created.  Such was the impact, that all of the professors and NEC in addition to Win herself and several others involved in music advised them to stay together, record an album and tour it.  And that is precisely what they are doing.  

Produced by Seamus Egan, this new recording will be celebrated in their official CD release party as part of our series.  Anything goes this night, and I just can't wait for the recording - and the celebration of it in Somerville.  Hope you can join us for this one.  Check them out below as an opener for Solas in Beverly.   

Caitlín Nic Gabhann and Ciarán Ó Maonaigh
Wednesday Oct 18 @ 7:30pm

he Nordic Fiddlers Bloc with Qristina & Quinn Bachand

Acclaimed musicians each in their own right, Caitlín Nic Gabhann and Ciarán Ó Maonaigh have joined forces to create one of traditional musics most impressive acts. The pairs spirited music and dance is rooted in the tradition; brimming with soul and life. Through fiddle, concertina and dance, Caitlín and Ciarán breathe fire into musical pieces, combining their arts with chemistry and energy.

Caitlín and Ciarán have a connection as deep as the Irish folk traditions they come out of. Their music is a joyful unleashing of talents learnt at the hearths of their parents, family and friends.

Don Stiffe
Sunday Oct 22 @ 7:30pm

Don Stiffe is one of the great singer/songwriters to emerge on the Irish Folk Scene over the past two decades. Stiffe hails from Galway and his singing prowess is up there with the greats that Ireland has produced.  

Recently, as part of John Spillane's excellent exploration of the great ballads of Ireland, Don was asked about the song Skibbereen.  He then gave a really special version of it.  

With Cherish the Ladies, Kathleen Boyle on piano (and excellent harmonization), check it out below.

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The Fretless WITH Low Lily...double bill
Wednesday Oct 25 @ 7:30pm

e Nordic Fiddlers Bloc with Qristina & Quinn Bachand

Two amazing bands separately - and knowing what we know about the traditions of the series - together!  

The Fretless played with us a few years ago and have a unique take on the music. Specializing in string music they bring it fascinating places transforming fiddle tunes and folk melodies into intricate, beautiful, high-energy arrangements.

Low Lily are a trio formerly known as Annalivia.  They explore the roots and branches of American folk music with traditional influences and modern inspiration weaving together a unique brand of acoustic music. Liz Simmons (vocals and guitar) Flynn Cohen (vocals, guitar, and mandolin) and Lissa Schneckenburger (vocals and fiddle) are masterful players with deep relationships to traditional music styles ranging from bluegrass, to Irish, Scottish, New England, and Old Time Appalachian sounds.  When you combine this with stellar composition skills and inventive arrangements you get music that is rooted yet contemporary.

A brilliant double bill.  Check them out below .

The Press Gang
Wednesday Nov 1 @ 7:30pm

THE PRESS GANG perform the instrumental dance music of Ireland on fiddle, accordion, and guitar,and now with Hanz Araki in the line-up, terrific vocals (just see below.)  Based in Portland, Maine, these three musicians have become popular over the past four years for their skillful playing and deep understanding of the musicand for their humorous stage presence.

This will be a celebration of a new CD, and as such, will most likely have many musical guests.  Looking forward to this ALOT!  

Take a listen to this...

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Maeve Gilchrist and Keith Murphy
Wednesday Nov 8 @ 7:30pm


Talk about musicians having currency. These two are in serious demand for the musicality and also for their talents as artistic/musical directors.  Maeve is the Assistant Music Director for A Christmas Celtic Sojourn, and Keith has been music director for our St. Patrick's Day series for the past five years.  

Harp, vocals, Scotland, Ireland, guitar, mandolin, Newfoundland, Vermont, Cape Breton, Richard Thompson, original tunes, Quebecois, Acadian, percussion... all come to mind when I think of each of these folks.  Together, well the sky is the limit, but I do know that this is one of the shows I am most excited about this Fall.  Take a listen to the two tracks below....   

Annual Benefit For Somerville Homeless Coalition
Wednesday Dec 6 @ 7:30pm

This is always a sell-out and features the best in eclectic music and some Christmas Sing-Alongs as well. Now a Boston-area tradition and for such a greatcause. I would get tickets NOW if I were you! This event sells out quickly..

It will feature as always a wide variety of local and visiting talent. The purpose is to raise funds for the Somerville Homeless Coalition while celebrating the diversity of live music in this wonderful space. Again, 100% of everything goes to Somerville Homeless, so please be generous.

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Tony McManus. Returns for a rare area performance...
Wednesday Dec 13 @ 7:30pm


Tony McManus has been a featured performer in A Christmas Celtic Sojourn and St. Patrick's Day Celtic Sojourn as well as a regular visitor to WGBH.  But only played our Backroom series once before and not since 2013, so this will be a treat.  

To find a unique voice on so ubiquitous an instrument as the acoustic guitar is quite an achievement: to do so within a centuries old idiom where the instrument has no real history is truly remarkable.

Tony McManus has come to be recognized throughout the world as the leading guitarist in Celtic Music. From early childhood his twin obsessions of traditional music and acoustic guitar have worked together to produce a startlingly original approach to this ancient art. In Tony's hands the complex ornamentation normally associated with fiddles and pipes are accurately transferred to guitar in a way that preserves the integrity and emotional impact of the music.

Self taught from childhood, initially through listening to the family record collection, McManus abandoned academia in his twenties to pursue music full time. The session scene in Glasgow and Edinburgh provided the springboard for gigs around Scotland and a studio set for BBC Radio, frequently rebroadcast, began to spread the word.

  Stay tuned....more shows to be announced....