Although BCMFest will have its traditional pause for the dinner hour shortly after the sun goes down Saturday, that won’t be the end of the festivities. After all, what better to follow dinner but a Nightcap?
The BCMFest Nightcap is the festival’s finale concert, the last dance of this two-day party. And “dance” definitely is the magic word for the Nightcap this year.
The concert, which takes place at First Parish Church in Harvard Square, will feature solo, duet, and group performances of dances from Ireland, Scotland and Cape Breton, performed by some of the most accomplished dancers in the Greater Boston area. They’ll be accompanied by a house band of top-notch local musicians and singers. And BCMFest’s good friend Brian O’Donovan of WGBH-FM’s “A Celtic Sojourn” will serve as emcee.
Two of our favorite traditional-style dancers, Jackie O’Riley and Jen Schoonover, are producing (and, thankfully, also taking part in) this year’s Nightcap. Jackie studied Irish step dancing at University College Cork with dancing master Peggy McTeggart and here in town with Kieran Jordan, another long-time BCMFest buddy. Jackie was inspired to learn the rich improvisational tradition of sean-nós dance, and the old-style step dancing which has influenced modern, competitive step dancing and now runs her own Irish dance program for children. In addition to BCMFest, Jackie has been part of the international sean-nós dance show “Atlantic Steps,” and has collaborated on projects with friend and fellow dancer Rebecca McGowan in Washington, DC – you can see Jackie and Rebecca earlier in the day Saturday as part of the production “Stepping Back.”
Jen’s excellent command of Scottish and Cape Breton dance is familiar to audiences at BCMFest, Gaelic Roots, NEFFA and elsewhere in Greater Boston as a member of Highland Dance Boston, and she has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, “Good Morning, America,” and the Chestico Days stepdancing festival in Cape Breton. Jen’s done behind-the-scenes stuff, too, such as co-choreographing Bonnie Rideout’s national production, “A Scottish Christmas.”
Jackie and Jen see this year’s Nightcap as celebrating the symbiosis between music and dance, and exploring the various roles dance traditions have fulfilled over the years, whether at small gatherings of friends, in competitions and performance settings. “Music is at the root of these dance traditions, where dancers often contribute to the music with sounds they make with their feet,” explains Jen. “In turn, dance has historically fueled musical forms. The two have always been intertwined, and we’re looking forward to putting them together again in the spotlight.”
Joining Jackie and Jen are the aforementioned Kieran, Kevin Doyle — a performer of old-style traditional Irish step dance and American tap dance whose resume includes “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn” — as well as Abbie MacQuarrie, who’s also been active with Highland Dance Boston and has been part of BCMFest since she was barely in high school.
Providing the music are John Coyne (bouzouki, vocals), Joey Abarta (uilleann pipes), Chris Stevens (accordion, concertina), Neil Pearlman (piano) and Katie McNally (fiddle), with singing by Mairin Ui Cheide and the duo of Donald Gillies and Kyte MacKillop.
It all shapes up to be a memorable evening, and a great showcase for Boston’s Celtic traditional dance. Have a Nightcap with us, won’t you?
Information on the BCMFest Nightcap and the rest of the festival is available here.