Wow, has it really been a week since BCMFest 2013 ended? Guess so. Photos and videos have been uploaded (and if you haven’t shared yours, please do so!), there have been warm, laudatory Facebook and Twitter posts, and BCMFest organizers are already looking ahead — well, within reason — to next year. So in that same spirit, some highlights of this, the 10th BCMFest.
It was a dark and damp, if not stormy, night for the kick-off concert, but Club Passim was nice and packed to give a listen to some of Boston’s finest young musicians for whom traditional music is both a calling and an inspiration for their own creativity. “New Tunes from Boston: Boston’s Celtic Composers” featured a pair of fiddle-guitar duos grounded in the traditions of Scotland and Cape Breton (Katie McNally & Eric McDonald) and Ireland (Amanda Cavanaugh & Max Newman), as well as Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, who teamed up with former Whiskey Boy guitarist Mark Kilianski and mandolinist Dan Bui to play a set that brought in some Appalachian as well as Celtic influences, and Molly Pinto Madigan, who in addition to a fine selection of her own grounded-in-tradition songs offered up a stirring a cappella rendition of the traditional Irish lament “The Banks of the Lee,” fairly nailing the ornamentation.
And yes, there was a big finish.
Not far away, at The Atrium, the ever-popular Boston Urban Ceilidh was in full swing. The premise of the BUC (“where contra dance meets mosh pit”) is straightforward: Don’t sweat it, just get up and dance. And while there were plenty of experienced dancers present, it was an unabashed pleasure to see other folks who had little or no knowledge of grand rights-and-lefts or sevens give it the old BUC try — we learn as we do, right?
Anyway, you had your Cape Breton segment, with Mary MacGillivray doing the calling — and, at one point, showing off her own steps — and music supplied by the estimable trio of fiddlers Emerald Rae and Rachel Reeds and pianist Janine Randall.
And you had your Irish portion of the BUC, calling by Lisa Chaplin and mighty music by Core 4, as well as some performances by the O’Shea-Chaplin Academy of Irish Dance (whom, it should be noted, did not stay on the sidelines between their exhibitions but full-heartedly joined in the social maelstrom out on the floor).
And finally, the Scottish ceilidh climax, starring Laura Cortese and a specially augmented incarnation of her Boston Urban Ceilidh Band that included fiddle, pipes/whistle, trumpet(!), keyboards, electric guitar, electric bass and drums. Not to mention everyone’s favorite, fashionable ceilidh dance caller, Hanneke Cassel.
This is the big one: 12 hours (give or take) of BCMFest. This year, BCMFest’s “DayFest” began with events/activities with families in mind, and Club Passim was chock full of young’uns enjoying the songs, tunes and enthusiasm of The Bell Family, a hurdy-gurdy demo by Lindsay Adler and a kids singalong by Matt Heaton (who, by the way, was nominated as this year’s BCMFest “MVP” for doing triple duty on Saturday; in addition to the singalong, he accompanied the all-teen fiddle quartet Skylark and then fronted his own “Surf Sligo” set — this after having played at the aforementioned BUC the previous night).
At BCMFest, though, young people aren’t just in the audience, they’re often up on stage. Such was the case with the aforementioned Bell Family (including Katie and Calum, who’ve been performing with parents Jerry and Nancy since the first W. Bush Administration) and Skylark (here’s a video from their set at Passim), as well as the Coyne Family — John and Lisa plus born-to-the-session Josie and Rory (here’s a clip of them).
Once DayFest hits full throttle, you have a choice of four, count ‘em four, venues to choose from, at Club Passim and nearby First Parish Church. Some of us stay put, but some of us are inclined to ramble (hey, what a great title for a traditional song!), and no one did it better than our good and dear friend Michael McNally, who seemed to be everywhere with his camera, very effectively capturing the variety to be found at DayFest. All yours, Michael…
Whew. But there’s still the evening’s finale concert at First Parish. And no better person to officiate the proceedings than Brian O’Donovan, a longtime BCMFest supporter in many ways.
First up was a blast of Cape Breton music by Emerald Rae (fiddle), Matthew Phelps (pipes) and Janine Randall (piano). Emerald, incidentally, besides explaining various aspects of the tradition, also described the different ways to encourage and cheer on Cape Breton musicians (and you thought “Tssssssss!” was how people used to hiss vaudeville show villains).
Onto bonnie Scotland, and if you ever wanted to hear kilt jokes, Jerry Bell is your man. And a great man he is, too.
After Jerry’s boffo, unique (and PG-13) introduction, Highland Dance Boston took the stage for a performance of choreography rooted in tradition while also mindful of contemporary styles and ideas. In any case, their set was equal parts strength, agility and grace.
The second half of the concert began with a surprise tribute by the BCMFest Committee to festival co-founders Laura Cortese and Shannon Heaton, which included gift certificates for ice cream (a key component in the origin of BCMFest) and a serenade by all present of “Wild Mountain Thyme.”
And then came the finale’s third act, a showcase of Irish music that kicked off with the New England Harp Orchestra.
…followed by a set from faculty and students representing the Boston Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann School of Music, as part of a tribute to the late Larry Reynolds, a much-beloved figure in Boston’s Irish music scene for decades, and a co-founder of the Boston Comhaltas branch and the music school. Their set, and the concert, closed out in appropriate fashion with a grand set of reels and a guest appearance by dancer Nic Gariess.
So there it was: one decade of BCMFest done, surely many more to follow. As always, BCMFest brims with endless gratitude for the volunteers and other supporters, so many of them seldom glimpsed, who make the festival possible. Equally warm feelings go to the musicians, singers, dancers, dance callers and other performers at BCMFest who exemplify the richness of Boston’s Celtic nation. And, most of all, a raised glass to the people who come out to BCMFest and make a point of enjoying themselves, thereby ensuring a continued purpose in life for the BCMFest Committee (and its official blog).
What did you like (or not like) about BCMFest 2013? What would you like to see at BCMFest in the future? Drop a line to the BCMFest Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Links to (most) BCMFest 2013 performers, including those mentioned in this post, are available at Passim’s BCMFest site.