Music at the Maine Celtic Celebration

From Friday night to Sunday afternoon, music from the Celtic nations will fill the air around Belfast Common.  Check back for the full schedule of performances and activities as we get closer to the festival!

We are excited to welcome the duo of Wendy MacIsaac & Mary Jane Lamond to headline the Maine Celtic Celebration stage for the first time. This duo is well known for over two decades of performance showcasing the Scottish Gaelic musical traditions of Nova Scotia. Their 2012 album Seinn received rave reviews throughout the US and Canada. “Their guitar-and-fiddle matchup is beautifully balanced, behind butter-smooth vocals and timeless melodies,” said a reviewer on NPR, which named the album as one of the year’s top 10 folk and Americana albums. In November 2013, Seinn won a Canadian Folk Music Award for traditional album of the year and a Music Nova Scotia award for traditional/roots recording of the year.

Mary Jane Lamond fell in love with Scottish Gaelic traditions and song while visiting her grandparents on Cape Breton Island as a child. She later enrolled in St. Francis Xavier University’s Celtic Studies program and released her first album Bho Thir Nan Craobh, a collection of traditional material that introduced her unique singing voice. She has continued to dedicate her musical career to the collection and preservation of Scottish Gaelic songs.

Wendy MacIsaac is an award-winning fiddler, piano player and step dancer from Creignish, Cape Breton. She has been performing since age 5 as a step dancer and began taking fiddle lessons at age 12. By age 15, Wendy was playing dances all over Cape Breton. With five records to her credit, Wendy has toured all over the world as a solo performer, with The Rankin Family, with her group Beolach, and with Mary Jane Lamond.

Wendy and Mary Jane are both skillful teachers, in high demand at festivals around the world. We can’t wait to have them share their love of traditional music with us this summer!

Johnny B. Connolly, Colin Farrell, Cary Novotny

This trio is a collaboration of three individually accomplished musicians. Colin Farrell was born in Manchester, England to a very musical Irish family and started playing fiddle and tin whistle at a very early age. He was awarded a Masters degree in music from Limerick University and has performed in Europe and the US with a wide variety of other Celtic musicians including John Doyle, Tim O’Brien and the group Lunasa. When not touring, Colin teaches at various schools and camps. In 2015, Colin’s second album, Make a Note, was awarded Instrumental Album of the Year by LiveIreland.

Johnny B Connolly has a reputation as an accomplished button accordionist. Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Johnny has been immersed in Irish traditional music since he was eight years old. He has performed or recorded with many internationally renowned artists including Kevin Burke, the Chieftains, Anam, and Altan. His debut album Bridgetown (Green Linnet), named after his adopted hometown of Portland, Oregon was called “the most exciting solo debut from an Irish artist in years” by The Irish Herald.  While based in Portland, Johnny tours nationally and internationally as a member of several groups including SOLAS, The Nuala Kennedy Band, The Colleen Raney Band, and Celtic Legends.

Cary Novotny’s distinct style of guitar playing has made him one of the most sought after accompanists in traditional Irish music.  Maine Celtic Celebration regulars will be familiar with Cary who has appeared several times as a member of The Hanz Araki Band. Cary’s early training was in classical guitar, but he discovered a love and aptitude for Irish music at a young age while travelling in Ireland.  In his 20+ year career, he has recorded and performed with many great Irish musicians worldwide, including Kevin Burke, The Bridies, Larry Nugent, and the touring Irish dance show Celtic Legends.

The Press Gang
Hailing from Portland, Maine, the Press Gang is a returning Maine Celtic Celebration favorite. The group unites the talents of four outstanding musicians into an energetic, creative, musical partnership – Christian Stevens on accordion, Alden Robinson on fiddle, Owen Marshall on guitar, and Hanz Araki on flute and vocals. As American performers in the Irish tradition, the quartet blends their skill and fluency in Irish music with their curiosity and aptitude for other styles.

Christian “Junior” Stevens has become an influential member of the Irish Traditional Music community in America, particularly in New England where his proficiency on both concertina and accordion is nothing short of phenomenal. He is an in-demand performer and teacher.

Alden Robinson learned the fiddle as a child in coastal Maine, and furthered his education in traditional music at University College, Co. Cork in Ireland. He quickly became recognizable as a new voice in Irish-American fiddle music and became a staple of the traditional music scene in New England. Alden continues to travel throughout the U.S. and Ireland to expand his already impressive repertoire.

Multi-instrumentalist Owen Marshall is one of the most highly sought-after accompanist in the United States. With his unique sense of harmony and rhythm, he has traveled and performed all over the world with many of the top acts in traditional music.

Once called “a quintessential world-music musician,” award-winning singer and flute player Hanz Araki has been a prominent figure in the Irish music community in North America and beyond for more than 2 decades. In that time he has released 11 albums, played countless festival stages, toured nationally and internationally, and collaborated with a number of well-respected musicians within and outside of the Celtic music genre.

Fódhla returns to the MCC stage with a new recording since their 2015 appearance. This Boston and Portland based trio of Nicole Rabata on flute, Ellery Klein on fiddle, and Bethany Waickman on guitar delivers a sound rooted in traditional Irish music. Their debut recording as a group, Notes from Millpond, was released in 2015 to a sold out show at Acoustic Artisans in Portland.

Nicole Rabata is highly regarded in traditional Irish, classical, and Brazilian choro music circles. She has toured America and Europe and spent four years in the west of Ireland where she immersed herself in the local music. Nicole is on the music faculty at Colby College and the University of Maine at Augusta.

Ellery Klein’s fiddling is steeped in Irish traditions seasoned with American fiddle styles. She holds a MA in Traditional Irish Music from the University of Limerick. Ellery toured with the well-known group Gaelic Storm from 2003 – 2007 and was a founding member of the ensemble Long Time Courting.

Bethany Waickman on guitar is a mainstay on the New England contra dance circuit, playing in many combinations of the scene’s musicians including the trio Anadama. Bethany grew up in a musical family in the mountains of upstate New York. She started piano at an early age, playing both traditional and classical music. After attending Meadowlark, a music camp in Maine, she made guitar her primary focus. Also a skillful singer, she brings new life to old ballads and is especially interested in the singing traditions of Maine lumber camps.

Darlin’ Corey showcases the talents of Erica Brown and Matt Shipman as they combine an array of instruments with a delightful blend of vocal harmonies. Accompanied by fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitars they put their unique spin on a mix of traditional and original songs from Maine, Canada, Southern Appalachia and Ireland.

Erica Brown developed an interest in music at an early age. At the age of seven, she was competing in fiddle contests with kids twice her age. At age nine, she was traveling throughout New England, Canada, and even Louisiana with the Maine French Fiddlers. Erica also performed as a special guest with Mac McHale And The Old-Time Radio Gang for five years. As well as performing with Darlin’ Corey, she also has her own bluegrass band, Erica Brown & The Bluegrass Connection, which performs all over New England. Her talent for combining the precision of classical music with the spontaneity of country and bluegrass fiddle makes for a fun-filled performance every time she plays.

Calling Maine his home for many years, Matt Shipman is no stranger to the performance circuit throughout New England and afar. Having studied and played traditional music for many years, Matt is also a songwriter. His main instruments are guitar, mandolin, bouzouki and clawhammer banjo. Matt can be heard playing with Darlin’ Corey, Erica Brown and the Bluegrass Connection, High Range, and in various Irish music ensembles and sessions.

We are happy to introduce Lindsay Straw to the stage at the MCC for the first time this year. Ballads have been a source of inspiration for Lindsay since her childhood in Montana, but she truly grew into the art while studying at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. There she began to tie together the threads of the traditions she was most passionate about: English, Scottish, Irish and American songcraft. She also founded a young Celtic trad band at the college, The Ivy Leaf, which she draws from to fill out the music on her new second album, The Fairest Flower of Womankind, released earlier this year.

In addition to performing extensively throughout New England at renowned venues such as Club Passim and festivals like the Boston Irish Festival, 2015 and 2016 saw Lindsay touring the west coast, both solo and with Irish musicians Darcy Noonan and Preston Howard; the Midwest with flute and tin whistle player Caroline O’Shea; and Ireland and England with folk-blues trio The Morning Tree.

Always a crowd pleaser at the MCC, The Napper Tandies are a three piece Irish folk group from Maine, including our own Chris Brinn on accordion, Randy Billings on banjo, and Matt Smith on upright bass. The band takes its name and inspiration from the rather ineffectual Irish patriot James Napper Tandy who tried to organize an uprising against the British in the late 1700’s. Drawing heavily from legendary groups such as The Dubliners and the Pogues, the Napper Tandies carry on the great pub music tradition with energy and pride, playing songs of love, rebellion, immigration, and drink. With their unique blend of instruments and generous repertoire of music, they can keep any crowd singing, dancing, and drinking for hours.

Raised on contradances, fiddle contests, and Irish sessions, the sibling duo of  Liz & Dan Faiella bring to life traditional Irish and New England music, with Liz’s lyrical fiddle and vocals and Dan’s spirited low whistle and guitar. Liz and Dan take audiences on a journey through the folk traditions of the duo’s Irish heritage and New Hampshire roots, from haunting murder ballads, to the lyrical compositions of Turlough O’Carolan, to snappy and danceable jig and reel medleys, to mesmerizing fingerstyle guitar arrangements of slow airs. According to Tom Rota of Irish Night at Blue in Portland, “Liz and Dan Faiella… bring a new perspective to this old music as well as a healthy respect for the tradition. A compelling mix of tunes and songs played artfully and with great style.”

Harpist Danielle Paus blends traditional, sacred and original music into modern and dynamic arrangements celebrated for their moving impact. A classically trained musician, she has appeared on stages throughout the US and abroad. Danielle started playing the harp at an early age as the daughter of a classical harpist. She continued her studies with Alice Chalifoux at the Salzedo Harp Colony in Camden, Maine and attended Interlochen Arts Academy. She also received a BA from UMass Amherst. Danielle maintains a strong classically oriented harp studio, but also values the traditional Irish style of harp playing.  She performs solo and with her Celtic flute and harp duo, “Naia” throughout New England and abroad.

The MCC is happy to welcome a return engagement by our friends Julia and Baron of Velocipede. Julia Plumb (fiddle, foot percussion) and Baron Collins-Hill (tenor guitar, mandolin) play original and traditional fiddle tunes from New England, Quebec, Appalachia, Scandinavia, and the British Isles. They play with a tight, close sound, staying true to the tunes and bolstering them with driving dance rhythms and sweet harmonies. Julia and Baron are thoughtful teachers and experienced players, performing for dances, concerts, weddings, and other events. As the duo Velocipede, the synergy of Julia and Baron’s playing is clear. Whether delivering a ripping set of reels for a contra dance, teaching crooked tunes from their journeys to Quebec at a workshop, or harmonizing with an achingly beautiful march in concert, Velocipede is sure to catch listeners’ ears and set toes tapping.

Maine Fiddlers’ Showcase