It’s the time of year when everybody is Irish, and this March there will be many opportunities to check out some of the world’s best Celtic music in the District.
Those beautiful sirens from Ireland, Celtic Woman, kick off the festivities at the Patriot Center on Saturday, March 3. The “Celtic Woman: Believe” tour celebrates the group’s seventh studio album, Believe, which released in January featuring their newest vocalist Lisa Lambe. Joining the newcomer are veteran song stylists Chloë Agnew and Susan McFadden, who replaces the pregnant Lisa Kelly, now expecting her fourth child. “I’m so honored and excited to be joining Celtic Woman,” McFadden said. “I have followed Celtic Woman’s success over the years and I’m thrilled to have been asked to be a part of something so special.”
Rounding out the angelic harmonies is the stunning and wild pixie fiddler Máiréad Nesbitt, who brings excitement and energy to the stage everywhere they perform. For an evening of what some have called “Riverdance for the Voice,” head out to the Patriot Center for one of the most amazing performances of Irish music.
That same evening the modern sounds of Gaelic Storm kick off a two-night run at the Birchmere. Formed in Santa Monica in the mid-90s out of O’Brien’s Irish Pub, where founding member Patrick Murphy was the manager, Gaelic Storm got their first big international break, performing “An Irish Party in Third Class” in the steerage room scene in James Cameron’s epic film, Titanic. Since then, the Storm has toured relentlessly and released eight studio albums, including the most recent, Cabbage. Dueling harmonies and jamming Irish instruments make this Southern California five-piece one of the most relevant acts in the Gaelic genre, and you have two chances to catch them.
Ireland’s Altan arrive March 6 from County Donegal led by vocalist Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, who formed the band with her now deceased husband, Frankie Kennedy, back in 1987. Performing at the Barns at Wolf Trap, Altan are out supporting their current release, Poison Glen, which saw the veteran Irish folk group once again challenging themselves. “As we were working on Poison Glen, we saw how we are developing more creativity in the band, using the studio almost as another instrument,” Ní Mhaonaigh said. “We are proud of that, we are proud of this album, and we see there are more possibilities ahead for us to explore.”
Also lighting up the stage at the Barns this month are the Irish Rovers from Canada, who have been firing up pubs since 1963 with their choral renditions of Irish Drinking Songs. The Toronto based quartet has been together for almost a half century now, releasing two records last year, and fans will be able to check out their veteran chops on March 14.
Maura O’Connell is yet another to cross the pond this March for a performance at the Birchmere. This contemporary Irish folk singer blends her love of American country music with the harmonies from her homeland. She has had a prosperous career for more than three decades and fans will have a chance to enjoy her enchanting voice on March 10.
Another veteran act hitting the DC area this month is the Chieftains. The Grammy-Award-winning group from Dublin was one of the first to bring Celtic music to the attention of the mainstream music industry with their exciting traditional folk sound. Formed in 1962, the Chieftains are celebrating their 50th anniversary with the release of Voice of Ages, which sees the Irish elders collaborating with some of the great young talents in modern music, such as Bon Iver, the Decemberists, and The Civil Wars. “With 50 years of glorious music behind us,” founding member Paddy Moloney said, “I can think of nothing more exciting than to spend another 50 years collaborating with the best voices of the future.” The Chieftains will be at the Kennedy Center on March 16.
The “First Lady of Celtic Music” will be hosting the fun on St. Patrick’s Day at the National Geographic Auditorium. Moya Brennan got her early start with the Grammy-Award-winning Clannad, which her family formed in the 70s in County Donegal. Now the critically acclaimed songstress has taken to the road with her own outfit, the Moya Brennan Band, which sees a stage full of musicians with traditional instruments combined with Brennan’s hauntingly beautiful voice.
Rounding out the month’s festivities are the Fighting Jamesons with their rocking Celtic covers and sing-a-longs, who will be at the State Theatre in Falls Church on March 16th, and in Annapolis, The Rovers and Crossing Celtic will have the roof shaking at Rams Head On Stage on the same evening. There are many opportunities to take in some of the greatest performers in the Gaelic genre this month. It’s just a matter of deciding which ones to check out. Slainte!
Patriot Center: 4500 Patriot Circle, Fairfax, VA; 703-993-3000; www.patriotcenter.com
Birchmere: 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; 703-549-7900; www.birchmere.com
The Barns at Wolf Trap: 1635 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; 703-255-1900; www.wolftrap.org/barns
The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-416-8000; www.kennedy-center.org
National Geographic Auditorium: 1600 M St. NW, DC; 202-857-7700; www.nationalgeographic.com