The Seisiùns

Sunday, 2007 April 22
Regent Theatre, 7 Medford Street, Arlington, Massachusetts
The Seisiùns, some of Boston’s finest Celtic musicians, will be presenting Irish, Scottish, and Cape Breton traditional music and dance. The Seisiùns are:
  • The Boston Kiltics (Doug Lamey, Christine Morrison, Pam Campbell, and Cliff McGann) presenting Cape Breton stepdance, fiddle, guitar, and Scottish pipes
  • Hanneke Cassel on Scottish fiddle and vocals
  • Natalie Haas on cello
  • Aoife O’Donovan and George Keith on Irish fiddle
  • Martin Langer on bouzouki
  • Keith Murphy on guitar and vocals
  • Ryan Reid on Irish fiddle and bodhràn
$22 and $30. To purchase tickets, call the box office at: (781) 646-4849 or purchase online here. The Regent Theatre has free parking nights and weekends right across the street from the theatre.


Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure that photography was allowed until fairly late in the program; the few pictures I did take turned out poorly—I was too far away from the stage for my camera—so I have only these, the best of a poor lot, of the event.

Finale: Step dance with Christine Morrison, Andrea Beaton, and Pamela Campbell

Finale: Martin Langer on bouzouki, Natalie Haas on cello, Hanneke Cassel on fiddle,
Keith Murphy on guitar, Doug Lamey on fiddle, George Keith on fiddle,
and Nathan Silva on djembe


Cliff McGann has posted some clips of this show on YouTube here.

Review for the Cape Breton Music List
(Posted 2007 April 26)

Doug Lamey, the 23-year old grandson of legendary Cape Breton fiddler Bill Lamey, produced his first show at the Regent Theatre in Arlington (Massachusetts) this past Sunday afternoon. Named The Seisiúns, it featured the younger generation of the greater Boston area’s Celtic musicians. Off to a bit of a late start (like this review!)—the doors didn’t open until four minutes before the show was to begin at 14h, apparently because of last minute sound checks—it was well worth waiting for.

After some introductory remarks by Peggy Morrison, a long-time promoter of Celtic music throughout the Boston area, the Boston Kiltics opened the show. They are a quintet consisting of Doug Lamey on fiddle; Cliff McGann on guitar and spokesman for the group; Christine Morrison (daughter of Peggy Morrison) and Pamela Campbell (daughter of Cape Breton fiddler John Campbell), step-dancers in the Cape Breton and Irish styles; and Nathan Silva on djembe, bodhràn, and small pipes, the newest member of the group (which was named following a contest conducted on this mailing list last year). Their initial number was a non-traditional piece featuring the step-dancers, both seasoned performers who dance in amazing synchrony. The second number was a magnificent set featuring Nathan’s playing of classic Scottish traditional tunes on the pipes backed up by Doug and Cliff. For their third number, Cliff’s wife, Kira, came on stage to sing a cappella a Gaelic song, upon the completion of which she switched into piuirt-a-beul[1]; Cliff soon joined in and they ended with Am Muilean Dubh—another very delightful performance. The fourth number was another pipe set with synchronized step dance—marvellous!

Cliff then introduced Ryan Reid, a twelve-year old lad with a devoted following in the audience, who played a fiddle set in the Irish style, accompanied by Cliff on guitar; one of the reels was the Silver Spear, but I unfortunately didn’t get the names of the others. He followed the fiddle set with a song about lighthouses, again accompanied by Cliff. The audience received these very creditable performances with extended applause.

Next up was George Keith, a fiddler who grew up in St. Cloud (Minnesota), now teaches at Boston’s branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, and regularly plays with the Robbie O’Connell band from Ireland. He was joined by Martin Langer, a popular musician in the local session and band scene, playing bouzouki. George’s style is generally Irish, but he said he is a Cape Breton aficionado and his playing certainly incorporated some Cape Breton ornamentation. Their first set was of jigs, ending with a tune whose name I heard as Fly in the Porter, though I don’t find it listed in The Fiddler’s Companion. Next were a pair of barn dances, a genre of whose definition I am not sure, but have encountered on Howie MacDonald’s CD Live at West Mabou Hall (track 4 is Henry Ford’s Barn Dance) and on several shows on BBC Radio Scotland, all very different from the music at the barn dances I attended during my childhood in Northern New York state. Then came a set of dandy reels whose names I did not catch. They were followed by a fiddle solo consisting of a gorgeous tune beautifully played and by a Liz Carroll-ish reel I didn’t care for so much. Another set starting with a tune whose name I heard as the Lament for the Wild Geese (but is probably the Lament for Sarsfield described in the Fiddler’s Companion)—the “wild geese” in question here are not birds, but a 14,000-man strong Irish army that was forced into exile on the Continent after their defeat by the English—was new to me; it was followed by some very fine reels.

Last up was Aoife O’Donovan (who has no web page I could find), a local native who sings in the Irish tradition and less traditional genres such as jazz bluegrass. She was joined by Natalie Haas on cello and Keith Murphy on guitar; together, they gave us a rendition of Rattlin’ Roarin’ Willie after which George Keith and Martin Langer joined the group for the nice selection of reels which followed.

After the intermission, the show resumed with the DNE Celtic Dance Troupe, a group of youngsters perhaps twenty strong from the Boston area, who gave us a synchronized dance with no musical accompaniment; it was a purely rhythmic performance that I, along with the audience, thoroughly enjoyed.

Cape Breton fiddler Andrea Beaton, who happened to be in town for the week-end and was invited to participate in the show, joined by Dedo Norris[2] on piano (I don’t find a web site for her, but have seen her now at several venues in New England, including last year’s Childsplay Benefit Concert in Portland where she accompanied Buddy MacMaster), gave us superbly played traditional Cape Breton strathspeys, during which Christine Morrison and Pamela Campbell showed off some fine Cape Breton steps.

Then followed a performance by Natalie Haas on cello (she performs regularly with Scotland’s Alasdair Fraser and accompanied Troy MacGillivray on three tracks on his latest CD, Eleven) and Hanneke Cassel (new to me) on fiddle, joined later in the set by Newfoundland-born Keith Murphy (who now resides in southern Vermont) on guitar, of rhythmically complex, very non-traditional Celtic music. It was not my cup of tea, but the piece required tremendous technical ability from all of the musicians and was an impressive tour-de-force. Another set, somewhat more tuneful but still not toe-tapping, followed in much the same vein. Aoife O’Donovan then joined them for a Kate Rusby song whose title I didn’t make out. Keith followed with an interesting song about Napoleon Bonaparte on the Island of St. Helena (from an American collection, but most likely of Irish origin), with Aoife on backing vocals and Natalie and Hanneke accompanying. The next selection’s name I heard as Tennessee Quick Hash, which struck me as very similar to modern chamber music, a genre I try to avoid. Keith then sang a Richard Thompson tune whose name I didn’t get with Aoife again on backing vocals and Natalie and Hanneke accompanying; the audience liked this selection much better than I did. Then followed a more traditional set of strathspeys and reels, which was much more to my taste. Even though I didn’t care for a lot of their music, these are very talented musicians who are well worth hearing.

Natalie Haas started the finale with a tune I’d heard before but whose title I don’t remember and was joined by all of the other performers, except Andrea Beaton, Christine Morrison, and Pamela Campbell; this segued into a set of strathspeys and brought those three ladies out for a fine step dance. A rousing rendition of Wild Mountain Thyme, joined in by the audience, closed out the show, which didn’t end until after 17h.

This was a great afternoon of Celtic music; judging by the playing and quantity of fine young performers in all genres, the future of Celtic music in Boston is in very capable hands indeed. The hall was not completely sold out, but I did not see many empty seats either; as it was a gorgeous spring day outside, this is indeed a tribute to the love of people in the area for this music and also bodes very well for its future. Kudos to Doug for putting together a show that obviously pleased its audience, with lots of great well-played music for everyone, from the very young to the fuddy-duddies like me.

[1] This spelling comes from the liner notes of Mary Jane Lamond’s CD Bho Thìr Nan Craobh, but I have also seen it spelled as puirt a beul, with and without hyphens, as puirt-á-beul, and as puirt a’ bhèil. I do not know which form is correct, either in English or in Gaelic; any enlightenment is welcome.

[2] As I was reminded when I looked at the videos referenced above, Dedo also provided fine accompaniment during the first half of this show, when she played with the Boston Kiltics during their numbers. My apologies for leaving this out of the posted report.