Janine Sirignano and Sean Smith at Agawam

Event Summary

2009 January 17 (Saturday)
Private house concert at the Captain Charles Leonard House, 663 Main Street, Agawam, Massachusetts
Janine Sirignano on fiddle and Sean Smith on guitar kick off 2009 at the Captain Charles Leonard House with a great night of traditional Irish tunes and songs.
$14.00 by advance reservation via e-mail to Meg Sullivan at
or by phone at +1 (413) 789-9267; $18.00 at the door

Review for the Cape Breton Music List
(Posted 2009 January 21)[1]

This past Saturday, Janine Sirignano and Sean Smith gave the first house concert of the 2009 season at the Captain Charles Leonard House in Agawam (Massachusetts). Alternating instrumental and vocal selections, with Janine on fiddle and Sean on guitar (and occasionally Greek bouzouki), they provided an evening of fine Celtic and folk music. Both musicians were new to me, but Sean has been around on the Boston musical scene for a number of years (he’s a coörganizer of the Boston Celtic Music Fest and hosts a monthly Celtic music series at Club Passim) and their current collaboration dates back at least a couple of years.

The duo began with a jig set: Buddy’s Order of Canada by Kinnon Beaton and Balls to Hall by Joe Scurfield, the latter of which is supposed to be an expression of his “mixed feelings” for the owner of the Newcastle United Football Club, Sir John Hall. Next we heard Jackson vs. Atkinson, a poem about an English wrestling match which Sean set to music, sung by Sean accompanied by his guitar and Janine on backing fiddle. Two Irish reels, Geoghan’s and Man of Aran, followed, with Janine on fiddle and Sean on guitar. Then, Sean sang Bonny Labouring Boy, again accompanying himself on guitar with Janine on backing fiddle. Another set of Irish tunes followed: I regret I am unable to make any sense of what I wrote down for their names. This was followed by a very nice slide (a jig in 12/8 time), with Janine on fiddle and Sean accompanying on Greek bouzouki. Janine then sang Taking His Chance, a ballad about an Australian “bush ranger” (outlaw) who came a cropper, playing the fiddle between verses and accompanied by Sean on guitar and backing vocals; this was followed without any break by Michael Turner’s Waltz, a tune based on a portion of a 1788 suite by Mozart, with Sean accompanying Janine’s fiddle on guitar. They finished the first half of the concert off with a fine set of Irish reels, including The New Road and Fly Fishing Reel.[2]

After a break for refreshments and conversation, the concert resumed with a set of three reels, including The Bird in the Bush and Ormond Sound. Next, Sean sang the ballad Flash Company with the lovely line “For fiddling and dancing is all my delight”, though, alas, paired with “And keeping flash company has ruined me quite”! (In the phrase flash company, flash is a Briticism for “ostentatiously expensive” and “superficially attractive because stylish and full of brash charm”, according to the Oxford American Dictionary on my Mac, while company means “companions”; thus, the second line is fortunately not a necessary consequence of the first!) Three Irish tunes, Bank of Turf, Piper’s Chair, and Girl of the Big House, a slide and two double jigs, followed. Then they gave us the Civil War era song The Seven Irish Boys, which was immediately followed by the Irish jig Jackson’s Morning Brush. A reel set including The High Road to Glin, with Sean again on Greek bouzouki, followed. Next, they sang the somewhat improbable, but delightful, ballad The Female Sailor Bold; the version they did is based on a broadside collected in Nottingham c. 1800 for which Sean devised the melody and the chorus. Janine then invited her friend, Danny Noveck, an excellent fiddler (and guitar and banjo player and teacher) from the Mid-Atlantic area who appears on Joshua Duke’s CD, The Long Trip Home, to join her and Sean on stage. Danny and Janine on dual fiddles, accompanied by Sean on guitar, first gave us a jig set, including Newtown Bridge, and then, to conclude the concert and in the same configuration, a fiery Irish reel set which included Fisherman’s Island.

The instrumental sets were very enjoyable and finely played; the songs and ballads, which I am not that much into, were nevertheless certainly well worth a listen and all of them were new to me. As always, the wonderful intimacy of the Captain Charles Leonard House contributed to make their music seem like that at a house party. I would have loved to have heard more Cape Breton tunes in the mix—it turns out that Janine has a large repertoire of Cape Breton tunes in addition to the Irish tunes they seem to favour in concert—but those they selected nevertheless sounded great to my ears. If you should get the chance to hear this duo, you should give them a listen—you won’t be disappointed.

As always, thanks to Meg and Dan Sullivan, who have started the 2009 season off with another Celtic music house concert of distinction. Their wide contacts allow them to bring an incredible variety of excellent Celtic musicians to western Massachusetts and their love of the music impels them to share and spread the traditional music these musicians play with the wider world. Their audiences are the richer for their organizational ability and dedication to the cause.

[1] The review above was updated 2009 January 22 to incorporate two updated links, one correction of a source, and one additional tune name, all supplied by Sean Smith in a private e-mail. Those changes required the recasting of some sentences and I took the opportunity to clean up a couple of typographical errors; the gist of the review is unchanged.

[2] Janine and Sean named each of the tunes they played and each of the songs they sang, so it is entirely my fault that I do not have names for them all. Unfortunately, my short term memory continues to worsen, so, by the time I had gotten one of the tune names written down, I often had forgotten the others. My hearing is no longer acute either and I simply didn’t hear some of the names.


Meg Sullivan opens the concert

Janine Sirignano on fiddle accompanied by Sean Smith on guitar

Sean Smith sings,
accompanied by himself on guitar and Janine Sirignano on backing fiddle

Janine Sirignano and Sean Smith sing to Sean Smith’s guitar accompaniment

Janine Sirignano on fiddle accompanied by Sean Smith on Greek bouzouki

Sean Smith sings,
accompanied by himself on guitar and Janine Sirignano on backing fiddle

Danny Noveck and Janine Sirignano on dual fiddles
accompanied by Sean Smith on guitar

Danny Noveck on fiddle

Janine Sirignano on fiddle

Sean Smith on guitar

Dan Sullivan works the sound board