For St. Patrick’s Day, a feast of Irish music

  • Pianist Gordon Peery and fiddler Skip Gorman perform at Upper Valley venues this weekend in conjunction with St. Patrick's Day festivities. (Courtesy photograph)

  • The vocal ensemble Wind Rose, from left, Becky Canedy, Sandi Breen, Mark Breen and Pat Webster, perform for St. Patrick's Day with the Bradford, Vt. duo Shunpike Honeymoon. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 13, 2019

What would St. Patrick do, if, as is happening around the Upper Valley, musicians were playing tribute to him for several nights before the traditional date of his birthday and once more three nights after?

One likes to think that the patron saint of Ireland would party early and often, with the gusto he dedicated to driving the snakes from the Emerald Isle in the Dark Ages.

Grafton fiddler Skip Gorman will celebrate the occasion twice: Friday night at 7, he’ll co-host the Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse’s annual Irish session at the Methodist Church in Sunapee Harbor. And on Sunday night in Newbury, N.H., he’ll play duets with pianist Gordon Peery at the Tuohy family’s Shanty — one of five Salt hill Pubs among which musicians will rove throughout the saint’s day on Sunday.

“I always enjoy playing traditional Celtic fiddle tunes, especially with a good pianist like Gordon,” Gorman said this week. “And any place where I can expose folks to the older nuanced sound — which the public is paying closer attention to these days and appreciating it more — is a good night for me.”

Revelers can choose from among an array of traditional music and variations on the older sounds beginning Thursday night with “tune-ups” at the Salt hill Pubs. And the celebrations won’t wind down until Wednesday with a fusing of Celtic and French-Canadian music in Post Mills.

Among the performances in between, Bradford, Vt.-based folk musicians Patty and Gill Williams, aka Shunpike Honeymoon, play their annual Celtic show with Vermont Public Radio weather guru Mark Breen’s choral quintet WindRose on Saturday night at 7 at the United Congregational Church of Orford, where admission is by donation.

“I believe this is our sixth or seventh year in a row with Patty and Gill,” Breen said of the Orford concert last week, during a telephone interview from St. Johnsbury’s Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium. “The show ranges from things that are a bit more contemporary to things that, we don’t know exactly how old they are.”

This year’s set list include Patty Williams’ harp-centered The Dalwhinnie and the late Andy M. Stewart’s Donald, Where’s Your Troosers?, as well as traditional standards such as The Night That Paddy Murphy Died from Newfoundland and the much-covered Star of the County Down.

“WindRose plays maybe half a dozen gigs a year, and we really enjoy this one,” said Breen, who plays guitar and sings bass and baritone. “The acoustics are quite nice in the church, a nice tone. And the audience is set up nicely. The sanctuary is wide and not too deep, and it makes for an intimate venue. And we’ve gained a lot of friends down there.”

On Sunday, Celtic musicians from far and near will take turns serenading the Salt hill Pubs for the better part of 14 hours. Each venue kicks off the celebration with the serving of full Irish breakfasts at 9 in the morning and continues with a variety of Irish fare throughout the day and evening.

“The morning is one of my favorite parts of the entire day,” Salt hill co-founder Josh Tuohy said last week. “We see tons of families with kids during the morning, not unlike most pubs I’ve been to in Ireland.”

At each Salt hill, the festivities will end at 11 p.m. with drawings for an all-expenses-paid trip to Ireland. Scheduled performers by venue are:

Lebanon — Ireland’s Bel Clare ensemble at 9 a.m.; the Celtic folk-rockers of Rebel Collective at 1 p.m.; the central Vermont-based Celtic folk trio Atlantic Crossing at 5; and the Middlebury, Vt., Irish quartet O’hAnleigh at 9.

Hanover — Eire Flare with a dose of traditional Irish music at 9 a.m.; the Celtic-jazz fusion ensemble The Frogz at 12:30 p.m.; the Salt hill Ceili Band at 5; Atlantic Crossing at 9.

West Lebanon — Rebel Collective at 9 a.m.; the Seacoast-based pub-rocking Grimm Brothers at 1 p.m.; O’hAnleigh at 4:30 ; the Salt hill Ceili Band at 8:30.

Newport — Atlantic Crossing at 9 a.m.; O’hAnleigh at 12:30 p.m., the Shaskeen Trio at 5; The Grimm Brothers at 9.

Newbury, N.H. — O’hAnleigh at 9 a.m.; the Salt hill Ceili Band at noon; Ireland’s Bel Clare traditional ensemble at 4 p.m.; Grafton fiddler Skip Gorman with pianist Gordon Peery at 9.

Also on Sunday

The folk-rock duo of Mark and Deb Bond provide the Celtic soundtrack to the St. Patrick’s Day Bash at Taverne on the Square in Claremont, from noon to 5.

■During the St. Patrick’s Day party at the Public House Pub in Quechee, Paedric & His Band of Merry Men serenade revelers between 7 and 10 p.m. Dinner and drinks start at 4 in the afternoon.

■At 7 p.m., Kerry Rosenthal hosts an all-comers session of acoustic music at the ArtisTree Community Arts Center’s Hayloft in South Pomfret. Listeners are welcome as well as musicians.

Here, chronologically, are the options before and after the official day:


The Salt hill Ceili Band tunes up for the holiday by performing throughout the evening in the Newport pub.


The Rebels of the Sacred Heart blend punk and folk at the Salt hill Pub in Lebanon.


As of Wednesday morning, Chandler Music Hall in Randolph was reporting precious few seats left for the 7:30 p.m. appearance of the Canadian-Celtic power couple of Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy. To inquire about ticket availability — if you’re going with someone, expect to sit apart or negotiate with other listeners — call 802-728-6464. Admission $42 to $60.

■ O’hAnleigh warms up for its Sunday tour of the Salt hill Pubs by playing the Hanover venue starting at 9.

■The Gully Boys fill Windsor Station with Irish-tinged Americana rhythms from 9:30 to 12:30.


At the Peabody Library in Post Mills, the Jakeza! Jakeza! duo of Samantha Moffatt and Clement Demers explore Celtic and French-Canadian dance music. Admission is free, and the concert starts at 7 p.m.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.