Gaelic Roots Festival Concludes With Saturday Concert

(6-27-97) -- An all-star lineup of Celtic performing artists will gather in concert at Robsham Theater Saturday night to cap a week-long festival of Gaelic music and dance at Boston College.

The who's who of Irish musicians and dancers at the Masters Concert will include pianist and fiddler Charlie Lennon, one of Ireland's most sought-after musical accompanists; Riverdance percussionist Tommy Hayes on the bodhran, or Irish drum, and Boston-area dance teacher Michael Smith's Scoil Rince na nOg company performing their 1995 World Dance Drama Championship Dance.

Meantime, instructional workshops in Celtic music and dance will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday as the week-long Gaelic Roots III festival draws to a close at Boston College.

The festival, which began on June 22, has brought together Irish music and dance enthusiasts from Alaska to County Cork for intensive classroom workshops, recitals and convivial off-campus practice sessions at Irish pubs. Two hundred registrants signed up for the summer school and festival, which has filled Gasson Hall with the sounds of tin whistles and harps, and the corridors of Carney Hall with the staccato rap of step dancers' heels.

Classes have been led by a sterling roster of master musicians and dancers, many of them brought specially from Ireland by festival organizer Seamus Connolly, an acclaimed fiddler who is a part-time member of the Music and Irish Studies faculties at Boston College.

The festival has won rave reviews from participants, many of whom traveled long distances for unmatched instruction in Irish music or dance. Miriam Dean, who came from Anchorage, Alaska, with her two children for the festival, welcomed the chance to brush up her own skills as a step dancing teacher by observing some of the best.

"I'm able to make connections with people direct from Ireland," she said. "In Alaska, I'm the only one up there who teaches Irish dance."

Sally Summers-Smith, of Burlington, who took a fiddle workshop with Lennon, said the festival gave American students exposure to Irish masters that geography normally does not allow.

"Seamus has gone out of his way to bring instructors from Ireland," she said. "They're wonderful."

Connolly, taking a break on Thursday before leading a group of master Irish musicians in a taping of the Star Spangled Banner to be played at the Red Sox-Tigers game at Fenway Park the next evening, said he was struck by the joyful sense of camraderie that marked the festival.

"I haven't experienced this at any summer school I've every taught," he said.

A lasting souvenir of the event is a newly released two-compact-disc set containing two hours of songs by the Celtic musicians who taught and played at this year's festival. The $20 double CD, "Boston College Irish Studies Program Celebrates Gaelic Roots," is available at the Bookstore. All proceeds benefit the Irish Studies Program.

Tickets remain for Saturday's 8 p.m. performance, which is expected to draw a capacity crowd to the 600-seat hall. For more information about the concert and Saturday's workshops, see the Gaelic Roots III Web page.

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