Fiddle Frenzy

Fiddle Frenzy

The Gothard Sisters.
Summer Solstice Festival brings Celtic & world music to Diamond Hill Park

CUMBERLAND – For the 8th year, Blackstone River Theatre will move its programming outside to present the Blackstone River Theatre Summer Solstice Festival at Diamond Hill Park, 4097 Diamond Hill Road, Route 114, on Saturday, June 16.

The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with four stages focusing on Celtic and world music, dance and culture. Returning this year is a 
participatory Irish music session tent, a children’s activities area, and 40 craft and food vendors. The rain date is Sunday, June 17.

Featured entertainers will include international performers and regional favorites, and also sees Blackstone River Theatre continue the festival’s youth movement begun three years ago.

“We, like all arts organizations, face the challenge of not only keeping our existing fan base but more importantly, figuring out how to interest the younger potential audience that may not even know what Celtic music is,” said Russell Gusetti, executive director at BRT and also the festival producer.

In response, this year’s festival will again feature some of the most noted musicians on the Celtic music scene today, many in their 20s and early 30s.

“To me, the best way to attract a younger audience is to let them see music and dance being performed, at the highest level, by people close to their own age,” said Gusetti.

He said he looks forward to returning to Diamond Hill Park, where more than 1,000 people came to last year’s event. “It’s a very walkable park and people are always amazed when they see how we have set it up.”

Three music stages run continuously throughout the day, as does a stage dedicated to Irish step dance.

A returning feature is an Irish session tent where patrons are invited to bring their instruments and sit in and play with many of the festival performers.

Lining the walkway of the park will be 35 crafters, artisans and small business vendors, as well as five food vendors – GottaQ BBQ, Mickey G’s Clam Shack, The Incred-a-bowl food company, Del’s and The Ice Cream Machine.

Gusetti said that when booking this year’s festival, he quickly discovered that almost no bands from Ireland, Wales, or Scotland were touring in June, so he immediately turned to top acts on the national and regional scene, in addition to booking a very young band from Quebec.

“And as I continued booking, I realized that this year’s festival would have a very strong focus on fiddle players,” Gusetti said. “There will of course be all kinds of whistles, bagpipes, string, and percussion instruments but the sheer number of incredible fiddlers and different fiddle styles is quite unusual.”

Festival performers will be the Atwater-Donnelly Trio, The Mari Black Celtic Band, Daymark, Eastern Medicine Singers, The Gnomes, The Gothard Sisters, La Croisée D’Antan, Owen Marshall & Jenna Moynihan, Emerald Rae, and Torrin Ryan, Sheila Falls & Kyle Forsthoff. Most groups will be performing two times during the festival.

Featured this year are The Gothard Sisters and fiddler Mari Black. The Gothard Sisters – who are truly sisters – are a dynamic trio that plays contemporary Celtic music. Through 10 years performing, touring and writing music together, the optimistic style of their music continues to resonate with their fans around the world. All three play fiddle and many other instruments, and also step dance. Their new, all-original CD “Midnight Sun” reached #6 on the Billboard World Music charts as the highest ranking debut on the chart.

Raised on a rich blend of traditional music, multi-style violinist and champion fiddler Mari Black made her entrance onto the international stage when she became Scotland’s Glenfiddich Fiddle Champion, a two-time U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Champion, and a two-time Canadian Maritime Fiddle champion – all within a three-year period. She is well known for her energetic playing, stage presence, and fiddling style including novelty styles which includes playing fiddle behind her back.

La Croisée D’Antan is a young band of traditional musicians that is part of the continuing evolution of Québec’s traditional heritage. The trio of fiddler Jordan Bélanger, 17, Anthony Vecchio, 21, and David Lefrançois, 22, is distinguished by a solid stage presence, dynamic arrangements and a great connection among the group members. This will be their Solstice Festival debut.

The next generation of Celtic musicians is further represented by All-Ireland uilleann piper Torrin Ryan, 24, performing with percussionist Kyle Forsthoff and fiddler Sheila Falls, who grew up in Greenville. Making their first festival appearance is fiddler Jenna Moynihan accompanied by guitarist Owen Marshall.

World music is represented by the Eastern Medicine Singers, an Algonquin and native American drum and singing group which will open the festival, and The Gnomes featuring fiddler Cathy Clasper-Torch. Returning festival favorites include the Atwater~Donnelly Trio, Daymark, and solo fiddler/vocalist Emerald Rae.

A returning highlight will be two offerings of “From trad to tap: A Dance Showcase” featuring NEA National Heritage Fellowship award-winning dancer Kevin Doyle. He will be joined by clogging expert Aubrey Atwater, Emerald Rae, performing Cape Breton and sean nos dance, The Gothard Sisters, and others who will compare and contrast their specific styles of dancing before performing with a backing band.

There will again be continuous Irish step dance featuring 75 dancers from Tir Na Nog Irish Dance, a noncompetitive school run out of Blackstone River Theatre.

A children’s activity area will feature face painting, sand art, and Marvelous Marvin’s Circus Skills workshop.

Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $5 for children ages 6-15, and children younger than age 5 are admitted free.

“Our goal is to provide a full day of entertainment that will appeal to every age group, while still keeping our ticket prices as low as possible. For the price of a single concert ticket, audiences can see eight hours of music at the festival,” said Gusetti.

Festival stage sponsors include Navigant Credit Union, Abbott Valley Veterinary Center, The Valley Breeze Newspapers, Open MRI of New England, the town of Cumberland, Motif, and Angelo’s Palace Pizza.

Parking is free and a 14-passenger shuttle bus to help people who are parked in the farther lots has been arranged from 1 to 6 p.m. and if needed, satellite parking will be at Mercymount Country Day School. Because outside events are so dependent on good weather, a rain date is set for Sunday, June 17.

For complete information, visit www.riverfolk.org/brtssf .

Also returning will be the popular after-festival Music Session on Saturday evening, 8:30-11:30 p.m., back at Blackstone River Theatre itself, 549 Broad St., Cumberland. The event will feature festival performers playing and dancing in a relaxed session atmosphere. Admission is $25 and includes complimentary food and a cash bar. This event has sold out the past three years; a limited number of tickets will be available at the festival Info Tent.

From top, are fiddlers Mari Black, Emerald Rae, Jenna Moynihan and Sheila Falls.
La Croisée D’Antan is a young band of traditional musicians that is part of the continuing evolution of Québec’s traditional heritage. This will be their Solstice Festival debut.
All-Ireland uilleann piper Torrin Ryan, 24, of Attleboro, Mass., will be performing with percussionist Kyle Forsthoff and fiddler Sheila Falls, who grew up in Greenville.