Lucky Bostonians get a taste of Irish culture

by Beacon Staff • March 15, 2006

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about one-fourth of Massachusetts residents claim Irish ancestry, which may account for the vast number of Guinness-loving pubs, restaurants and bands that will be celebrating St.,Boston residents enjoy the good fortune of living in one of the most Irish cities outside of the Emerald Isle.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about one-fourth of Massachusetts residents claim Irish ancestry, which may account for the vast number of Guinness-loving pubs, restaurants and bands that will be celebrating St. Patrick's Day on March 17. The events listed here should provide a viable alternative to spending the weekend at home with a box of Lucky Charms and your U2 collection.

Music

There's something in the Boston Irish music scene for everyone. For the traditional, try Atwater-Donnelly, a husband and wife duo playing a free show of Celtic and Appalachian folk music at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Reservations can be made by calling 617-514-1646.

If you would rather shamrock and roll, check out The Dropkick Murphys, Boston's favorite Irish punk band, who have four shows this weekend at the Avalon Ballroom. Tickets are $25 and available at nextticketing.com, but the shows may sell out very soon.

If you go to one of these performances and discover that your dance moves need some improvement, you can get free step dancing lessons at The Burren, a pub in Somerville's Davis Square every Monday in March at 8 p.m.

Many of Boston's Irish pubs and restaurants are also hosting Irish sessions on a weekly basis.

An Irish session, sometimes spelled sesiun, is comprised of three musicians-a guitar, a fiddle and a timberflute (a flute made of wood), according to John Carew, leader of the Sunday night Irish sessions at Mr. Dooley's Irish Pub and Restaurant at 77 Broad Street in Boston.

The uplifting yet tranquil undertones create a relaxed atmosphere, especially when combined with the dark, earthy vibe of the pub.

During a cause for celebration (such as St. Patrick's Day), it is easy to imagine the crowd getting up from their dinners and doing a jig.

"Forty years ago, there were no Irish sessions in Boston," Carew said, "but today there are over 30 sessions total, which include people from New Hampshire, Worcester and even Southern Maine."

Carew, a psychology professor at Cambridge College, said he has been playing in Irish sessions for 10 years.

"In a 1995 trip to Ireland, I listened to and played a lot of music," he said.

Upon returning, Carew said he attended Saturday session workshops at Boston College.

According to Carew, the instruments used in sessions were originally played in homes and other rural locations in Ireland.

"The style differed from region to region and followed immigration patterns," he said.

Movies and Culture

The only Irish thing you'll find in a movie at the AMC Boston Common this weekend is Matthew McConaughey, but Boston College and the West Newton Cinema have teamed up to offer a special selection of seven Irish documentary and features films.

For more information and a list of the films, visit bc.edu/centers/irish/studies/news/film.

Boston is also full of Irish history to explore. The Irish Heritage Trail is a three-mile walk showcasing monuments throughout the city dedicated to famous people and events, such as the Irish Famine Memorial located at the corner of Washington and School streets.

The JFK Library and Museum is opening a new exhibit tomorrow in honor of St. Patrick's Day called "A Journey Home-John F. Kennedy and Ireland."

It will feature, among other things, pictures of the president's visit to Ireland in 1963. Check out jfklibrary.org for more information.

Even places that aren't usually Irish, like Rock Bottom on Stuart Street, get into the holiday spirit.

"We usually dye our lighter beers green for St. Patrick's Day," said Nikki Knowles, a graduate student in visual and media arts and Rock Bottom employee.

For more Irish activities going on in greater Boston this weekend, visit irishmassachusetts.com.