TRAVERSE CITY— Northern Michigan will get a head start on its St. Paddy’s Day celebration when Irish — and Irish American — bands perform in separate venues around the area March 2-4.
“March is crazy,” said Jim Perkins, of Finvarra’s Wren, which is booked solid this time of year. The family-based band — a Detroit-area and North American Celtic festival favorite — plays at Mills Community House in Benzonia on Saturday, March 2, and at Sleder’s Family Tavern in Traverse City on Sunday, March 3.
Likely to be on its playlist are tunes from its 2012 album, “Dancing Mad In The Midnight Air,” recorded live at Ann Arbor’s The Ark.
Perkins credits the not-just-for-St. Patrick’s Day-anymore popularity of Irish traditional music in the U.S. to a better understanding of its many forms. Back when he was a young folk-turned-Irish pub player, he said, “people didn’t seem to know what traditional music was.”
“When they thought of Irish music, they thought of straight-ahead Irish pub drinking songs of the Clancy Brothers type. But it’s got a little of the edges rubbed off and it’s become smoother now,” he added.
He calls his band’s “very American” approach “Irish American traditional music,” or music listeners might associate with Irish country people.
“They call it kitchen music because they get together in the kitchen and play,” he said. “There it’s the center of social life in the homes or in Irish pubs. It’s social music.”
Not surprisingly, music also was the center of social life in Perkins and wife Cheryl Burns’ home. While the Farmington couple played together in the original Finvarra’s Wren — he on guitar and she on lap dulcimer and bodhran — their children danced with the group and learned to play their own instruments.
Eventually the band — named after the King of the fairies and the magical bird, both of Irish folklore — evolved into a family band also featuring Alison Perkins, now 25, on fiddle and tin whistle, and Asher Perkins, 22, on button accordion, concertina and tin whistle.
Whirling into Dennos
Ireland’s award-winning band Dervish will present its own brand of Irish traditional music Saturday, March 2 at the Dennos Museum Center.
The County Sligo-based band is known for its varied concerts featuring everything from high-energy reels to slow, haunting ballads. It was named Best Traditional/Folk group by Ireland’s prestigious Hot Press music magazine.
Musicians include vocalist Cathy Jordan, along with instrumentalists Tom Morrow, Liam Kelly, Shane Mitchell, Brian McDonagh and Michael Holmes on fiddle, flute, accordion, mandola and bouzouki.
Dinner theater show
Irish-born multi-instrumentalist John Doyle — now living in Asheville, N.C. — will show his versatility on the latter two instruments and the guitar when he performs with Irish vocalist Karan Casey on Monday, March 4, at the Williamsburg Dinner Theater.
The former bandmates and founding members of the traditional supergroup Solas have separately earned a Grammy Award, a BBC Folk Award nomination and an invitation to perform for President Obama. They reunited in Nashville for the 2010 duet album “Exile’s Return,” and continue to tour together occasionally.
Tickets for their Williamsburg concert are $25 at the door or $20 in advance at Oryana Natural Foods Market and Brilliant Books in Traverse City and at the Stained Glass Cabinet and Ace Hardware in Acme.
Finvarra’s Wren tickets are $20 at the door and $15 in advance at Sleder’s, Oryana and Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Frankfort Bookstore and East Shore Market and Sugar Moon Café in Beulah.
Casey and Doyle tickets are $28 at the door and $25 in advance at the Dennos Box Office, 995-1553 or (800) 836-0717.