CANTRIP Comes to the Backroom at The Burren in July

The performance is on July 3.

By: Jun. 11, 2024
CANTRIP Comes to  the Backroom at The Burren in July
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Presenting world class traditional and contemporary music from around the Celtic world is the mission of the Brian O’Donovan Legacy Series, which features the music of Scottish power quartet Cantrip on Wednesday, July 3 in the Backroom at The Burren, 247 Elm St. Somerville. Comprised of four leading figures on the Celtic music scene – Jon Bews (fiddle, vocals), Alasdair White (fiddle), Dan Houghton (pipes, whistles, flutes, guitar, bouzouki, vocals), and Eric McDonald (guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, vocals) – Cantrip’s stellar musicianship, ingenious arrangements, and sheer power promise a musical evening to remember. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show are $35, $30 advance, $25 with WGBH membership. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for dinner.  For more information visit Ticketing link at

The name Cantrip is an Old Scots word meaning a charm, magic spell, or piece of mischief, which aptly describes the band’s spellbinding music. Swirling border pipes, raging fiddle, thunderous guitar and rich vocals blend to create a sound energetic enough to Raise the Roof. Expect the unexpected as Cantrip, starting with a solid love and command of Celtic music, infuses the tradition with influences including funk, metal, bluegrass, swing, and even klezmer.

The band was born at a local session in Edinburgh a couple of decades ago, after which they were quickly signed to the Foot Stompin’ label. After releasing their acclaimed first album, 2001’s Silver, the embarked on a busy touring schedule. Their next two well-received albums, 2005’s Boneshaker and 2008’s Piping the Fish, were self-produced. Next came a period of hiatus during which children were born and moves were made. The band re-formed with a tighter trio format and singular sound, displayed on 2016’s The Crossing. The 2019 release of Cantrip Live features a re-recording of Silver. Its release was followed by the band’s fifth studio album Undark, captured live in one take by engineer Reuben Taylor in Edinburgh. After many years as a trio, Cantrip recently welcomed the addition of acclaimed fiddle Alasdair White. The quartet formation has taken the band’s sound to new heights of joy, mastery, and scintillating music.

Veteran fiddler Jon Bews came to Scots music from a classical education by way of Goth rock. A prizewinning graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 1994, he spent seven years with the acclaimed band Malinky, releasing two award-winning albums with them. Jon continues to maintain an active schedule as one of Edinburgh’s most in-demand fiddlers. He’s performed with artists including James Yorkston, Mikel Urdangarin, Ranarim, Deaf Mutes, Samling, and Shooglenifty. In addition to Cantrip, Jon performs with Storm the Palace and OBT.

Fiddler Alasdair White’s deep-rooted and wide-ranging musicality reflects his Isle of Lewis birthplace, current New York City home, and over 20 years globetrotting with some of the best-known names in Scottish, Irish, and Breton music, including Battlefield Band, Alan Kelly, and Gaelic supergroup Daimh. He is an exceptional exponent of West-coast Scottish music and is widely regarded as one of the foremost Scottish fiddler players of his generation. In addition to his longtime membership in Scotland’s seminal Battlefield Band, Alasdair has performed and recorded with many of the best-known names in Celtic music, including Kathleen MacInnis, Julie Fowlis, Eddie Reader, Allan MacDonald, Nuala Kennedy, and Arnaud Ciapolino. He recently premiered a major commission at the Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway, an hour-long original piece entitled “An Iuchair.” He performs in a duo with Battlefield bandmate Mike Katz and pursues his own solo projects in North America and Scotland.

Dan Houghton was born in Ghana, but was transported to Scotland shortly thereafter, where he grew up surrounded by traditional music and dance. He has toured and taught throughout Britain, Ireland, The Americas, Asia, and the Antipodes. In addition to Edinburgh, Dan has lived in New Zealand, France, Nova Scotia, and Vermont. Exposure to traditional music communities in those places helped hone Dan’s skills and introduced him to a plethora of musicians. He has performed with Salsa Celtica, Doolin, Prydein, and a Parcel of Rogues. He is a multiple winner of Scottish Lowland and Border Pipers’ Society Open Borderpipes and New Composition events and the Maitre de Cornemuse at St. Chartier. In addition to pipes, he is accomplished on the flute, bouzouki, and DADGAD guitar, all of which are showcased on his recent solo album Border Pipe Personality Disorder. He teaches at the Vermont Institute of Celtic Arts and performs in the duo If You Must Know with harpist Rachel Clemente. Outside of music, Dan holds advanced degrees in Applied Mathematics and Geophysics as well as Gaelic Literature and Language.

Guitarist Eric McDonald was raised in a musical Boston family surrounded by the sounds of modern piano compositions, lively klezmer clarinet, and songs of the American folk revival. Early performances with The Revels and at Club Passim set Eric on his musical path, studying at Berklee College of Music under John McGann and Eugene Friesen and attending summer fiddle camps in New England, where he discovered a love for DADGAD guitar. Eric is one of the US’s premier accompanists in many styles, and is an active session player, recording and traveling with musicians including singer-songwriter Connor Garvey, Pan Celtic supergroup The Outside Track, flute phenom Chris Norman, Juno Award-winning Canadian folk legends The McDades, and fiddlers Andrea Beaton, Wendy MacIsaac, and Katie McNally. Eric is also a member of Celtic roots trio Kalos and folk trio Bellwether. Eric’s debut solo recording Rove features his unique style and approach to tunes on the mandolin, as well as carefully crafted deliveries of traditional ballads on voice and guitar.



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