ROCKPORT — The inaugural Rockport Celtic Festival has struck a chord with concert-goers who weeks ago bought out the opening night concert of the three-day event.

However, there are six more events —  two more main stage concerts, two Celtic jam sessions, one workshop and a poetry-Celtic spirit program — during the festival, which runs Friday, Aug. 23, through Sunday, Aug. 25. A concert on Sunday will feature two Cape Ann musicians. In addition to the musicians, there will be singers, dancers and storytellers exploring the festival's theme of "Exploring Celtic Roots & Branches."

The festival is curated by Brian O'Donovan and Maeve Gilchrist of the radio show "A Celtic Sojourn."

O'Donovan gave a shout-out to Rockport Music on his WGBH radio show about the festival when he applauded the organization for creating a vibrant music community.

He said he was beyond excited about "Exploring Celtic Roots & Branches."

"This is a new and ambitious festival for us, featuring Celtic music’s broad and vibrant range with a strong emphasis on crossover and collaborative work with different genres, including classical, jazz, and American traditional," he wrote in a festival statement.

The opening night concert, The Celtic Appalachian Journey, is already sold out.

On a recent radio show, O'Donovan focused on the Saturday main stage concert titled "Strings on Strings," a program he called the most adventurous of the undertakings. Performing will be the 13-member Palaver Strings.  

Tony Beadle, president and CEO of Rockport Music, said he is pleased at the response to this endeavor.

"In addition to great performers, there will be fun events," Beadle said. "We have smaller concerts on the beautiful third floor where people love to go, plus you are going to hear some great artists in all forms and iterations of Celtic music." 

In some of the more creative programming, on Saturday at 2 p.m., there will be a Celtic workshop focused on harmony and traditional song accompaniment. The Murphy Beds, featuring Jefferson Hamer and Eamon O’Leary, and others will demonstrate and discuss their approach to traditional music and the use of guitar and bouzouki in accompaniment. On Sunday afternoon at 2, there will be a program "Words & Music/The Celtic Spirit," described as a "meditative Sunday hour with poetry, prose, and music."

The closing concert on Sunday at 5 p.m. pays homage to the legacy of Cape Ann with a program titled "Songs and Stories From the Sea - Saluting the history of Cape Ann and its place in Atlantic Maritime History." Among the artists will be two from Gloucester — David Coffin and Michael O’Leary, both on vocals. 

O'Donovan, who has three decades hosting "A Celtic Sojourn" on WGBH,  is also known for his live concert series "A Christmas Celtic Sojourn," which sells out each year. 

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at


What: The inaugural Rockport Celtic Festival.

When:  Friday, Aug. 23, through Sunday, Aug. 25

Where: Shalin Liu Performance Center, 37 Main St., Rockport.

How much: $10 to $69; for tickets and more information, visit

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