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SATURDAY & SUNDAY
From humble beginnings, the Washington Irish Festival, now celebrating its 23rd year, has grown into a two-day extravaganza and become one of the major stops on the international Celtic touring circuit. This year’s bash welcomes a number of acts making their festival debuts: Mary Jane Lamond, Calico, Danþ1, Jennifer and Hazel Wrigley, and Lþ1nasa (pictured). Judging by its just-released CD, Otherworld, Lþ1nasa will soon join the ranks of established Irish stars like Altan and the Chieftains. The feisty quintet gives instrumental Irish roots music a fluid, jazzy flavor: Flute and whistle player Kevin Crawford, fiddler Sean Smyth, and piper Cillian Vallely handle their leads expertly, while bassist Trevor Hutchinson and guitarist Donogh Hennessy provide supple rhythmic support. The acclaimed duo Jennifer and Hazel Wrigley hails from Scotland’s Orkney Islands and isn’t afraid to incorporate a bit of funky syncopation into its set of original and traditional dance tunes. In addition to these newcomers, a number of returning veterans will also be on hand. Foremost among these is Cherish the Ladies, the all-female Irish-American band that features great instrumental work and the polished vocals of Aoife Clancy; Solþ.s, starring multi-instrumentalist Seamus Egan and ace fiddler Winifred Horan; and renowned fiddler Eileen Ivers, who’ll no doubt be joined by one of her nifty multiethnic ensembles. In addition to the musical lineup, the festival serves up dance troupes, craft demonstrators, and a program featuring readings and talks about Irish-American history and culture. This embarrassment of Celtic riches takes place from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 5, at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, 16 Chestnut St., Gaithersburg. $20. (301) 565-0654. (Ken Roseman)