BRT Summer Solstice Festival

BRT Summer Solstice Festival

Featuring a line-up of harp, flute, bodhran, guitar and vocals along with Irish step dancing, HighTime, from Connemara, Ireland, will be making both their Solstice Festival and Rhode Island debut.
World-class musicians take over Diamond Hill Park Saturday

CUMBERLAND – For the ninth year in a row, Cumberland’s Blackstone River Theatre will transform Diamond Hill Park into a showcase of some of the best Celtic and world musicians, dancers and performers, say festival organizers.

The 9th annual Summer Solstice Festival will take place on Saturday, June 15, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the park in Cumberland.

“The festival is really about bringing the programming that we do day in and day out (at the Blackstone River Theatre) to an outside setting,” Russell Gusetti, BRT executive director and festival producer, told The Valley Breeze. “I love the community experience of it.”
“We’ve been getting better every year,” he added.

Highlighting local and international performers, four stages will feature Celtic and world music, dance, and culture continuously throughout the day, including Irish step dance featuring 80 dancers from Tir Na Nog Irish Dance, a noncompetitive school run out of Blackstone River Theatre.

Patrons can also stop by an Irish session tent to jam with many of the festival performers.

While attendance has hovered around 1,000 in past years, Gusetti said about 400 more people visited the festival last year, bringing it close to 1,400.

“It’s pretty amazing to see that many people in the park,” he said, saying that he loves seeing returnees but is happy to be bringing in new folks as well.

Unlike some other music festivals, Gusetti said, the Summer Solstice Festival is “much calmer,” and after nine years, the team has figured out a smarter layout to make it easier and more enjoyable for visitors.

The family-friendly festival features some of the best young musicians on the Celtic music scene, as well as many musicians with decades of experience, he said.

Festival performers include the Atwater-Donnelly Trio, The Hanneke Cassel Band, Kevin Crawford, Cillian Vallely & Patrick Doocey (from the Irish group Lunasa), Eastern Medicine Singers, The Gnomes, HighTime, La Croisée D’Antan, Bonnie Milner, Dan Milner, Partington & Sweeney, Roscommon Soles featuring Kevin Doyle with Sheila Falls, Josh Kane, Owen Marshall, M.L. Partington, and Torrin Ryan, and The Vox Hunters. Most groups will perform twice during the festival.

Making Solstice Festival debuts are the Hanneke Cassel Band and Ireland’s HighTime.

Cassel, a Boston-based fiddler, who performs traditional and original music, said her style is influenced mainly by Scotland and Cape Breton Island. She’ll be joined by cellist Mike Block and guitarist/vocalist Keith Murphy.

Cassel, who’s played at BRT since 2003 almost annually, said, “It’s always a warm crowd.”

With an unusual line-up of harp, flute, bodhran, guitar and vocals, along with Irish step dancing, HighTime, from Connemara, Ireland, offers both high-energy tunes and beautiful vocals, Gusetti said, adding that Séamus O Flatharta is a 23-time All-Ireland champion on harp, whistle, singing and dancing.

Two highly anticipated festival returns are La Croisée D’Antan, a young trio of traditional musicians from Quebec, and Kevin Crawford, Cillian Vallely and Patrick Doocey, of the acclaimed Irish group Lunasa, according to Gusetti.

Appearing for the first time at the festival is Roscommon Soles, a traditional Irish step dance-driven ensemble led by Kevin Doyle, of Barrington, a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow. He will be joined by his sister Maureen and daughter Shannon as the “Dancin’ Doyles.”

Their performance is inspired by a show created for the Library of Congress and American Folklife Center in 2014 as part of the NEA Fellowship Awards in Washington, D.C.

Aside from the performances, there will be 25 crafters, artisans and small business vendors as well as five food vendors: GottaQ BBQ, Mickey G’s Clam Shack, The Incred-a-bowl food company, Del’s, and The Ice Cream Machine.

A children’s activity area will feature face painting, sand art, henna, and Marvelous Marvin’s Circus Skills workshop.

Festival sponsors include Navigant Credit Union, the town of Cumberland, The Valley Breeze Newspapers, Abbott Valley Veterinary Center, Open MRI of New England, Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, and Angelo’s Palace Pizza.

The rain date is Sunday, June 16. Parking is free and a shuttle bus will be available from 1 to 6 p.m.

Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $5 for children ages 6-15, and free for children under 5.

Visit for more information including stage schedules.

Roscommon Soles, who will open and close the festival features, from left, step dancer Kevin Doyle, Torrin Ryan, Sheila Falls, Josh Kane, dancers Maureen and Shannon Doyle, and Mary Lee Partington. Joining them will be Owen Marshall on guitar and dancer CJ Jefferson.
The Hanneke Cassel Band features Mike Block, Hanneke Cassel and Keith Murphy.