New England Celtic Arts will host Irish roots-based duo, Matt and Shannon Heaton at Skye Theatre Performing Arts Center on Thursday, May 29, in South Carthage, starting at 7 p.m. A preshow jam will start at 6:30, please bring your instruments.

Guitarist/singer Matt Heaton and Irish flute player/singer Shannon Heaton have been making music together since their first meeting in 1992. They met in Chicago via romance, albeit someone else’s, when Shannon needed a guitar player to play for a wedding gig that never ended up happening. Despite the loss of the gig, Matt and Shannon gained a musical – and eventually romantic – partnership.

Together they built up their traditional Irish music skills on Irish flute and guitar in the Chicago sessions (learning from John Williams, Liz Carroll, Brendan McKinney, Denis Cahill, and Kevin Henry). When they began bringing in singing, they focused on their favorite aspects of both Irish and American traditions, ending up with new songs that sound traditional, alongside centuries-old ballads with fresh new melodies.

For years, the two worked as active side players for several Celtic music luminaries, including Robbie O’Connell, Aoife Clancy, Boys of the Lough, Emily Smith, Eamonn Coyne, and Halali. And during a three-year sabbatical in Boulder, Colo., Matt and Shannon formed the band Siucra with Colorado singer Beth Leachman and later, Vermont fiddler Sam Amidon, putting out three acclaimed recordings.

In 2003, the Heatons began focusing their creative energies on their duo, coming up with ways to create a full and varied sound with just two people. They put out their first duo album, “dearga,” in October 2003. It was a mix of traditional tunes and original compositions, with three vocal numbers. Dirty Linen called it, “A fine mix of reels and jigs with a dynamic rhythmic tension, and an infectious spirit and vitality that translates into bright, uplifting music that will make you smile.”

The Heatons make traditional music relevant to American audiences. They embrace the solid Irish roots in their music, play the heck out of their instruments, and aren’t afraid to step out and sing from their American musical and social experiences. “We’re out to get everything we can out of two musicians. The more we put into it, the more we get out of it – and so, we think, do our audiences.”

Go and do

What: Irish roots-based duo, Matt and Shannon Heaton

Where: Skye Theatre Performing Arts Center, 3 miles west of East Dixfield Village at 2 Highland Drive, off Winter Hill Road and Route 2 in South Carthage

When: on Thursday, May 29, at 7 p.m. with a preshow jam at 6:30

Tickets: $10 at the door.

FMI: New England Celtic Arts, 562-4445 for reservations and directions


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