GROTON — A local music impresario has taken it upon herself to bring “local musicians to local people” with a new series of concerts to be held at J.P. O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub in Ayer.
“I started last January and O’Hanlon’s invited me to bring them more music,” explained Ashling Keating, of Music Visions. “They’ve been asking me that for a long time now, so it was kind of a joint production. I started doing occasional shows with them last year and they asked me to do a few more, so I’m planning on bringing them one or two concerts on a Saturday every month.”
Keating’s latest bookings include guitarist Chris McDermott and classical violinist Stuart Schulman on Jan. 26, both of whom are residents of Groton. Also from Groton is Robert Brown, from the band Loose Tongues, who will perform on Feb. 2.
A local favorite, Sun Tribe, will appear at O’Hanlon’s Jan. 12.
“Mainly, I’m trying to schedule local musicians, giving them some nice, small venues like O’Hanlon’s,” said Keating. “They provide opportunities for local people to hear local acts. I booked Sun Tribe in a few places before. They’ve been playing at the Gardner Ale House and a couple of weeks ago they appeared at the Bull Run, opening for a group called Black47, an Irish rock band. So, they’ve gotten a little bit of visibility in the area. They seem to be popular; as wherever they play, people keep asking to have them back.”
Keating has busied herself over the past months acting as booking agent for local musical talent as well as performers from farther afield for a number of venues in the Nashoba Valley, including the Devens Grill and the Stagecoach Inn.
“My favorite thing is to bring in local people sometimes in different combinations,” revealed Keating. “Chris McDermott and Stuart Schulman have not played together officially before. Both live in Groton and come from totally different backgrounds musically. I decided to get them together for an official gig after listening to both of them play together in an impromptu act. Chris was playing one evening when Stuart joined him and ended up staying with him all night. Everyone was talking about them the next day. Between Stuart’s classic violin and Chris’ repertoire of soul/jazz/funk, they made for an interesting combination.”
Keating will kick off her latest musical series for O’Hanlon’s with a performance by Sun Tribe, a Celtic rock trio with fiddler Melinda Rhinelander, singer/songwriter/guitarist Tiffany Drogheda, and guest Jon Stone on bass.
Sun Tribe specializes in a mix of original and cover music from alternative country, folk, Celtic, rock and other popular music.
The trio will be followed on Jan. 26 by the McDermott/Schulman pairing that Keating has labeled “a night of electrifying acoustic music.”
“Stuart Schulman is a versatile and eclectic musician known for his work as a classical and jazz violinist, electric bass player, pianist and arranger,” stated Keating in a press release. “Chris McDermott’s live performances showcase masterful musicianship, fire, funk and fun!”
As the venue for the new series, Keating said O’Hanlon’s is the perfect place, offering an inviting atmosphere, a roomy 90-seat concert hall and a convenient location for local residents to attend the shows and still make it home in time to relieve the baby sitter at a decent hour.
“People absolutely love attending venues that feature live music,” said Keating. “There was a very popular response to shows held last February and June. And what’s more, people are liking it local. These shows are mostly close to home and, as a result, people tend to stay to hear the whole show.”
Keating said that once established as a regular gig, she hopes to make the O’Hanlon’s series a monthly thing, with dinner and music offered on Saturday nights. Although the Main Street restaurant has been featuring Irish music every Sunday night, Keating hoped to “mix up” O’Hanlon’s live entertainment schedule with more folk, soul, jazz and blues.
“I feel that the music that I’ve brought to the area has had a positive effect in general,” said Keating. “The acts I’ve featured cater to different groups of people and it allows families to get together and just socialize. It also gives adults a reason to get out in the evening and meet.”
Following McDermott and Schulman, Keating plans to offer Robert Brown and the band Loose Tongues on Feb. 2 and an acoustic quartet called Annalivia, specializing in Celtic music, for March 8.
To learn more about upcoming shows, visit www.mymusicvisions.com or call O’Hanlon’s at (978) 772-9282.
As for getting music fans out in below-freezing temperatures, Keating said her shows are worth leaving the comfort of a nice, warm home for an evening out.
“It certainly beats watching television,” declared Keating. “It gets people out and mingling with their friends. You can’t stay indoors all the time!”