VALLE CRUCIS, NC – There is a framed needlepoint artwork in the choir room at Holy Cross Episcopal Church that reads, “For heights and depths no words can reach, music is the soul’s own speech.” While the author of that phrase is unknown, the revered saying could well be the mantra for an upcoming series of musical concerts.
The line-up of artists has been announced for the popular Summer Concert Series at historic St. John’s Church in Valle Crucis with monthly events planned from June 4 through August 6. A summer mission of Holy Cross Episcopal Church, the picturesque chapel, consecrated in 1862, is located in the Watauga County countryside and provides marvelous acoustics for music with its wooden walls and floors forming a natural sounding board for live performances.
Celebrating its 12th Anniversary season in 2023, the concerts showcase some of the High Country’s finest musicians along with regional artists of national prominence. Attendees linger until sunset to mingle with the artists after their performance. All concerts begin promptly at 5 p.m., are approximately 60 minutes in duration and followed by a potluck supper. Admission is free, but a suggested contribution of $5 will help the parish offset artists fees, with children 12 and under admitted free of charge.
On Sunday, June 4, the annual Singing in the Valle concert begins the 2023 summer series with the vocal and hand bell choirs of Holy Cross Episcopal Church joined by singers from Banner Elk Presbyterian Church. The venerable choral and handbell ensembles will perform both individually and together as a combined group. The choir directors include Nina Allbert from Banner Elk Presbyterian Church and Elaine Kallestad from Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Valle Crucis. Organist David Soyars from the Banner Elk church will accompany the vocal artists.
According to Kallestad, the repertoire includes, “Music that spans the centuries, from the Middle Ages of England to contemporary Christian composers. Choral pieces include a cappella works by Richard de Castre, and African American spirituals, as well as accompanied anthems by Handel, Pepper Choplin, Daniel Gawthrop, Wes Ramsey, Tim Sharp, and others.
“Handbell repertoire features a unique narration by Douglas E. Wagner, along with works by Susan Nelson, and Margaret Tucker. Special musical guests include Scott Kallestad (saxophone) as well as The Holy Smokes vocal trio. To round out the program, sing-along ‘old-time Gospel’ hymns make for a rousing good time!”
The Junaluska Gospel Choir from Boone Mennonite Brethren Church will present an evening of spirituals and gospel favorites on Sunday, July 2, 2023. Nestled within the Junaluska neighborhood, one of the oldest predominantly African American communities in western North Carolina, the “little white church on the hill” has been home to some of the region’s most talent- rich gospel ensembles and over the years, the Junaluska Gospel Choir’s unique and eclectic sound has evolved into a passionate blend of gospel styles.
Having performed at Boonerang and MerleFest and famous throughout the North Carolina High Country for their passionate and uplifting performances in the Black Church and Old-Time Gospel music traditions, the choir features singers who come from multiple generations of choral artists. They will be joined by some of the region’s best rhythm and blues musicians, and audience members will find that it’s nearly impossible to sit still during a choir performance.
Wild Blue Yonder, An Appalachian Celtic Band closes out the 2023 season on Sunday, August 6, 2023. Per their press releases, “The Appalachian Celtic band Wild Blue Yonder takes ‘roots music’ to a whole new level, performing songs of Appalachia and the British Isles with spirit and fire. Fiddle, whistles, bagpipe, mandolin, bodhran, banjo, bouzouki, and Celtic drums blend to serve up a high-energy helping of Celtic tunes, as the group celebrates the rich Scots Irish musical tradition of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Each performance features a bit of Celtic language, lore and attire.”
The band was formed in 1999 when musicians/songwriters Melissa Wade and Philip Coward joined forces to share their love of mountain tunes. Adding fiddler Cindy Wallace to their ranks in 2003, the group flourished in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, releasing three CDs that showcased a variety of bluegrass, Gospel, Americana, and original songs. Wallace was born in Mt. Airy and infuses the band with authentic Blue Ridge fiddling.
Attendees traditionally bring a dish to share during the potluck supper on the lawn that follows every summer concert, with dozens of folks arriving early to begin the social aspect of the evening’s festivities. Many audience members prefer to set up lawn chairs near the open windows of the chapel and listen to the music as it resonates throughout the valley. All are welcome as High Country residents mingle with newcomers and visitors to the melting pot that is historic St. John’s.
St. John’s Chapel is located at 645 Herb Thomas Road, off Mast Gap Road in the Sugar Grove community near Valle Crucis, NC. Signs are posted throughout the valley directing audience members to the concert location. For more information, please visit the concert website at www.holycrossvallecrucis.net or call 828.963.4609.
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