Internationally acclaimed Irish guitarist John Doyle will make a rare appearance in the High Country this Saturday night, Nov. 26. Doyle is returning for a second year to play Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music’s annual Celtic Christmas Concert.
The show will be held at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Boone, beginning at 7:30pm. Joining Doyle for this special “Green” Saturday concert will be champion Irish fiddler, Andrew Finn Magill.
Originally from Dublin and now residing in Asheville, Doyle rose to prominence in the Celtic music world back in 1996 as the co-founder of the ultra popular Irish band, Solas. His unique original style of playing guitar has kept him in the forefront of Irish and Americana music as the go to guy to add an unusual flair to any acoustic music project. Doyle has played on and produced over 130 albums collaborating with a who’s – who of Irish and American performers including Joan Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mathea, Liz Carol, Jerry Douglas, Aly Bain, Phil Cunningham, Russ Barenberg, Tim O’Brien, Rodney Crowell, Patty Griffin, Sara Watkins plus dozens more to numerous to list.
Doyle’s trademark guitar style for backing up other musicians was developed from what he refers to as learning to play “upside down” as a kid. Being left handed, Doyle taught himself to play on his father’s right-handed guitar, which ended up with all the strings being “upside down”. Adapting to this set-up, Doyle began using an up-pick on the bass strings. After two years he began playing a true left-handed guitar and his style is a hybrid of learning to play both. His playing transcends having the guitar being just a rhythm instrument in Irish music – it has placed the guitar front and center with the other traditional Irish instruments, the fiddle, accordion, banjo, pipes and whistles. Doyle’s technique involves the use of bass string damping with the heel of the left hand combined with a constant, metronome-like strumming pattern and nimble movement up and down the neck with the right hand to incorporate bass lines and chordal variations. Combined with other dynamic techniques such as string choking with the right hand, the resulting sound is full and highly rhythmical.
In recent years, Doyle has focused primarily on writing songs based on the varied experiences of Irish emigrants – his great grandfather on the torpedoed S.S. Arabic in 1915; famine victims on the coffin ships to Quebec; Confederate and Union Irish fighting against one another at Fredericksburg; an Irishman’s journey through the First World War. In reviews, these songs on Doyle’s 2012 release, Shadow and Light have been said, “to be destined to be classics in the Irish folk music songbook. His talents as songwriter are rare and exquisite.”
Andrew Finn Magill is a fiddler/violinist who straddles genres. By 16, he was a two-time finalist at the All-Ireland fiddle championships. In 2011 he produced a Fulbright-MtvU funded concept album about AIDS with Afro-vibes artist from Malawi Peter Mawanga. He currently leads his own quartet of Brazilian choro, O Finno, and is a founding member of Violino no Choro. Magill, also from Asheville, is long time friend of Doyle’s and they have performed Irish music together regularly for many years.
Rodney Sutton, the director of JSMHM says of this Green Saturday Celtic Christmas concert, “John Doyle will help jump start your holiday spirit with his amazing guitar playing and his heart-felt renderings of traditional Irish and original songs. He will be sharing personal stories of how Christmas was celebrated in his boyhood home in Ireland.” Doyle responded to being asked what Christmas was like back in the old country – “I was born in Dublin and spent my youth travelling between there and my Grandparents house in Sligo on the west coast of Ireland. I have three brothers so our Christmas was pretty hectic, but fun. Christmas eve and Christmas day along with New Years Eve and also little Christmas on January 6th, were celebrated – each of course in varying degrees. It mainly entailed a lot of good food and family members coming over to visit. We had the usual sharing of presents on Christmas day and a big session of music where we would all sing and play until the wee hours of the night. All my family can play or sing or recite poetry. It’s quite an experience when it’s in full swing. Of course there were many libations drank by the older folk. To this day when my family goes over to Ireland for Christmas, we still have the same tradition of music and stories with all the next generation and try to pass it over to them.”
When quizzed why the concert was being promoted as taking place on “Green” Saturday, Sutton explained, “On our American Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, we have Turkey Day Thursday, Black Friday and now “Green” Saturday. The green color designation for this special day is two fold. First, it falls on “tree-cutting” day here in the High Country. Second, JSMHM founder, Joe Shannon, selected this day for his our annual MHM Celtic Christmas Concert. You can’t get much greener than fresh Christmas trees and Irish music!” Sutton added, “We are inviting everyone, but especially our off the mountain visitors, to come and enjoy some of the best authentic Irish music to be found anywhere!”
This concert is supported by the following private sponsors: The Ned Trivette Family; Dr. Robert Bridgeman, DDS, PA; Lynn Hubbard; and Dr. Julia Tyson DDS. Business sponsors include: Bistro Roca; Boone TDA; Mast General Store and Mountain Times Publishing. Additional support is provided by the Watauga County and the North Carolina Art Council’s. Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music is also proud to be included as a site on the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina (BlueRidgeMusicNC.com).
Tickets cost $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Student tickets are $10. Children 12 and younger are admitted free. Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.mountainhomemusic.org. Tickets may also be purchased at the Mast General Store (Boone and Valle Crucis), Fred’s Mercantile on Beech Mountain, Stick Boy Bread Company(345 Hardin St, Boone), plus Footsloggers and Pandora’s Mailbox on Main Street in downtown Blowing Rock.
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church 170 Council St. Boone, NC – Directions and more info can be found at the JSMHM website listed above.