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MHM Presents ‘An Appalachian Christmas’ Saturday


This Saturday night’s, “An Appalachian Christmas” free concert marks the 20th anniversary of a Mountain Home Music holiday tradition that celebrates the real “reason for the season.”

Started by MHM’s beloved founder, Joe Shannon, the performance offers an opportunity for local musicians to donate their talents back to the High Country community as they invite everyone to share in the giving spirit of the holidays.

All money collected from the “love offering” at this benefit concert will go to two local charities known for helping those less fortunate – The Hospitality House and Santa’s Toy box. The concert takes place on Saturday, December 3th at Grace Lutheran Church in Boone at 7:30pm.

2The 2016 edition of “An Appalachian Christmas” features a number of performers who have been mainstays at JSMHM concerts since it’s beginnings in 1994: Cecil Gurganus, Mary Greene, and David Johnson were all best of friends with Shannon and have been “instrumental” in putting together this holiday show every year. Joining this dependable trio will be Trevor McKenzie, Debra Jean Sheets and daughter Kelly Sheets Snider, along with Cane Mill Road. Johnson, will serve as co-host and will play with members of the Mountain Home Bluegrass Boys.

“Joe always included a couple of Christmas carols in this concert, so we will invite the audience to sing along on such favorites as Silent Night. But, what makes this show fresh and new each year is everyone is asked to include some of the songs and tunes that are more rare – ones that you don’t usually hear on the radio and TV over and over”, stated JSMHM director – Rodney Sutton. He added, “We want this years concert to stand out for both its variety of styles; Celtic, old-time, blue grass and country, and also its inclusion of those hidden gems – the songs and tunes that just don’t get covered as much as they should.”

Cecil Gurganus has been an integral part of the Watauga County’s old-time music and dance scene for over 4 decades as a member of the Laurel Creek String Band and as a duet partner with Greene. He has made dozens of appearances at JSMHM concerts, most recently as a member of Strictly Strings with whom he serves as the band leader, guitar player, singer and manager. Gurganus has been a mainstay as an instructor at the Boone Junior Appalachian Music program since it’s inception and now is the senior mentor of the program, sharing his knowledge and love of old-time music with hundreds of aspiring young musicians.

The sparkle in Mary Greene’s eye, her thoughtful comments and stories, and a voice full of the richness and warmth of the Appalachians shines forth in her musical presentations. She has presented folklore and music traditions at the Smithsonian Institution’s Festival of American Folklife and has also taught and performed for more than a decade at the Appalachian State University’s Dulcimer Playing Workshop. For many years, Greene and Gurganus performed with legendary local fiddler and singer Ora Watson. Shannon often featured this trio at MHM concerts in the 1990’s.

Trevor McKenzie is a multi-instrumentalist and singer originally from southwest Virginia, who has learned from skilled musicians from along the Appalachians and around the world. McKenzie currently lives in the Mabel community of Watauga County and performs as a sideman with several regional acts including the Elkville String Band and the Laurel Creek String Band. He is a talented songwriter and singer and recently released his first recording of all original songs, “Generational Thing.” 

Debra Jean and Randy Sheets along with daughter Kelly Sheets Snider make up the Sheets Family Band, a group that has also performed for many JSMHM concerts. They have performed at numerous major events, including MerleFest and the National Folk Festival. For this Christmas show, you will be treated to the beautiful harmonies produced by the family genetics of this mother and daughter duo who have been singing and playing together all their lives.

Cane Mill Road are from the Deep Gap, North Carolina that play old-time Appalachia and progressive bluegrass, but specialize in preserving the traditional bluegrass music of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The band has been featured on National Public Radio, MerleFest, IBMA, MusicFest at Sugar Grove, Carolina in the Fall, and HoustonFest. The band members are 14-year-old Liam Purcell on vocals, guitar, fiddle, mandolin and clawhammer banjo; 19-year-old Eliot Smith on guitar and bass; and 17-year-old Trajan Wellington on bluegrass banjo, bass, and guitar.

Multi-instrumentalist, David Johnson, is a member of the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame and has been named the National Studio Musician of the Year two times. Johnson is a favorite of JSMHM concerts heading up three annual shows, the Memorial Day, Forth of July and Dixie Dawn Concerts. He will be joined by banjo-player, Eric Ellis and other special guest to offer up some special bluegrass and country Christmas classics.

Sutton added, “We hope folks will join us as once again we pay tribute to the giving spirit of Joe Shannon by shinning a light on one of his favorite concerts. JSMHM gets to give back to the community with a free show and in turn we offer the opportunity for those who attend to give to these two deserving non-profit charities. The Hospitality House has been offering a hand-up to the homeless for 34 years. Santa’s Toy Box, founded in 1985, made sure last year that over 900 families would have a toy under the tree on Christmas morning.”

No tickets are needed in advance for this free concert, but do bring your checkbooks.

Grace Lutheran Church is located at 115 E King St, Boone at the intersection of Hwy’s 321 and 421.