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Mountain Home Music Produces a Celtic Christmas With John Doyle & Duncan Wickel


John Doyle, who has long been considered the most accomplished and important guitarists in Irish and acoustic music worldwide, is coming to the High Country this Saturday, Nov. 28.

Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music is presenting its Celtic Christmas Concert beginning at 7:30 p.m., at Saint Elizabeth of the Hill Country Catholic Church in Boone.

Doyle will help jump start your holiday spirit with his amazing guitar playing, heart-felt renderings of traditional Irish and original songs and his sharing of personal stories of how Christmas was celebrated in his boyhood home in Dublin. Joining Doyle for this special seasonal concert will be Irish fiddle sensation, Duncan Wickel.

Originally from Dublin and now residing in Asheville, Doyle co-founded the ultra popular Irish band, Solas. He has continued to play with some of the top names of a who’s – who of Irish and American performers. He has played on and produced over 30 albums and he maintains one of the busiest schedules in all of Celtic music.

In January of this year, Doyle joined forces with some friends to form Ushers’s Island. The name – ‘Supergroup’ – gets bandied around very often but in this case John Doyle, Andy Irvine, Mike McGoldrick, Paddy Glackin and Donal Lunny represent three generations of groundbreaking Irish music and truly deserve the name. With members of Planxty, Sweeney’s Men, Bothy Band, Moving Hearts, Solas and Lunasa all together, it is a truly a ‘Who’s Who” of the greats in traditional Irish music.

One would be hard pressed to concoct a better combination of instrumentalist, singers, and songwriters, with more miles, years and musical accomplishment under their collective belts than these five. This summer, Doyle also returned to Scotland as a regular part of “Celtic Connections Transatlantic Sessions.”

Invited to join as part of the all star “house band” some 11 years ago, every year Doyle has made his mark alongside co-directors Jerry Douglas/Aly Bain and bandmates Mike McGoldrick, John McCusker, James McIntosh, Danny Thompson, Phil Cunningham, Russ Barenberg, Tim O’Brien and special guests this year to include Rodney Crowell, Patty Griffin, John Smith, Sara Watkins and Kathleen MacInnes.
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. No, he did not learn to play standing on his head. 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.
For this performance, Doyle, will be joined by Duncan Wickel of Asheville. Known mostly for his fiddling, Wilkel also is a master of the Uilleann pipes and Irish whistle. Doyle and Wickel have been playing and touring together on and off since Duncan was 14 years old (over 10 years). Rodney Sutton, director of JSMHM stated, “The combination of these two excellent musicians will add up to an outstanding evening of Celtic music not to be missed.”

“Presenting JSMHM’s Celtic Christmas Concert on ‘tree-cutting day’ is a tradition started by Mountain Home Music’s founder, the late Joe Shannon. Shannon, who loved Irish music, looked to fill what he perceived as a void in entertainment offered on the Saturday night after Thanksgiving. He realized that the High Country was full of folks who were in the area buying their Christmas Trees. JSMHM hopes that all you long term residents and those just visiting will join us for a chance to be transported back to Doyle’s boyhood home for an authentic Irish Christmas experience”, Sutton added.
When asked to relate the ways his family celebrated Christmas, Doyle said, “I was born in Dublin, Ireland 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 6st, 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 too. 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 carry it over to them.”

This concert is supported by the following private sponsors: T. C. Farthing Family, Dr. E. Frank and Tara Hancock, Lynn Hubbard, Merida H. Steele – In Honor of John H. Steele, and The Estate of Joe Shannon. Business Sponsors include, Advance Realty, Boone TDA, Mast General Store, Mountain Times Publishing, Stick Boy Bread Company, Sait Elizabeth of the Hill Country Catholic Church and WETS-89.5FM. Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music is also 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.com. 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), and Pandora’s Mailbox and the Dulcimer Shop, both in the Martin House on Main Street in downtown Blowing Rock.

Saint Elizabeth Of the High Country Catholic Church is located at 259 Pilgrims Way, Boone, NC.

Directions and more info can be found at the JSMHM website – www.mountainhomemusic.com/