July 4th falls on a Tuesday this year, meaning that a lot of activities will take place on Saturday, July 1. But not so for Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music’s annual “Blue Grass and Brass” concert. Nope, it will be held as always on the actual holiday, Tuesday – July 4th. This year’s version of this highly popular music event takes place at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium beginning at 7 p.m. Continuing a tradition 18 years in the making, it will feature the Mountain Home Bluegrass Boys and The King Street Brass. This concert will include many patriotic musical selections and runs straight thru until 8:30 p.m. so that folks can make it to their favorite viewing spot for one of the many fireworks shows in the High Country.
The Mountain Home Bluegrass Boys are a mainstay at JSMHM and features two time national bluegrass banjo champion Steve Lewis, Scott Freeman on mandolin and Josh Scott on bass. The twice-national studio musician of the year, David Johnson – who will serve as host for the evening – is the front man for Bluegrass Boys. Folks who know Johnson can attest to his being one of the most entertaining emcees anywhere. His running commentary about the members of the two bands and the history of the music is worth the price of admission in itself! Trombone player Harold McKinney, a retired ASU faculty member from the Hayes School of Music, directs the King Street Brass band. This concert has special meaning for McKinney, as he was a member of the United States Air Force’s Brass Band during his four years of military service.
The usual suspects will again be joining McKinney in the King Street Brass Band. Trombone player, Joe Brown will come down from Ohio. Trumpeters Bill Jones and Patrick Whitehead will arrive from the DC area. Chris Watson will be this year’s tuba player. Jones’ son, Gabe, will be joining in on drums.
Staging a Blue Grass and Brass concert was a concept conceived by the founder of Mountain Home Music, Joe Shannon, over 18 years ago. Shannon, who was the director of JSMHM for 20 years, passed away in the spring of 2014. McKinney likes to tell how Shannon came up with the idea of combining these two different musical styles for a patriotic tribute to honor the men and women of our United States military branches. According to McKinney, Shannon took his father, who was suffering from dementia, to a patriotic concert. As far as he could tell, his father didn’t really understand much about where he was until “Anchors Away” was played. His father brightened up, stood and saluted. That was it, Shannon was going to have a patriotic program in the high country and “Blue Grass and Brass” is the result of that idea.
“It is a pleasure to witness the interaction of these two groups”, states JSMHM director, Rodney Sutton. “Over the years, they have become musical friends and developed a professional working relationship and respect for one another’s musical talents. The brass players, “work off the page”, sight reading their music from written scores. The Bluegrass boys are more improvisational and can jump in on most of the brass bands numbers. With Johnson’s decades of experience in his work in studio recordings, he is able to write out parts for the bluegrass songs so that the brass guys can join in”, said Sutton.
The result is an evening of excellent renditions of songs popular in both musical genres as each group is given the chance to play some standards from their respective music styles, but what makes the concert special is when they combine their efforts. Joe Shannon once described the concert this way – “When they team-up, it’s magic, kind of like Dixieland, but it’s Bluegrass Dixieland with an Appalachian heart.” Past audiences can attest to the fact that this concert is just plain fun and nothing is more uplifting that hearing the Grass and Brass play the service anthems in their Armed Forces Salute, as JSMHM honors those who have served or are serving our country. This year’s selections will again include songs such the Stars and Stripes Forever, The Bugle Call Rag and many other favorites from past shows.
Sutton added, “The JSMHM Blue Grass and Brass concert is one of our best attended annual presentations. Over the years it has become especially popular with local veterans and their families as we honor our American Vets by asking them to stand during the playing of their branch of service’s anthem. This always puts a nice touch of patriotic emphasis to this July 4thCelebration! If you would like to let a family member or friend know how much you appreciate their service to our country, then consider inviting them to attend this show”.
This concert is supported by the following private sponsors: Bob and Ruth Cook in honor of those who severed aboard the USS Franklin Roosevelt (CVA 42, 1945-1977), Lynn Hubbard, Ben Mast, Bill and Jewel Magee in honor of Jo and Rogers Magee, and Tom and Cherye Pace in honor of a wonderful man, great dad and WW II vet. Business Sponsors include; Appalachian Regional Healthcare Systems, Advanced Reality, Mast General Store, Joy Whitlach – State Farm Insurance, Mountain Time Publishing, and the High Country Press. Additional support is provided by; The Watauga Arts Council, The NC Arts Council, and Boone TDA, 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).
The Blowing Rock School Auditorium is located at 130 Sunset Dr. in Blowing Rock.
Tickets cost $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Student tickets are $5. Children 12 and younger are admitted free. Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.mountainhomemusic.org. Tickets in limited numbers 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.
Tickets, directions and more info can be found at the JSMHM website – www.mountainhomemusic.org/