Christmas in the Mountains, Vol. IV
Christmas is an especially wonderful time to be in the High Country.
Not because there's plenty of shopping, we can spend our time off at the ski resort or our area turns into true "Winter Wonderland" at this time of year. Rather, the reason the holiday season is so great in the High Country is that our community gives. Every year, we respond to the endless opportunities to give time, money and thought to organizations that help others.
The Hunger and Health Coalition has benefited tremendously from this outpouring. The "Christmas in the Mountains" series, a creative effort initiated by local philanthropist and Hunger Coalition volunteer Crae Morton, is one of the organization's biggest fundraisers. For the past four years, a compilation of holiday music performed by local artists has been available for purchase, with all of the proceeds going to the Hunger and Health Coalition.
"Christmas in the Mountains, Volume IV" provides a diverse blend of homegrown yuletide spirit. From bluegrass to gospel to jazz, each unique song comes together into a cohesive unit that appeals to anyone who enjoys holiday music. Containing recognizable traditionals and original compositions that keep with the familiar air of the season, "Christmas in the Mountains, Volume IV" fits in nicely with the usual Christmas playlist.
While some of the artists heard on "Christmas in the Mountains, Volume IV" provided songs available on their previous releases, others recorded specifically for the compilation. Such is the case for Southern Accent, a group well-known in the church community of the High Country. "Once Upon a Star," detailing the birth of Christ, opens the album.
The next 40 minutes are filled with both religious and secular songs, as well as several instrumentals. Solo performances by Doug Kaufman on the piano ("It Came Upon a Midnight Clear") and Andy Page on the guitar ("Pretty Paper") are as soothing as hot cider. The Todd Wright Quintet's clever jazz take on "Away in a Manger" is sublime.
One might wonder why the prominent folk group The Kingston Trio is included in a local music compilation. Surprisingly, its longest-running member, George Grove, is from Hickory. The Trio's offering is a merry rendition of "Deck the Halls."
"Christmas in the Mountains, Volume IV" provides evidence there is no shortage of talented musicians in the area. Especially impressive are the female singers, performing with incredible ease and beauty.
Diana Wilcox, known as the leader of Diana and Sarvis Ridge, delivers a powerful "O Holy Night." Melissa Reaves entices listeners to hit 'replay' with the album-ender, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
Other artists featured on "Christmas in the Mountains, Volume IV" include Jessica Presnell, Cathy McKinney, Nancy Scheelock-Simmons, Joe Shannon, Blue Ridge Vocal Ensemble, Steve and Ruth Smith and Sound Traveler.
The demand for the initial "Christmas in the Mountains" album has sustained the series' continuance. Folks know that when they purchase "Christmas in the Mountains" they are getting a well-produced CD worthy of being a part of their holiday soundtrack and also a thoughtful gift for friends and family. Many own all four volumes.
The small $10 price tag makes a huge dent in hunger. Last year's release alone amassed over $28,000 sales, with it all going to Hunger Coalition's initiative to end childhood hunger in the High Country. Proceeds from "Christmas in the Mountains, Volume IV" will continue to advance work in this area. Each purchase can buy 50 pounds of food to fill a box for a family of four.
From the musicians that perform to the businesses that provide the shelf space so the album can sold to those who purchase it each year, "Christmas in the Mountains" is a shining example of the benevolence of the High Country.
For more information, call the Hunger and Health Coalition at (828) 262-1628 or visit http://www.hungerandhealthcoalition.com for a list of locations where the album is sold.