Celtic Comes Alive
While the wintry wind is blowing outside in Boone, Celtic tunes and beer will be flowing at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at Appalachian Mountain Brewery, as The Mountain Laurels and The Dandeggans join forces once again for a night of live music.
The Mountain Laurels are a five-member all-female band composed of Appalachian State University faculty members: Rhonda Lorence on violin and viola; Connie Woolard on hammered dulcimer and percussion; Elaine Gray on guitar; Suzi Mills on vocals, bass and accordion; and Louise Keegan on flute and whistle. The Dandeggans are a five-member band composed of App State students: Valerie Puhala on fiddle and vocals; Abigail Lanier on bódhran; Tyler Patterson on guitar; Connor Cook on button accordion; and Jenny Parks on harp.
The educators and students have played together once before at AMB in November and “had such a great time we decided to do it again,” said Elaine Gray of The Mountain Laurels.
Connor Cook of The Dandeggans initially met Gray at the Swannanoa Gathering in Swannanoa for a yearly Celtic music week.
“The dynamic is great to play with a faculty group,” she said. “It is nice to play with musicians of a different age than us. Traditional Irish music is all about playing with anyone and everyone. Irish music is universal, and there never seems to be any sort of age or culture gap.”
Because The Dandeggans are all seniors at App in different majors and on varying life paths, this performance may be one of the last times to see the group perform live together in Boone.
“After this semester, the band members will be scattering to different places,” said Valerie Puhala of The Dandeggans. “I will be in Wake County for student teaching, Tyler and Abigail will be in New York for internships, Jenny will be student teaching, and Connor will be finishing up her last semester before grad school in Chicago. So, the practicality of long-term goals for the band is questionable.”
Cook also cited the different paths as a reason for the band to likely not be able to stay together long. “For now, we are working on putting out an album if time allows and playing as many gigs as we can,” she said. “I hope we can stick together for as long as possible, because we have something special.”
Ireland was the initial bonding factor for the diverse group of students, who formed The Dandeggans in spring 2012. “Connor, Abigail and I met on the university’s study abroad trip to Ireland, and we knew we had to keep playing after the trip,” Puhala said. “Then Connor knew Jenny, and Abigail knew Tyler, and they invited them to play with us.”
The Mountain Laurels have been playing together for nearly five years and plan to continue playing together as they’re working on their next CD due out in 2014. “We are focusing on the joy of music making with each other and the pleasure of putting a smile on the faces of our audiences,” Gray said.
The Mountain Laurels perform a variety of Celtic, folk, classical and Americana music, while The Dandeggans perform a branch of Celtic music called traditional Irish music. Gray explained that because the history of the High Country is steeped in Irish and Scottish heritage, Celtic music “captures the spirit and the roots of Appalachian music” and that it “influenced the sound and feel of bluegrass and Appalachian music.”
Cook noted that traditional Irish music is made for the common man because it’s not extremely difficult to play.
“The tunes are universal, but everyone plays a tune differently,” Cook said. “However, when you’re playing a tune with people, it doesn’t matter if the tune is slightly different. What matters is the energy, friendliness and courtesy used by Irish musicians. Irish music is some of the happiest and most welcoming music I’ve ever experienced.”
If the promise of cheer isn’t enough to bring listeners to AMB for the concert, Gray said the evening will be a “full on night of foot tappin’, beer sippin’ Celtic music,” and both Cook and Puhala forecast witty banter, anecdotes and an overall good old time.
Appalachian Mountain Brewery is located at 163 Boone Creek Drive in Boone. For more information, call (828) 263-1111.