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Irish Temperance to perform in West Jefferson

Article Published: Jul. 2 | Modified: Jul. 20
Irish Temperance to perform in West Jefferson

Irish Temperance, featuring David Rotan and Bill Bynum, will perform July 19 at the Ashe Civic Center.

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Why does the band, Irish Temperance, enjoy playing music?

Member Bill Bynum has an answer.

“Who can resist playing a tune, called ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me?’” Bynum said.

Playing songs that few people have heard today is the reason why Irish Temperance, a band that plays authentic Irish music dating back centuries, was formed.

The High Country can hear for itself this July, as Irish Temperance will perform a two-hour concert at the Ashe Civic Center, located at 962 Mt. Jefferson Road in West Jefferson, on Saturday, July 19, at 7:30 p.m.

Cost is $20, with all proceeds benefiting the Friends of the Ashe County Library to fund adult, teen and children’s programs. Tickets are available in advance at the Ashe Arts Council (303 School Ave., West Jefferson) or at the door.

Clint Johnson, president of the Friends of Ashe County Library, asked Irish Temperance to return to Ashe County, exactly five years after the group played to a sell-out performance at the Ashe Arts Council. Their appearance is an expansion of the Friends’ 30-year history of raising money for the Ashe County Library.

The performance opens the Friends’ 2014 fundraising season, which will continue Aug. 2 with a honey tasting at The Honey Hole in West Jefferson.

“This year we have budgeted to give $20,000 to the library for their programs,” Johnson said. “With the help of Ashe County residents coming out to hear Irish Temperance, we could raise another $6,000 if we sell out all 300 seats at the Civic Center. It will be a great deal for residents; they get two hours of the same Irish music their ancestors heard in ‘the old country,’ and they get to donate to their library.”

The musicians of Irish Temperance are happy to help with the Friends’ fundraiser, but it is just as important to them to keep these old songs alive.

Bynum, of Midlothian, Va., sings and plays fife. He said it is more fun to play music from the 19th and 18th centuries than it is to play a fake Irish song often passed off as Irish music, like “The Unicorn Song.”

“We want to play songs that won’t get us kicked out of pubs in Ireland instead of a ’60s pop song written by an American,” Bynum said. “Likewise, we stay away from sentimental Irish-American stuff, like ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.’ We just like the traditional Celtic tunes better.”

The oldest song Irish Temperance plays is “Brian Boru’s March,” named after an Irish king who died in 1014. Its origin is unknown, but it was written in the 17th century, before Great Britain came to dominate Ireland.

Irish Temperance grew out of its members’ involvement with the 26th Regiment of North Carolina Troops American Civil War reenactment unit. Most of Irish Temperance play fife or drums in the 26NCT’s Field Music.

David Rotan, of Reston, Va., who sings and plays the penny whistle, said Irish Temperance has a sense of humor about itself.

“The band’s name is tongue in cheek, since most Irish music goes down better with a pint of Guinness,” Rotan said. “Our name might be an oxymoron, but there was a temperance movement in Ireland in the 1840s. From the number of drinking songs coming out of Ireland, I don’t think the movement ever took.”

Bynum and Rotan agree that traditional Irish music reflects on the true nature of Scots-Irish who settled the United States.

“The music paints a picture of people who work hard, play hard and fight hard,” Bynum said. “A lot of the lyrics are about drinking, fighting and dying — and not necessarily in that order.”

Rotan agrees.

“The music tells us that the Irish were a poor but proud culture, defiant to authority (the British) and focused on duty to community, as well as protecting and honoring their history,” Rotan said. “Despite their hard lives, they were also a celebratory people, which you learn when you hear their rich music heritage of jigs, reels and ballads."

To hear selections of Irish Temperance, search under their name at Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.

For more information, or to purchase advance tickets, call the Ashe County Arts Council at (336) 846-2787.

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