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Junaluska Choir brings gospel, blues to MHM



Article Published: Jun. 12 | Modified: Jun. 15
Junaluska Choir brings gospel, blues to MHM

The Junaluska Gospel Choir will perform Saturday for Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music. Led by Danny Whittington and accompanied by some of the area’s most celebrated rhythm and blues musicians, the choir regularly performs at Boone’s Mennonite Brethren Church.

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Joe Shannon’s Mountain Home Music will present the soulful and joyous sounds of the Junaluska Gospel Choir Saturday, June 14 at St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Boone. The concert begins at 7:30.

The Junaluska Choir is based in Boone’s historically black Junaluska community, which originated during the mid-to-late 1800s.

The choir is led by Danny Whittington and accompanied by some of the area’s most celebrated rhythm and blues musicians. Each Sunday at 11 a.m. and at other revival times, the choir leads worship at the Mennonite Brethren Church, located near Junaluska Park and serving the surrounding communities.

“We like to say that our style is black gospel, leaning toward the blues,” Whittington said. “I want to make clear that we are a community of musicians. Our success is due not just to me, but to everyone’s input.”

The choir recently released its first CD, “Rough Side of the Mountain,” which is dedicated to the memory of the late Virgil Greer, a choir member who died in 2013. The CD is a joint collaboration with the Appalachian State University music department, with which the choir has had a long-standing relationship.

Many students have completed music internships at the church, experiencing firsthand ways of teaching and singing in the black gospel tradition. The singers learn without printed music. In a typical choir practice, the words and harmonies are taught by Whittington by ear with call and response. The accompanists use chord charts, which are created by Whittington, often with the assistance of Doug James, classical guitar teacher at the university.

James said he is “constantly amazed at the vast catalog of music from which choir members can instantly produce multiple part harmonies without sheet music” and that he greatly admires and appreciates the number of rich voices in the group.

Accompanying the choir on Saturday evening, in addition to James, will be Aaron Burleson on keyboard, Dave Brewer and Jason Gordon on percussion, Whittington on bass and Brian Yerman on acoustic guitar. The audience will be invited to join in with the spirited singing, as is the custom of Mountain Home Music concerts. According to concert organizers, “It should be an uplifting evening.”

Patrick Crouch, a longtime friend of Mountain Home Music, will be Saturday night’s host. A multi-instrumentalist, Crouch plays with area bluegrass band Strictly Clean and Decent.

Tickets cost $20 in advance and $22 at the door. Student tickets are $11, and children 12 and younger are admitted free. Advance tickets may be purchased online though the Mountain Home Music website, http://www.mountainhomemusic.com.

Tickets may also be purchased at Mast General Store (Boone and Valle Crucis), Fred’s General Mercantile on Beech Mountain and Pandora’s Mailbox and the Dulcimer Shop, both in the Martin House on Main Street in downtown Blowing Rock.

For more information, visit http://www.mountainhomemusic.com, or call (828) 964-3392.

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