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In the fallout surrounding the Brexit vote, which a majority in Northern Ireland opposed, the future of that British province is being hotly debated. An ancient cradle of Irish culture, the now predominantly Protestant counties of Ulster remained part of the U.K. when the Republic of Ireland gained independence, with repercussions that still echo.

But through it all the music has endured, exemplified in the work of Ulster born and Hickory-based duo The Belfast Boys.

They’ll perform a concert of traditional and contemporary Irish songs and tunes at the White Horse Black Mountain at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9.

Alyn Mearns (guitar, whistle, vocals) and Adrian Rice (mandolin, bodhran, vocals) of The Belfast Boys grew up during “The Troubles” on the streets of Belfast.

Mearns has lived in the States since his late teens, but Rice only settled in Hickory , North Carolina in 2005, having come to Lenoir-Rhyne College as a Visiting Writer-in-Residence.

The men met in a Hickory bookstore and quickly formed a strong bond based on their shared Northern Irish heritage and ‘Belfast-speak’, and soon discovered that they shared love of Irish traditional music. Their music embraces a fresh approach to traditional songs, blazing dance tunes and original songs and poems. 

The classically trained Mearns is a consummate guitarist whose fretwork interweaves with Rice’s mandolin to underpin the duo's vocals with beautifully crafted accompaniments that make even familiar material new. He’s also a respected songwriter who has released an album of his own music as Yes the Raven. 

In addition to musical and lyrical contributions to the Belfast Boys, Rice is a published poet of distinction, his work having garnered recognition from the late Irish literary giant Seamus Heaney.

Rice’s skill in wordcraft is evident onstage not only in his recitations but also his engaging presence as a raconteur in the Irish tradition.

Want to go?

Where: White Horse Black Mountain

When: Saturday, Feb. 9, 8 p.m.

Tickets: Available in advance for $12 at whitehorseblackmountain.com or for $15 at the door

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