Annual yulefest rings in Christmas in the Valley

Michael Flynn
Special to The Black Mountain News

Cultures around the globe have unique ways to celebrate year-end holidays, and the Irish and Scots are no different. Their ceili (Irish Gaelic) or ceilidh (Scots Gaelic) mean the same (and, at “kay-lee,” are pronounced the same) - a gathering of friends to celebrate the season with music, dance and general merriment.

All such festivities can be found at White Horse Black Mountain during the second Annual Celtic Yulefest Dec. 12. Carolina Ceili and special guests The Madrigal Muses will offer an evening of Celtic music, dance and refreshmentknow yous to celebrate the holiday season. Tickets include the light refreshments available at the show’s intermission.

Carolina Ceili features Maggie Anderson on bodhran ((Irish frame drum and pronounced “bow-ron”), pennywhistle and vocals, Laurie Fisher on fiddle, pennywhistle and vocals, Darlyne Cain on guitar, piano and vocals and Marcos Harkness on mandolin and vocals.

Each year, December brings a celebratory feel to the Swannanoa Valley, with frost-covered branches draping the mountain ridgelines signaling the start of the year’s end. Celtic and British cultures are tied to many Christmas traditions, and they have always been an important part of holiday celebrations in WNC, Anderson noted.

“Celtic culture in this region is something that people tend to like,“ she said. “This area has a real call to this kind of music – it resonates with people.”

As a musician, Anderson’s interest in Celtic styles, including playing the bodhran, began in Atlanta during the late ‘90s while exploring her family’s Irish roots. After gravitating to a Celtic band, she moved to WNC, and Carolina Ceili was born around 2012. All members of the band are local residents, with fiddler Laurie Fisher being a Warren Wilson graduate.

Fisher is the most experienced Celtic player, Anderson said. “She’s quite a multi-instrumentalist. She can pretty much play anything” in terms of acoustic and stringed instruments.

Each band member sings but has a unique experience and history with their instruments, Anderson said. Panamanian-born mandolin player Harkness fell in love with bluegrass as a college student in the U.S., and guitarist plus piano player Darlyne Cain has become drawn to the bagpipes.

Carolina Ceili will be performing a variety of holiday songs, including Irish jigs and reels aimed at getting attendees dancing in their seats. It will be performing emotional ballads with four-part harmonies, as well as silly sing-a-longs geared to have folks laughing out loud.

In addition, guests The Madrigal Muses, composed of couple Paula Bishop and Sherman Hoover, will be performing several a capella carols from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, as well as a selection of hammered dulcimer tunes.

The final guests will be the Morris Dancers of Asheville, performing a selection of seasonal routines from their English folk traditions, as well as a young music student of Cain who will play a Celtic tune on guitar.

Last year’s show produced a packed house, she said.

The word “yule” in the show’s title comes from the Old English “geol,” which was the name of the winter festival held in many European countries around the time of the winter solstice.

These days, most people associate “yule” with Christmas, from yule logs to yule cakes.

But regardless of how one celebrates the holiday season, Carolina Ceili’s Gaelic Yulefest will help the crowd get into the seasonal spirit.

Kick it up

What: Celtic Yulefest

When: 8 p.m. Dec. 12

Where: White Horse Black Mountain

Cost: $12 advance, $15 door