A bit ‘o the green at the White Horse


Kermit the Frog’s lament notwithstanding, every St. Patrick’s Day it’s easy being green, Irish or not.

On Friday, March 17 the White Horse Black Mountain celebrates all things Irish with a special evening of music, fun and conviviality. The doors open at 5 p.m. for socializing and the intensely competitive annual Potato Roll event.

At 6 p.m., the White Horse Session Players will play sets of traditional Irish jigs and reels in an informal setting. The main concert starts at 7 p.m. with performances by Bob Hinkle, The Southern Highlanders and hammered dulcimer virtuoso Joshua Messick.

Messick first heard the hammered dulcimer at age four, when he promised his mother he would learn to play the multi-stringed instrument. He followed up on his promise with a flourish, becoming the 2003 National Hammered Dulcimer Champion at Winfield, Kansas at age 18.

Messick’s current instrument was made by Smannanoa Valley master luthier Jerry Read Smith, who also helped convince the musician that the Asheville area was the place for him. Celtic music is one of the many discernible influences in Messick’s gorgeous original compositions, along with Renaissance, classical and world music.

Messick thinks of himself foremost as a composer who uses hammered dulcimer as his sound palette. “I’ve put my entire life into this music,” he said. “Music is the sound of the human spirit and, for me, is prayer without words.”

The Southern Highlanders perform a repertoire that embraces the diversity of Celtic cultures. Their songs and tunes hail from Ireland, Scotland and the Celtic diaspora, including its Southern Appalachian branches. The band includes Doug Orr, President Emeritus of Warren Wilson College and founder of its acclaimed Swannanoa Gathering music camps. He’s joined by wife Darcy and veteran folk music performers Joe and Karen Holbert. Between them they play guitar, mountain dulcimer, fiddle, hammered dulcimer, pennywhistle, piano, concertina and more.

The Orrs have also collaborated with NPR’s “The Thistle and Shamrock” host Fiona Ritchie to write a best-selling book, “Wayfaring Strangers,” chronicling the musical legacy of the Scots-Irish in America.

White Horse owner Bob Hinkle has been known to tell an Irish joke or two while emceeing at the club, but he also has a store of original and classic songs at his command. The Asheville native’s performing career took off when he was still a UNC student as part of the folk/pop trio The Good Earth, which also included the late Bill Oliver Swofford, aka Oliver of “Good Morning Starshine” fame.

After that group disbanded, Hinkle spent more than 40 years in New York City, where he forged a multifaceted career in the music and entertainment industry, including record production, artist management and executive positions. He has worn many hats since returning to North Carolina and opening White Horse Black Mountain in 2008. But he now has occasion to revisit his songwriting and performing roots.