In this month’s issue, Bold Life uncovers the strange-but-true meanings behind a selection of the classical and pop canons’ best-loved yuletide carols (http://www.boldlife.com/know-merry-comes/). Some of the songs’ back stories are tragic, some comical, and some just a little head-scratching (e.g., “Joy to the World” is apparently more about Easter than Christmas.)
Caroling itself is a tradition that hearkens from 1600s England, a holdover from the Old World that recalls another transatlantic musical link: the non-seasonal traditional folk music of the Southern Appalachians, mountain-cured versions of 300- and 400-year old tunes from the entirety of the British Isles, and a genre frequently covered in our pages.
A three-week-long event at Flat Rock Playhouse — part of the venue’s Music on the Rock series — celebrates the Celtic connection with visionary grace. Beloved staples (“O Holy Night,” “Little Drummer Boy”) and lesser-known gems (“Wexford Carol,” “You Raise Me Up”) are numbered in the night’s repertoire, infused with Irish-Scots instrumentation and a backing choir.
The musical anchor is guitarist/fiddler Ryan Guerra, a New York-based performer who supports big-deal acts — Joss Stone, Kathy Mattea — and likes to spend lots of time in the Carolinas, too. Guerra was key in developing FRP’s Music on the Rock series, growing it from a small side venture to a consistent roster of full-production tribute shows.
Resident musical director Alex Shields has arranged the choral aspect of the Celtic production. “It’s magical,” says the playhouse’s artistic director, Lisa K. Bryant. “These are vocal performances of the highest caliber.”
A Celtic Christmas opens December 1 and runs through December 18 at The Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown (125 North Main St.). Performances are Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and matinees Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $28. 828-693-0731, 866-732-8008, flatrockplayhouse.org.