Saro Lynch-Thomason

The roots of Yule celebrations reach far back to ancient Germanic, Norse, and Anglo-Saxon times, connected initially with pagan religions and later melded with Christian practices, which means that there are centuries of celebratory music and dance to draw from.

For many years the White Horse Black Mountain has marked the Yuletide with an extravaganza hosted by Carolina Ceili. That band is no longer together, but their longtime fiddler and vocalist Laurie Fisher has stepped up to ensure that the revelry continues with an eclectic Yulefest concert on Saturday, December 15 at 8 p.m.

Laurie Fisher, a professional fiddler and exuberant stage presence for over 20 years, is a fixture on the Asheville traditional dance scene as a musician and contra dance caller. She’s also been known to hold forth on tinwhistle, piano, guitar, bass and accordion. Tapping into her extensive network of musical friends, she’s pulled together the Celtic band Émigré, Appalachian balladeer Saro Lynch-Thomason, and piper Connell Sanderson. British heritage will also be represented by the Asheville Wassailers and Asheville Morris Dancers.

The members of Émigré came together two years ago in Johnson City, Tennessee, to combine their diverse musical talents and experiences with their love for the traditional music of Ireland and Scotland. The band performs a variety of music tracing the diaspora of the Irish and Scots to North America. Their repertoire includes ballads and fiddle tunes from Great Britain and Ireland, songs from the French-speaking regions of Canada, and melodies familiar in Appalachia and the North Atlantic.

The name “Émigré” comes from the dispersal of people, ideas, and music that resulted from centuries of emigration from Ireland and Scotland and the unique music that has resulted as these were combined with others from a world away. The sound of Émigré is characterized by the rich vocal melodies sung in Scots-Gaelic, French, and English, dynamic fiddle playing, and driving guitar accompaniment.

“Having been a singer of traditional Appalachian ballads for over 50 years, it’s hard for this old warhorse to get chills when I hear someone sing. But, Saro Lynch-Thomason is the exception. Saro sings with an intensity and intonation that belies her age. There’s something ancient that lives inside Saro’s voice. She sings with heart and soul and people listen. I consider her the singer among singers of her generation.”

A weighty opinion indeed, coming from Sheila Kay Adams, NEA National Heritage Fellow and seventh generation ballad singer.

Saro is a ballad singer, folklorist, documentarian, illustrator, author and activist from Asheville. Her passion for traditional music, people’s struggles and Appalachian traditions has called her to perform, teach and produce media that tell the stories and songs of America’s social history. Her distinct, powerful singing style transports audiences to Appalachian mountain hollers, 19th-century coal camps and old meeting houses. Saro delivers memorable and moving performances that bring people’s history, song and culture to life.

Connell Sanderson is a master of both the Scottish Great Highland Pipes and the smaller, quieter bellows-blown Irish bagpipes. He was a member of bagpipe rock band Uncle Hamish and the Hooligans, and played this past summer with festival favorites Seven Nations at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. He also plays weekly in Hendersonville with his electro/acoustic progressive Celtic trio Bardic Alchemy.

Show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18 advance/ $20 door.

Advance tickets available online at www.whitehorseblackmountain.com

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