On a blustery, cold evening in suburban Washington, a full crowd was warmed by the 11th annual Celtic Yule concert of Robin Bullock and Amy White & Al Petteway. Hosted by the Institute of Musical Traditions (or IMT), this annual concert is like much of the holiday musical scene – familiar yet welcome.
Bullock has a wonderful tone coming out of his Taylor guitar and sounds better with age. The second half opened with his haunting In the Bleak Midwinter/The First Noel/It Came Upon a Midnight Clear medley. His solo mandolin pieces exploring the Bach unaccompanied violin and cello suites are a new (for me) part of his show, and they demonstrate his impressive chops. The Cello Suite #4 is technically demanding (the E-Flat major transposes into B-Flat major on the mandolin), but Bullock made it sing on his beautiful Gibson A-style mandolin from the 1920s. Check out the video below of Bullock playing solo guitar, and then imagine that it sounds twice as good live.
Al Petteway and Amy White played holiday tunes (including a beautiful The Holly and the Ivy) but also promoted their new album High in the Blue Ridge. They opened with The Drovers’ Road, an evocative piece celebrating the switchback roads of the North Carolina mountains.
All in all, a satisfying and enjoyable holiday evening.
More to come…