Conscious Party: Highland Games benefit concert

AIR SCOTLAND: Frances Cunningham and EJ Jones of the Piper Jones Band open for fellow Scottish music group Seven Nations on April 20 at Jack of the Wood. Funds raised from the show benefit the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Photo by Dave Fimbres

WHAT: A night of Scottish traditional music to benefit the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

WHEN: Friday, April 20, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Jack of the Wood, 95 Patton Ave.

WHY: If the right parties are involved, honest mistakes have the potential to turn serendipitous. Such was the case when bagpipe-based Scottish music groups — and Grandfather Mountain Highland Games artists — Seven Nations and the Piper Jones Band were unintentionally double-booked to play Jack of the Wood on Friday, April 20.

“When the pub called to tell us about the double booking, we decided we would just play together and use the date to help promote the Games that support us,” says EJ Jones of the Piper Jones Band. “It’s the best possible schedule conflict.”

The 63rd annual GMHG will be held July 12-15, at MacRae Meadows on Grandfather Mountain near Linville. Now in his fifth year as GMHG entertainment director, Jones was brought in to return the nonprofit’s music lineup to Scottish “tradition-connected” music and away from some of the commercial rock music that led to a drop-off in attendance many years ago. Now that GMHG is back to supporting artists who know Scottish traditional music and inspire new generations to carry on its legacy, Jones says the Games have seen three consecutive years of attendance increases, the last two of which set patronage records.

“GMHG is a lot more than just music. It’s a gigantic picnic in the meadow for about 25,000 people and anybody with Scottish heritage or just an appreciation for Scottish culture,” Jones says. “Since there are so many events at GMHG that celebrate aspects of Scottish culture — like the dancing, athletics, crafts, pipe bands and competitions, not to mention the songs and tunes — I am looking for acts that will be appreciated by the audience members who also appreciate the other parts of the festival.”

Already host to a weekly Traditional Irish/Celtic Jam Session that unites players of various skill levels, Jack of the Wood is, in Jones’ words, “the perfect room for us because the audience can get a good meal and relax among their friends in an informal atmosphere where they can dance, talk with each other or just sit and enjoy the show.”

When he’s not touring, Jones is in his Asheville workshop making custom bagpipes that are significantly quieter than the ones he normally plays. He says he can make a bagpipe that plays any volume, including pipes that one person may comfortably sing along with in an acoustic setting, and will have many different varieties for different songs during the concert.

The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games benefit concert takes place Friday, April 20, at 7 p.m. at Jack of the Wood. $10 cover and donations encouraged to support GMHG. jackofthewood.com

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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