Mountain Magic

I feel privileged beyond description tonight. Last year I was fortunate to host musicians from Ireland that my sister had met while traveling there. Claire Roche, a harpist, vocalist and songwriter and her husband John Wilmott fly over here once a year and travel across the US bringing their Irish music, stories and fun into people’s living rooms. They are at the beginning of this year’s  five-week tour and were in my home tonight. A neighbor who heard Claire last year calls her the “surround sound lady.” Her voice fills the air like an angel choir. And the songs she sings are out of her own heart, she has been writing them all of her life. She also sings songs from long Irish traditions. John tells myths and stories with  joy, humor and wisdom.

Their intention is to keep the tradition alive of sharing music in intimate gatherings in peoples’ homes, the way it has long been done in Ireland and Scotland for centuries. When my sister met them in Ireland and heard about their tour, she told them, “You have to go visit my sister in North Carolina! They do music like this all of the time in each other’s homes.” So last year they came for the first time and played for us. After their sets the local musicians sat down and played their Appalachian music for them. John and Claire were deeply affected. Claire said, “I thought they only did this in the films!”

Tonight was a wintery night in Appalachia – the kind of night that no one generally leaves their own hearths and braves the roads. But John and Claire were coming, and so my friends came out from every which way to warmly welcome them. I was very moved by this. We enjoyed the heavenly sound of Claire’s harp and song, and John’s stories were delightful. When they finished, my friends played for them. There is no magic like this magic. People’s hearts and voices came together in a way that feels like combustion. I picture a big rosy glow, maybe with some green from the St. Patrick’s day time, going up from here and filling the sky like the Northern Lights. To me this night was as good as it gets.

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