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Holiday favorites get a Celtic flavor

Jamie Laval performs music of the isles at Crimson Moon

POSTED: December 23, 2010 12:30 a.m.
/For The Times

Fiddler Jamie Laval will perform Celtic Christmas tunes Sunday at The Crimson Moon in Dahlonega.

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Bringing the Christmas spirit through Celtic music, along with other traditional tunes, is what violinist Jamie Laval will be delivering on Sunday at The Crimson Moon.

This is the second year in a row Laval will be performing what he called "an experiment" that turned out wildly popular and one of his favorite shows.

"This will be about the sixth time (to play at Crimson Moon) but the second time I will be performing all Christmas music," Laval said. "It will be the first time I will have played there without any accompaniment, just by myself.

"It's kind of a different flavor presentation where it's more traditional, because this type of music was not accompanied at all. It's just a melody-oriented music and it's only been recently - let's say in the last 50 to 80 years - that people have started to add other instruments in.

"On top of that, I am tilting it to the holiday spirit. I did it last year and it was an experiment everyone seemed to enjoy it, including me."

Just off the heels of a trip to Scotland, where he says 14 inches of snow was on the ground, Laval has learned a couple new Celtic tunes he will share along with a couple selections from his upcoming album "Murmurs and Drones."

"There won't be any ‘Frosty the Snowman.' It will be music from the British Isles," he said. "So some of it is holiday-oriented, maybe as much as half, of it but it has to have some kind of a connection with the British Isles. There is such a wonderful deep pool of beautiful holiday oriented music.

"I've drawn quite a bit from the ‘Oxford Book of Carols' but also there are beautiful carols from Ireland, some from Scotland as well, so I've kind of interspersed that material with straight-ahead Scottish material that I do."

Laval visited Orkney, Scotland, and was introduced to a lot of new music that he plans to incorporate into his repertoire.

"It was not new music but it was new to me, so I'm presenting much of that newer material interspersed with the holiday music," he said.

Laval is originally from Washington and moved to Asheville, N.C., five years ago to take in the Appalachian music scene.

"I've always loved the Southeast; the Appalachian mountains are just one with my soul," he said. "There are definitely interesting cultural surprises I have enjoyed getting used to. The cuisine is interesting, with the deep fried turkeys and the okra; sweet potato pie is a favorite of mine. The music scene is really, really rich, of course. It's so quirky and original."

Laval did much of his music education on the West coast at the Victoria Conservatory of Music. He is the winner of the 2002 U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Championship and serves on the faculty of The Swannanoa Gathering, a summer institute for traditional arts and music.

"There was a lot of music in my family in general, it was an easy fit, it was not hard to discover music," Laval said. "Everybody in my family plays something, my mother plays the accordion and my father played a number of orchestra instruments. I'm the one that got super serious about and played a lot of different instruments when I was in school and finally found the champion of them all, the violin. What attracted me was it could absolutely anything, any style of music."

Laval said he finally fell in love with the violin because it was so universal.

"Celtic music in general seems to have a very universal sounds that fall agreeably on every one's ears," he said.

Laval has had the chance to collaborate on television, film, and CD recordings, including Dave Matthews' "Some Devil" and Warner Bros. Pictures' "Wild America," among others.

"Dave Matthews lives in Seattle and I spent much of the early part of my career in Seattle and so it was bound to happen sooner or later," he said. "I just finished making an album that took me 2 1/2 years to make. I've been busy touring. This was a complicated album that had lots of people contributing, but I just finished it.

"I traveled to the four corners of the U.S. to have people record contributions, but it's heavily inspired by the Highland music, particularly the Highland bagpipes. It has this lonely, forlorn sound that is characteristic of the Scottish Highland sound, but it's still based on toe-tapping, vigorous music."



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