Appalachian Christmas Concert 1998
Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church, Wichita, KS
December 14, 1998

pictures by Danl Blackwood

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The Appalachian Christmas concert series is a wonderfully arranged seasonal offering by Michael Aukofer (left), with the help of his friends Brad Layher (center), and David Dibbern. A mix of sacred & modern, Celtic & folk; it has certainly become a traditional annual event for this writer and his family (even my teenagers liked it!). Michael said that even as a trained professional percussionist playing with Contemporary Christian musicians, this Christmas concert series gives him a completely different opportunity to be creative with a wide variety of arrangements and instruments (like the marimba above) ... and also be home for Christmas.
While most of the songs were instrumental, there were a couple that had vocals, like this beautifully simple version of "Of The Father's Love Begotten." Later Michael would take time to introduce all the instruments, particularly the more unknown like the above "bodhran" (ancient Irish drum). Brad Layher (left) is currently touring with Mitch McVicker, and has recorded with others (including the group Alathea ... Michael produced their first two CDs). He plays a variety of stringed instruments and some percussion, and the multiple hammered dulcimers was very cool.
In fact, here all three play hammered dulcimer, and Michael doubles on dulcimer and a small trap set on a couple songs including a unique version of "Little Drummer Boy." David Dibbern (right) was a classmate of Michael's at Friends University, and has participated in these Christmas concerts from the start (this is the third year). David is an awesome upright bass player, and also covers other instruments. Between the three of them they cover about 35 instruments in one hour.
The arrangements went from "old world" to "new world," including a pretty swinging all-guitar version of "Go Tell It On The Mountain." (When they came to my church a couple weeks later, I got to sit-in on this song.) The crowd had many questions about the instruments afterwards at both concerts I attended, and everyone was just gushing how good it was. I can honestly say the only comparable musical Christmas event I've attended is seeing Mannheim Streamroller's live Christmas concert in Omaha.
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