A Swannanoa Solstice brings holiday cheer to 2020 with in-person and virtual shows, Dec. 20 at the Wortham Center
For the last 18 years, A Swannanoa Solstice has delighted local audiences with its world-class display of folk music and dance at Asheville’s Wortham Center for the Performing Arts. This beloved holiday tradition lights up even the darkest of winter’s days — and 2020, in particular, could use a bit of Solstice’s signature holiday cheer. Presented in partnership with The Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College, A Swannanoa Solstice comes in two socially distant formats this year: one limited-capacity in-person performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 20, and one online concert, which begins at 7 p.m. the same evening, and can be enjoyed at any point in time between then and Dec. 31. Tickets are on sale now.
Familiar faces returning to this year’s event include the legendary Robin Bullock, who will lead the celebration with his iconic stringed Celtic and Americana sound. Bullock is an Indie, WAMMIE and NPR-honored musician, as well as a prolific composer and multi-instrumentalist. His virtuosity on guitar, cittern and mandolin blends the ancient melodies of the Celtic lands with the music of their Appalachian descendants into one powerful vision.
Also returning to Solstice in 2020 is David Holt, E.J. Jones, Phil Jamison, Ellie Grace and host Doug Orr. Holt, a four-time Grammy Award-winning musician, is also a storyteller, artist, historian and radio and television host. For more than 40 years, he has collected and performed the songs and stories of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Jones, a professional Highland bagpiper, brings the well-known Celtic instrument to the stage, giving the ensemble its secret ingredient and taking the evening’s performance from great to spectacular. Jamison, an acclaimed old-time musician on banjo and fiddle, as well as a flatfoot dancer, is a nationally recognized dance-caller and has performed and taught at music and dance events since the early 1970s. Grace, a percussive dancer, singer and instrumentalist, graces the stage with her warm energy and traditional old-time music and dance. And, of course, the show would not be complete without musician, host and emcee Doug Orr, founder of The Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College summer music program and president emeritus of Warren Wilson College (from 1991 to 2006), who offers his warm voice in song and poetry.
New to the festivities this year, however, is renowned old-time, bluegrass and swing musician Josh Goforth, a Madison County native and master of nearly 20 instruments. Though Goforth began his musical career on the piano at just 4 years old, he became inspired by Appalachian musical heritage at a young age after attending a performance from fellow Madison County musician Sheila Kay Adams. Goforth has since performed on prestigious stages all over the world, including Carnegie Hall and the Grand Ole Opry, he was credited on the soundtrack for the movie “Songcatcher,” and he was nominated for a Grammy Award together with David Holt.
The 2 p.m. live performance in the Diana Wortham Theatre will follow all state and health guidelines and restrictions for mass gatherings. Face masks are required for patrons and employees at all times. Touchless temperature screenings will be required prior to entering the facility, and, once inside, guests will be asked to exhibit physical distancing between other groups in common areas. Seating for the performance will be distanced by group. Tickets to this limited-capacity event are $45.
A link to the virtual performance will be emailed to online ticket-holders at 7 p.m. the same evening, but the performance may be enjoyed at any time during (or throughout) the holiday season, until Dec. 31. Tickets for the virtual show cost $35 per household. To create a spirited virtual holiday event, the Wortham Center suggests gifting additional tickets to non-household friends and family, so that you may all watch and enjoy the performance together.
A Swannanoa Solstice is presented in partnership with The Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College, and is made possible by performance sponsors Derek & Elizabeth Allen; Joe & Janice Brumit; Dan & Anna Garrett; Richard & Francee Healy; Bill & Marilyn Hubbard; James King & Jayne Cleveland; Henry LaBrun; Joe & Mary Linville; and Maureen O’Hallaron. Additional support is provided by media sponsors Blue Ridge Public Radio and WNCW 88.7 FM.
Located at 18 Biltmore Ave., the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts is a three-venue performing arts complex that includes the large Diana Wortham Theatre main stage, the smaller black box theatre Tina McGuire Theatre, and the Henry LaBrun Studio special events and workshop space. The 2020/2021 Season is made possible by Season Sponsors 67 Biltmore, Asheville Citizen Times, Blue Moon Water, Buncombe County TDA, the North Carolina Arts Council and the Renaissance Asheville Hotel.
Tickets to both formats are on sale now. To obtain more information about the Wortham Center’s socially distanced 2020/2021 Season or to purchase tickets for the 2 p.m. in-person or 7 p.m. virtual performance of A Swannanoa Solstice on Sunday, Dec. 20 (In-Person $45; Virtual $35 per household), call the Wortham Center Box Office at 828-257-4530 or visit worthamarts.org.