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John McEuen & Alpin Hong bring two styles, two generations, together

Photos courtesy of Pentangle Arts Council
John McEuen, founder of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and classical performer Alpin Hong engage in a "bluegrass meets Beethoven" duo show that is sure to delight, as their perfect synergy creates a blend of the unusual mix of American roots and classical tradition. See them at Woodstock Town Hall Theatre on Jan. 18.

Legendary Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder John McEuen will take the Pentangle stage on Friday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre, alongside rising-star pianist Alpin Hong in a "bluegrass meets Beethoven" duo show that bridges American roots music and classical traditions.

Although these two musical talents come from different backgrounds, the synergy between them on-stage couldn't be more perfect. As McEuen explained it, they had an instant creative connection from the first time they played music together. Their first joint appearance was before a sold-out crowd in Crested Butte, Colorado in September 2011. Hong, an award-winning pianist, can expertly blend classical sounds with just about any musical style.

"He's an improviser in a way that many classical players aren't," McEuen said.  

At the Jan. 18 show, music fans will see each of these great musical talents performing solo and then together. They lend a new and brilliant feel to old favorites like "Mr. Bojangles," along with some tunes that will be totally new.

The audience can also expect a rich blend of music and storytelling. After four decades in the music business and a life raising six children, McEuen has plenty of material for song and humor alike.

"Along the way you try to make people laugh, because that's how they remember things," McEuen said.

McEuen, a multiple-Grammy-Award-winning bluegrass and folk rock icon, is also regarded as a pioneer of the five-string banjo. He recalled that he first heard the instrument at the age of 17, when The Dillards performed at a club in his native Orange County, California. From that moment, he was hooked. 

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band formed in 1966, and McEuen went on to make over 40 albums during his famed career. He has also played over 8,000 shows and traveled over 3 million miles while touring. In 2012, he released The McEuen Sessions/all for the good, recorded with his sons Jonathan and Nathan. He won a Grammy in 2010 for "Best Bluegrass Album," for his production of Steve Martin - The Crow: New songs for the 5-string banjo.  

The Jan. 18 show in Woodstock is a continuation of McEuen's longtime interest in musical diversity, which would help explain why he took such an interest in Alpin Hong's work. Piano prodigy Hong is a native of Michigan and made his orchestral debut with the Kalamazoo Symphony at the age of ten, followed by a slew of competition wins and eventually a Master's degree from The Juilliard School.

1-Alpin -Hong -Photo -courtesy -alpinhong .com

Rooted in extensive classical training but also a background in skateboarding, snowboarding, martial arts, and video games, Hong's uncanny ability to connect with young people has earned him the reputation as a "modern-day Pied Piper." While in Woodstock, Hong is also bringing his youthful energy and vitality to the school community, with special performance for school groups on Thursday, Jan. 17. A part of Pentangle Arts in Education program, Hong offers students a dynamic glimpse into classical music as an important part of the musical world, even in this modern digital age.

For more information about the Jan. 18 show, visit www.pentanglearts.org. Tickets are available online or by calling the Pentangle box office at 802-457-3981. Prices for the Woodstock concert are: $33 in advance, $30 in advance for Pentangle members, $15 for students, and $35 on the day of the show.  Also on the Pentangle website are details about a special Artist After-Party with McEuen and Hong following the performance ($20 for Pentangle members).