The Rapp: Celtic (& cat) Christmas, bluegrass, 4th (Estate) Friday

Fourth Estate, third Friday

Because of the Christmas holiday, we’ll be holding our monthly Rappahannock News Fourth (Estate) Friday public story conference not only a week early — tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 18 — but in a different venue than usual, too.

For an hour or so, your monthly chance to bring up story ideas, or offer criticism or suggestions about local news coverage, starts at 9 a.m. at Before & After, the newly opened coffeehouse at 31 Main St. in Sperryville (just west of the Post Office and Cheri Woodard Realty; there’s parking in the rear). As usual, the brewed coffee is on us. (For anything involving espresso or baked goods, both of which are highly recommended, you’re on your own.)

Call us at 540-675-3338 or email if you have any questions.

Christmas Cat Café

RappCats' adorable, adoptable shelter cats will be on hand for Sunday's Christmas Cat Cafe.
RappCats’ adorable, adoptable shelter cats will be on hand for Sunday’s Christmas Cat Cafe.

There will also be free coffee — plus hot chocolate and treats — this Sunday (Dec. 20) at RappCats’ Christmas Cat Café. The cat rescue organization’s highly adorable and adoptable shelter cats will be on hand, as will some last-minute cat-themed gifts for that special cat-lover in your life. You can also buy a raffle ticket to win a cat gingerbread house which RappCats’ press release describes as “paws-itively charming,” although there’s no way we’re going to actually say that in the paper. Oops, too late.

The Cat Cafe is 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at the RappCats Adoption Center, 714 Zachary Taylor Hwy. in Flint Hill. Call 540-987-6050 or visit for more.

Bluegrass at The Theatre Dec. 19

Bluegrass masters and snappy dressers Dark Hollow Bluegrass Band returns to the Theatre at Washington on Dec. 19.
Bluegrass masters and snappy dressers Dark Hollow Bluegrass Band returns to the Theatre at Washington on Saturday, Dec. 19. Courtesy photo

This Saturday (Dec. 19) at 8 p.m., the Dark Hollow Bluegrass Band returns to the Theatre at Washington for a rousing holiday concert of traditional bluegrass music.

The band consists of Paul Fincham, five-string banjo and vocals; Larry Haynes, guitar and vocals; Bob Cook, lead guitar and vocals; Buck Morris, mandolin and vocals; and Steve Lamb, upright bass. The popular and talented homegrown musicians are well known for their exceptional three-part harmony and traditional-style singing. Paul Fincham points out that the sound is always controlled, “driving” but never over-amplified.

The Dark Hollow Bluegrass Band is influenced by some of bluegrass music’s best-loved performers: Reno and Smiley, Stanley Brothers, Jim and Jesse, Charlie Moore, Charlie Waller and Flatt and Scruggs. Paul adds, “We have been known to be the best-dressed bluegrass band around, like Flatt and Scruggs used to be when they performed. We always dress up for our shows.”

Raised in Rappahannock, Fincham now resides in Madison County, and describes the other members of the Dark Hollow Bluegrass Band as “local boys.” Though “local,” the band plays a wide venue and has performed in major bluegrass festivals throughout Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Georgia. The Dark Hollow Bluegrass Band has opened for nationally acclaimed artists Daryle Singletary, Rhonda Vincent and Mel Tillis. They have recorded several CDs, including their most recent album, “The Lonely Sound of Dark Hollow.”

Tickets for Saturday’s concert ($25, $10 ages 17 and younger) are available at or 540-675-1253. The theater is at 291 Gay St., Washington.

Celtic Christmas at Castleton

Barnes & Hampton Celtic Consort (from left) Joseph Cunliffe, Linn Barnes, Steve Bloom and Allison Hampton deliver a Christmas concert at 4 Sunday at Castleton.
Barnes & Hampton Celtic Consort (from left) Joseph Cunliffe, Linn Barnes, Steve Bloom and Allison Hampton deliver a Christmas concert at 4 Sunday at Castleton.

The Barnes & Hampton Celtic Consort, led by Rappahannock’s own Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton, explore the holiday season’s Celtic side at 4 p.m. this Sunday (Dec. 20) at Castleton Theatre House. With percussionist Steve Bloom and Joseph Cunliffe on lute, guitar, mandolin and viola da gamba, Barnes and Hampton will perform Christmas and holiday music from Ireland, Galician Spain and Scotland, as well as traditional Irish tunes.

Barnes and Hampton, described by The Washington Post as “a Washington institution,” have been making music together for 40 years. Their rare combination of styles and instrumentation appeals to a wide variety of audiences. While both shared an initial love of the lute, Hampton now focuses on Celtic harps, while Barnes has added an assortment of steel-stringed instruments, including the guitar, harp-guitar and citternas, to his repertoire.

“Making this type of music, especially around the holidays, truly is a labor of love,” Barnes said. “Over the years, people have made us part of their holiday tradition and we realize that, as musicians, what a privilege it is to be so regarded and appreciated.”

In addition to 35 years with the acclaimed Dumbarton United Methodist Church Concert series, for which they were the first performers, the duo has appeared at the Kennedy Center, the Folger Library and the Smithsonian Institution, and played at East Coast colleges and universities including Yale, Georgetown, George Washington and U.Va. They also have made five successful European concert tours.

The Celtic traditions that the two so enjoy mesh well with the spirit of the Christmas season, according to Hampton. “The mysticism that is present in Celticism fuses so perfectly with the idea of Christmas,” she said. “I think that’s why our music is considered sacrosanct to the holiday for some folks.”

Cunliffe plays a variety of wind instruments, including wooden and silver flutes of all sizes, as well as whistles and recorders. Cunliffe is one-half of the internationally recognized Flutar, a duo that has performed in such diverse venues as the Strathmore and the Mayan ruins at Sand Andres, El Salvador.

Bloom has played percussion professionally in thousands of performances in more than a dozen countries. His recordings include drumming in styles ranging from Middle Eastern and Persian, Cuban, Latin, Brazilian, Sephardic, Jazz, Blues, Gospel, New Age to Celtic.

Tickets ($20 to $40) are available at 866-974-0767 or

The benefits of the Lykes Fund

Scrabble School Foundation's Lillian Aylor (left) and Suzanna Spencer accepting a grant from Northern Piedmont Community Foundation executive director Jane Bowling-Wilson (right).
Scrabble School Foundation’s Lillian Aylor (left) and Suzanna Spencer accepting a grant from Northern Piedmont Community Foundation executive director Jane Bowling-Wilson (right).

For 11 nonprofit organizations serving Rappahannock County, the new year rings in with more than $50,000 in grant awards from the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation (NPCF). Providing services geared toward affordable housing, education, the performing arts, child advocacy, health, the environment, and historical preservation, the 2015 grant recipients received support for their work from the community foundation’s Richard Lykes Rappahannock Community Fund.

“I’ve learned a lot about Mr. Lykes in recent weeks,” said NPCF executive director Jane Bowling-Wilson. “He was both a ‘gentleman and a gentle man,’ as one man wrote about him after his passing. He was ‘easy to smile, easy to wound, hard to miss, and impossible to dislike.’ His love for Rappahannock County was evident in everything he did, and he would be delighted to know that his legacy is supporting so many worthy county needs.”

Fauquier Habitat for Humanity is excited to jumpstart its re-entry into Rappahannock County, with a $12,000 grant to fund the foundation of a home in Huntly, Habitat’s first project in the county in 20 years.

Child Care and Learning Center (CCLC) plans to use the $7,500 grant to support its tuition assistance to families at or near the poverty line. And in the spirit of collaboration, CCLC is partnering with the Rappahannock County 4-H chapter, which will use its $5,000 grant to implement a program that provides summer field trips for 6- to 12-year-olds and provide temporary employment for five teenage counselors.

Two additional $5,000 grants went to Castleton Festival and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). The first will support the 2016 Castleton Alive! efforts, with funds permitting local students to attend dress rehearsals, backstage activities, and in-classroom and after-school workshops. CASA has earmarked its award to provide an advocate for one year to five abused children in Rappahannock’s court system.

The Mental Health Association of Fauquier County was delighted to earn a NPCF grant for the first time. Its $4,400 award will provide mental health first aid training to 50 teachers, first responders, community organization staff, and interested local citizens. Training will increase early identification of mental health problems and ensure that people who need services receive help in a timely manner.  

Two grants highlight local history and heritage. The Rappahannock Historical Society will use the awarded $4,000 for ongoing museum renovations and the replacement of display cases. Scrabble School Preservation Foundation will use its $3,700 grant to expand its community outreach efforts with curriculum kits for regional schools.  

Two $2,500 grants will benefit Bluemont Concert Series in the form of concerts and cultural arts programs for Rappahannock students, while Headwaters Foundation’s After-School Program, now in its fifth year, will provide elementary school students with enrichment activities.

And to continue the development of future conservation stewards, Piedmont Environmental Council’s $1,550 grant will purchase “binoculars, boots, and buckets” for local participant use during bird walks and Nature Day activities.

Established in 2000, the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation is a public charity that builds philanthropic capital to enhance and preserve the quality of life in Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison and Rappahannock counties and strengthens the region’s nonprofit organizations. Visit or call 540-349-0631 to learn more.

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