The Rapp for Dec. 15

It’s an early Fourth (Estate) Friday

The Rappahannock News’ staff will be back at the Country Cafe in Washington at 9 tomorrow morning (Friday, Dec. 16) for our monthly coffee and conversation hour — a week earlier than usual, because of the Christmas holiday. All are welcome — all people, opinions, criticism, holiday shopping tips, good news, bad news, etc. We buy your coffee no matter what you say (as long as it’s on the record). Email or call 540-675-3338 for more information.

‘La Liste’ names Inn D.C.’s top restaurant

“La Liste”, a new guide to the world’s best restaurants, has listed the top 1,000 greatest restaurants in the world. The guide was created by France’s Foreign Ministry which used the unique approach of compiling numerous evaluations, including Guide Michelin, Forbes Travel Guide and the Zagat Survey.

The Inn at Little Washington received a score of 94.75 — ranking it No. 13 overall in the U.S. and making it one of the top 150 restaurants in the world. The Inn was also the only restaurant included on La Liste from the Washington D.C. and Mid-Atlantic region.

This year, Michelin awarded The Inn a coveted two-star rating, which helped it climb from No. 600 in last year’s “La Liste” ratings to its current position.

“All of us here are delighted with this exciting news and the dramatic forward momentum,” said Patrick O’Connell, chef/proprietor of The Inn.

A Celtic Christmas at Castleton

The Barnes and Hampton Celtic Consort puts on its memorable Christmas concert, with readings by D.C. radio/TV personality Robert Aubry Davis, on Saturday, Dec. 17 at Castleton's Theatre House. The consort is (pictured here, from left) Joseph Cunliffe, Linn Barnes, Steve Bloom and Allison Hampton.
The Barnes and Hampton Celtic Consort puts on its memorable Christmas concert, with readings by D.C. radio/TV personality Robert Aubry Davis, on Saturday, Dec. 17 at Castleton’s Theatre House. The consort is (pictured here, from left) Joseph Cunliffe, Linn Barnes, Steve Bloom and Allison Hampton.

After Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton brought their popular, long-running “Celtic Christmas Concert” to Castleton’s Theatre House for the first time last year, Barnes says, the folks at Castleton hired him and Allison on the spot for a return engagement — and that engagement is this Saturday (Dec. 17) at 4 p.m. in the intimate, acoustically perfect 200-seat theater which the late Maestro Lorin Maazel built at his Rappahannock farm.

Barnes and Hampton will be taking the back road to Castleton.

The couple splits their time between D.C., where they perform and primarily teach music, and Rock Mills Road, where they’ve had a hideaway amid the hills for 20 years. Barnes says they come out most Sunday evenings to Rappahannock and usually stay till Thursday — which is why, Barnes says, they’re technically not weekenders but “weekers.”

The two will be performing with their Celtic Consort — a quartet filled out by flutist Joseph Cunliffe and percussionist Steve Bloom, both sought-after musicians in their own right. And, as they have for many of the 39 years they’ve been busy making the annual Celtic Christmas concerts into a “Washington institution” (so said The Washington Post) as part of the Dumbarton Concert Series, Barnes and Hampton also will be sharing the stage with Robert Aubry Davis, cultural fixture and euphonious Washington radio and TV personality, host of WETA’s Emmy-winning “Around Town” and of the national early music program “Millennium of Music” on SiriusFM.

Davis will be reading selections for which Barnes and Hampton specially compose, in styles from the Renaissance era to the present, and perform on Celtic harp (Hampton’s instrument) plus lute, guitar, cittern, mandolin, Irish bagpipes (all of the above by the multi-instrumental Barnes), bodhran, flutes and recorders. Among the highlights are Davis’ readings from “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas.

“It’s never quite the same program each time,” says Barnes, who notes that this year, he’s planning to lean on the mandolin — which he plays in a unique way, with finger picks rather than a flat pick. This year also includes a reading from a poem by Langston Hughes, and Barnes says he’ll be doing some finger-style blues guitar to go with it — Delta-style blues guitar being his first musical love many years ago.

Barnes will be playing his prized 1917 Maurer guitar, a work of art itself, in its Brazilian rosewood and European spruce glory. “All of us are, really, instrument nuts. When you’re up there and you’re not playing amplified, you’re really playing for the tone — and that hall,” he says, meaning Castleton’s Theatre House, “is one of the best places we’ve ever played. The acoustics are just phenomenal.”

Asked if she has a favorite part of the Christmas concerts, Hampton demurs, probably wisely.

“It’s hard to single out one thing, really,” she says. “It’s part of the reason we put these things together to be so diverse . . . . I play a solo harp piece, an air from the Isle of Man, and every year we put in one solo harp piece. People will come up to me afterwards and say, “I could listen to a whole concert of that,’ and I usually say, ‘No, you couldn’t.’ ”

Possibly in the pursuit of that diversity, Barnes also just published a novel — a mystery, “Bright Hours: A Cold War Story,” available on Amazon Books. He’s already at work on a sequel, he says. Unlike performing, especially at Christmas, “writing is lonely work. There’s only one thing lonelier than writing a novel, and that’s . . . finishing a novel.”

Tickets ($20 to $40) for the 4 p.m. Saturday Celtic Christmas Concert are available at 540-937-3454 or

— Roger Piantadosi

A ‘Thieves of Mercy’ special (Postponed due to weather, see link for details)

The cast and crew of RCHS' award-winning "Thieves of Mercy," written and directed by Russell Paulette (at left), poses with their state championship runner-up trophy last week in Charlottesville.
The cast and crew of RCHS’ award-winning “Thieves of Mercy,” written and directed by Russell Paulette (at left), poses with their state championship runner-up trophy last week in Charlottesville. By Cherl Crews

Rappahannock County High School’s award-winning drama students perform director Russell Paulette’s one-act play, “Thieves of Mercy,” in a special benefit show 4 p.m. Sunday at Little Washington Theatre, a fundraiser sponsored by Living Sky Foundation.

Suggested donation is $8 ($5 students) to see RCHS’ players — who were both district and regional theater champs this fall, and runners up in the Virginia state theater competition, with Best Actor awards going to students Trusten Murrah and Savannah Stevens, and best coach to director and teacher Paulette. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

From Foster Harris to . . .

It’s too soon to say for sure, according to Foster Harris House B&B and Restaurant owners John and Diane MacPherson, but they’re hoping that after settlement on the sale of their Main Street business — a day scheduled for the end of January, to retired California-based hotelier Klaus Peters — their next step might be clear by the end of February, and it won’t take them out of Rappahannock County, either.

The next step, the couple says (and I mean that literally; John and Diane don’t speak in unison but they do finish each other’s sentences), will be what they began doing three years ago at their B&B: Operating a small, fine-dining restaurant. Minus the B&B part.

“We’re hoping, but we really don’t want to say anything specific,” says Diane. “But all of our friends are here” — “and all of our customers,” interjects John — “and all of the farms, and vendors and other local businesses we’ve come to work with. . . .”

Once the sale is done, the MacPhersons will move into the house at the other end of Main Street that they bought a few years back; son Finn, a fifth-grader at Wakefield Country Day School, will continue on at WCDS, and the family will still live in the town of Washington.

“It’s been really hard to identify a place in the county where we can do what we’d like,” says John. “Very small overhead, very small staff . . . so we can get through the winters, through January, February and March, without too much worry.”

“We hope to have news by the end of February,” says Diane.

Meanwhile, if you’ve been meaning to but haven’t yet, the MacPhersons’ last dinner, with chef John in the kitchen of Foster Harris House, is Jan. 28. As always — and as scheduled to continue when Peters takes over the B&B next year and brings in his own chef — there’s room for just 10. Call 540-675-3757 to make a reservation.

— R.P.


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