A late wedding gift for Ashley M. DeMar has united her love of Celtic music and her Scottish/Irish heritage while delivering an EP recorded near Buffalo.
A few weeks ago, Ms. DeMar, a 2010 graduate of South Jefferson Central School District, released the four-song EP “Going Home,” recorded at The Digital Barn, operated by Dave St. Onge, in Ransomville, Niagara County.
Local theater-and-concert-goers may know of Ms. DeMar from her several leading roles in shows produced by Watertown Lyric Theater. After SJCS, she attended Niagara University near Niagara Falls, earning a bachelor of fine arts degree in 2014 in theater performance with a double major in English.
During her college years, Miss DeMar lived in London for two summers, which included studying and touring with a production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” She later professionally toured New York state through productions with Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn and for several years was cast in “Liberty Mountain — The Revolutionary War Drama,” based in Kings Mountain, N.C.
Ms. DeMar now lives on a farm in Cherryville, N.C., the home town of her husband, Jeremy Homesley. They wed on the farm in November of 2019. Her husband has been a high school English teacher for the past three years. They are both involved in local theater in North Carolina and Ms. DeMar is also a freelance writer and editor.
In 2017, Mr. Homesley created the nonprofit Project Local Inc. “We’ve done a few productions through that nonprofit in order to raise money for various causes,” Ms. DeMar said.
Over the years, Ms. DeMar has kept in touch with one of her influential instructors at Niagara University. Randy Andropolis is an adjunct faculty member at the university. His extensive music background also includes working as a community music school administrator in Niagara County for 18 years. He’s a private music instructor in multiple instruments and recording and tutors undergraduate level composition, theory and instrumentation. He has several original recordings, and in the late 1990s, early 2000s, Mr. Andropolis and his wife, Betty, performed at Watertown’s North Country Goes Green festival.
Mr. Andropolis was music director for several shows Ms. DeMar was involved in as a Niagara student and they shared an affinity for Celtic music.
Ms. DeMar served as a teacher’s assistant in Mr. Andropolis’s classes, delivering self-prepared lectures. They both enjoyed talking about the history of Appalachian music and its origins.
“I sort of had this mind blow moment when I realized that modern Appalachian music, folk music, blue grass-type music is basically what happens when Celtic music ferments in the mountains for 200 years,” Ms. DeMar said. “I decided that for my honors thesis my concentration would be traditional Scottish music and its connections to national identification. I called it, “Perseverance and Preservation: How We Can Preserve our History Through Our Culture.’”
Ms. DeMar said that Mr. Andropolis was unable to attend her wedding, but after the dust from the COVID-19 pandemic began to settle, she said that he contacted her and offered the recording studio time as a wedding gift.
“In January, we started brainstorming,” Ms. DeMar said. “It grew into the EP I released a couple of weeks ago.”
“I was always impressed by Ashley’s intellect, remarkable talent and far more than commonplace vocal skills, as well as stage presence,” Mr. Andropolis said. “She can do amazing things with her voice/delivery.”
“All four tracks are pieces of traditional Celtic music that I’ve always loved,” Ms. DeMar said. “I thought if for any reason, this is the only chance I get to do this, I would really love to sing the music that I love the most.”
The songs: “Wild Rover,” “Hey, Johnnie Cope,” “Caledonia” and “Wild Mountain Thyme.”
Mr. Andropolis played most of the instruments on the tracks. Ms. DeMar said that André Six, Belgium, spouse of a South Jeff high school classmate, performed ukulele and did some sound design on the EP.
Ms. DeMar said that her interest in Celtic music comes from her mother, Sue Ebersol DeMar, parish administrator at Trinity Episcopal Church, Watertown.
“She has absolutely no Scottish or Irish heritage whatsoever,” Ms. DeMar said. “She just loves Celtic music.”
But Ms. DeMar said she can trace her Scottish ancestry through her father, the late David DeMar.
“But my dad, bless his heart, did not share any of my mother’s interest in Celtic music. He did not care for it. It’s interesting that I was able to find this love for something that was so important to my history, and find it through the opposite parents.”
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Ms. DeMar’s “Going Home” is available on streaming services such as Apple Music/iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music and others.
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