'Ed Hall’s Woodstock Christmas Guitar Night' a holiday season tradition

Opera House concert continues late Ed Hall's legacy

In the two decades Daniel Campbell has worked with the Woodstock Opera House, he’s never missed “Ed Hall’s Woodstock Christmas Guitar Night.”

It’s the spirit of the event and, most of all, the caliber of the performers that draws people in, said Campbell, now the managing director of the Opera House.

“The things they do and the sheer talent with their instruments is just absolutely amazing,” he said. “People who come and see this performance get caught up in it. I’m not a guitarist myself, but even as a nonplayer, you watch these people and it’s just phenomenal what they can accomplish with their instruments.”

The event’s namesake, award-winning guitarist Ed Hall, started his “Guitar Night” at least 25 years ago. Before his death several years ago, he asked the Woodstock Opera House to continue the tradition.

Campbell is doing just that with the upcoming “Ed Hall’s Woodstock Christmas Guitar Night” at 8 p.m. Monday at the Opera House, 121 E. VanBuren St., Woodstock. Tickets cost $33 at or 815-338-4212.

“We are carrying on [Hall’s] legacy,” Campbell said.

The concert will feature four internationally acclaimed musicians performing arrangements on the guitar.

Among them are Adam Rafferty, known as a YouTube guitar sensation who fuses acoustic fingerstyle with jazz and funk; Antoine Dufour, a fingerstyle acoustic guitar player known worldwide; and Peppino D’Agostino, who performs a unique compositional style of guitar-playing.

The host, Jeff Friedlander, an award-winning guitarist and songwriter who used to perform with Hall, also will perform.

Each will take turns playing throughout the night. Past concerts also have featured other string instruments, such as fiddle and mandolin artists, as well as songwriters.

“We’ve sort of gone a different direction this year,” Campbell said. “We’ve gone back to sort of featuring the guitar and finger-picking element of the show. We’ve chosen some artists that stand out as finger-picking guitarists.”

Performing in Woodstock for the first time, D’Agostino taught himself to play the guitar at age 10 in Italy after hearing a cousin perform at church. He emerged on the acoustic guitar scene in the 1980s and has performed around the world ever since.

When asked to describe his music, he said it’s too difficult to describe because it’s a combination of so many styles.

“I call it minestrone style,” he said, comparing it to the mix of ingredients in the Italian soup.

Playing for more than 50 years, D’Agostino teaches guitar around the world and sees the instrument as easy to learn. To play in-depth, however, takes a lifetime of study, he said.

“I see [the guitar] gives joy immediately to beginners,” he said. “You start, and you can play almost immediately a song in that sense. I think the concert in Woodstock will demonstrate there are different levels of playing and things you can do with the guitar. It’s like a mini-orchestra, really.”

He said he’d like to walk around the audience as he performs to give people a closer look at what he and his guitar can do.

Once the annual date was settled on years ago for the concert by Hall, it became a holiday tradition for many, Campbell said.

“I don’t think we’d have a [holiday] season without a Guitar Night in it,” he said. “It just wouldn’t be a season without it.”

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