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Harmony for the holiday

Ashton & Croke pitch in for library show

Mark Ashton (left) and Don Croke play Christmas favorites at the Jacob Edwards Library Monday night. Adam T. Silva. (click for larger version)
December 21, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — The show must go on.

Singing duo Mark Ashton and Don Croke stepped in at a moment's notice Monday, Dec. 20, to fill the entertainment bill at the Jacob Edwards Library — after Southbridge High School Choral Director Becky Bussiere cancelled the group's scheduled performance due to Bussiere's illness.

The duo, who have been playing together for nearly 35 years, played guitar and sang Christmas classics to an intimate crowd in the library's reading room. They encouraged audience participation, as they handed out tambourines, bells and lyrics at the start of the show. They also branched out into oldies, such as the Mama's and the Papa's "I Dig Rock and Roll Music," John Denver's "Country Road (Take Me Home)," Bobby Vinton's "Roses are Red" and Elvis' "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"

"I got a call this afternoon and was happy to do it," said Croke, who retired from American Optical several years ago. "Mark and I play together at least a few times a year at nursing homes and senior centers, so this was no problem."

The duo was once a quartet, billing themselves as the John B. Singers with John Moriarty and the late Eddie Beaudry, who died earlier this month. Their named derived from the 1966 Beach Boys nautical song, "Sloop John B," which they also performed Monday night.

"We started off playing at Saint Mary's Variety Show on Saint Patrick's Day years back," explained Ashton, an employee of the Center of Hope. "We passed ourselves off as an Irish group, even though we all weren't Irish. The theme of the first few shows we played was Irish-based, so we just went along. For a while, we always managed to play a show on St. Patrick's Day."

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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