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Bill Leslie and Friends Go for the Right Notes on New CD

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RALEIGH — A familiar name and face from WRAL-TV graces the inside cover of a new CD. WhenBill Leslieis not anchoring WRAL's Noon News, he is probably strumming his guitar and writing new tunes.

For years, Bill expressed his love for Celtic music in solitude -- just him with a guitar and a collection of Celtic whistles. But his dream was to record his work and find another musician to help bring his music to life. He found Mary and Kerry Johnson.

They formed a band -- Bragh Adair. The name comes from an ancient Gaelic word that means "blazing or crackling fire."

"I searched for two years to find the violinist that I was looking for, and Mary was perfect," Bill says. "I said, 'We need someone on piano,' and she said, 'How about my husband?' The first time I heard him play, I said, 'Fantastic!'"

The Johnsons' partnership began many years earlier.

"We met through music," says pianist Kerry. "We met at the Eastman School of Music in New York state, although we're both from this area. I'm from Raleigh, and she's from Chapel Hill."

Kerry is a financial planner, and Mary works as a professional musician and violin teacher. Both are trained in classical styles but discovered their own love for Celtic music.

"About six years ago, my daughter started taking Scottish dance, and that was my first introduction to Celtic music," Mary says. "I was so impressed that these people had not studied anywhere, and the music was so much fun."

So much fun that a blazing fire of inspiration filled the trio with a collection of 13 songs, recorded on disc and fine-tuned for live performance.

"The thrill is to take a simple melody that I might come up with and say, 'Here, Kerry. Here, Mary. Let's do something with it.' And with their incredible skill and talent, amazing things happen," Bill says.

The group is also performing Friday night at theCary Academyauditorium.

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