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March 30, 2014
Aretha Franklin, Natalie MacMaster to play Ottawa Jazz Festival
Ottawa Citizen

The Ottawa Jazz Festival has filled two of the three vacant spots in 2014 main stage lineup — soul legend Aretha Franklin is booked to play June 28, and Celtic music star Natalie MacMaster will be the June 30 headliner.

Franklin, who turned 72 this week, was to have played in Confederation Park last year, but had to pull out due to an undisclosed illness.

“It was truly unfortunate to have to cancel a performance we knew so many people were looking forward to,” the festival’s executive producer Catherine O’Grady said in a press statement.

“Celebrity does not make you immune to illness though, and we’re so pleased to give our audience the satisfaction of seeing Aretha this year.”

At her Confederation Park show, Franklin is to be supported by an assembled band of Ottawa musicians, including saxophonist and festival programming manager Petr Cancura.

masters02 Aretha Franklin, Natalie MacMaster to play Ottawa Jazz FestivalMacMaster with special guest Donnell Leahy will make the evening before Canada Day a Celtic-themed celebration in the park. That night, the Celt-punk band The Mahones are to play the OLG After Dark Series.

The festival had previously lined up the Chieftains with guest Ry Cooder to play the park that night, but that group had to cancel.

The bookings of Franklin and MacMaster boost the soul/R&B and world music quotients of its mainstage offerings, which also include: a Bollywood themed opening night on June 20; Steve Martin, plus Edie Brickell, and the Steep Canyon Rangers on June 22; the Tedeschi Trucks Band, on June 23; Daniel Lanois on June 24; Earth, Wind & Fire; on June 26, and the duo of Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite play June 27.

As for jazz on the main stage, singers Dianne Reeves on June 25 and Bobby McFerrin, who will sing a spiritual-based concert on June 29, are in the mix.

The festival has one main stage headlining act to announce for its first Saturday, June 21. The event, the 34th annual edition, runs from June 20 to July 1.

My recap of the festival’s shows on its OLG After Dark stage and its other series is here.

Some updates regarding music on other festival stages: Montreal electro-klezmer outfit Socalled replace Lemon Bucket Orkestra in the OLG After Dark Series slot for June 24 at 10:30 p.m. The festival’s Club Series will see Le Petit Chicago in Gatineau hosting three shows: Cherry Chérie on June 21, Django Libre on June 25, and Gabriella Hook on June 28. Also, The Peptides play Mercury Lounge on June 28.

Because of the Franklin booking, the festival’s Early Pass sale has been extended. Until April 4 the full-festival bronze pass will go for just $170, after which is will be $20 more.


January 30, 2014
Winter weather cancels concerts by master fiddlers
Natalie MacMaster, Donnell Leahy at Hoover Library Theatre
By AllAlabama

HOOVER, Alabama – Master fiddlers Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy have had to cancel their concerts at the Hoover Library Theatre tonight and Friday night due to winter weather travel problems.

The performers had their flights cancelled due to weather issues and therefore were unable to make it to the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, Hoover Public Library Director Linda Andrews said.

Both tonight’s concert and Friday night’s concert, billed as “Masters of the Fiddle,” were sold out, and all 500 people affected were sent messages about the cancellations, Andrews said. The Library Theatre Box Office will start processing refunds on Feb. 3.

“It’s just the craziest thing,” Andrews said. The fiddlers’ concert already had been rescheduled once.

The husband-wife duo originally was set to perform at the Hoover Library Theatre on April 11-12 and was the first act in the Library Theatre’s 2013-14 season to sell out their shows. But MacMaster found out in the fall she is pregnant and was due to have her baby in April, so their Hoover concerts were rescheduled for Jan. 30-31.

The Library Theatre issued refunds to all the ticket buyers for the April shows. Library officials also gave those people first dibs on tickets for the new concert dates, and most of the original ticket buyers took advantage of that, Andrews said. Any remaining tickets were sold, making the rescheduled concerts also sell-outs.

Now, the winter storm has intervened. MacMaster and Leahy won’t be rescheduled for this season at the Hoover Library Theatre, and they probably won’t fit into the 2014-15 season because most of those acts already have been lined up, Andrews said.

“We were so disappointed,” Andrews said. “It’s just unbelievable – very strange. I guess it just wasn’t meant for us to have the fiddlers.”


January 2014
C.B. fiddling legend Buddy MacMaster earns international award
Joins honour roll that includes Dylan, Baez, Seeger
By Stephen Cooke, The Halifax Herald


Natalie MacMaster performs with her uncle, Buddy MacMaster, at the 2006 ECMAs prior to the elder fiddler receiving the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award in Charlottetown. The Dean of Cape Breton Fiddling will be recognized this year with a Folk Alliance International Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Dean of Cape Breton Fiddling, Buddy MacMaster, has received numerous honours in his career, and this year he joins the ranks of music legends like Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Stan Rogers.

In February, the 90-year-old Judique musician will become a Folk Alliance International Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, along with the late Appalachian banjo master Dock Boggs and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the label that included MacMaster on its 2002 release The Heart of Cape Breton.

Presented at the annual Folk Alliance Conference in Kansas City, Mo., the award debuted in 1995 for Seeger and folklorist Alan Lomax, and has gone on to include pioneers like Woody Guthrie and Paul Robeson and institutions like the Newport Folk Festival and Rounder Records.

MacMaster is only the third Canadian to receive the award, after singer-songwriter Stan Rogers, honoured posthumously in 2005, and Saskatchewan folklorist Edith Fowke in 2000.

His most famous niece, fiddler Natalie MacMaster, says her uncle doesn’t pick up the fiddle anymore due to his declining health, but he’s done so much for the traditional music of his home that there’s no question he belongs among the pantheon of great and distinctive players.

“With Buddy, it’s so appropriate,”the Troy native said from her home outside Peterborough, Ont. “I look at his contribution, I look at his age, and I look at the quality of music that he played, and I think that he’s one of those pillars in our Canadian heritage.

“Whether he’s playing or not, (his music) just lives on and he continues to be recognized for his unbelievable contribution to this fiddle music of Cape Breton, which is still a thriving tradition.”

Buddy MacMaster will add the Folk Alliance International award to a prestigious roster of recognition, including membership in the Order of Canada, Order of Nova Scotia and the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame, and an honorary doctorate of letters from Cape Breton University.

Not bad for a former railway man who played his fiddle on the trains, and who would strike up a jig or reel at a dance or concert any time he was asked. For a long time, playing for people was more important than posterity; MacMaster didn’t make his first recording until he was in his 60s.

“He was always generous with his music,” recalled his niece. “He’d bend over backwards to play a gig for nothing, for no fee at all, because he knew he had a gift and wanted to give it back to the community and to the people. He just has a generous heart, and he’s a hard worker and a strong man.”

She credits her uncle’s ability to pick pieces from the Scottish music canon, or turn a lesser-known tune into something special, as one of MacMaster’s special traits. He’d imbue them with personality, characteristic bow work and quick grace notes that would be copied and developed by younger players like Natalie and her cousin Ashley MacIsaac.

“But probably most important was his timing. He had this swing in his music that made them call him the King of the Jigs, and he was THE dance player, for good reason,” she explains. “He had a real knack for knowing where the best groove was, and knowing Buddy, it wasn’t like he sat down and tried to figure that out, it came to him totally naturally. He was just gifted.”

Natalie always knew Buddy’s playing was something special, but she said his gift really came into focus for her around 10 years ago when she and husband Donnell Leahy were enjoying a visit from her uncle in Ontario.

They were with a group of friends and family that also included cousin Kinnon Beaton and some other fiddle players, and soon enough a violin was passed around and everyone took turns playing a tune or two.

“When it got to Buddy’s hands, he played a tune, 30 seconds or whatever, and I’m telling you there was a maturity and a sweetness in his playing that was unmatched,” she said. “It just made me realize, wow, here we are with our technical approaches to playing, holding the fiddle properly, trying to do the right vibrato and so on, but here’s Buddy, he goes and picks up the fiddle and blew us all away. No one could touch him.

“Not that he was trying to be untouchable; he was just doing his thing, but I was thinking how there was such depth there that I would only hope to touch a fraction of (that) when I’m that age.”

For a complete list of Folk Alliance International Lifetime Achievement Award recipients, visit www.folkalliance.org/


December 2013
A-list musicians to headline CP Holiday Train events in Hamilton,
Calgary and Cottage Grove

View the press release (PDF)


November 20, 2013
Sparks fly when Canada’s dynamic fiddling duo takes the Englert Theatre stage
By Diana Nollen, Hoopla

IOWA CITY — Natalie MacMaster and husband Donnell Leahy aren’t mere masters of the fiddle — they’re immortals. Wizards whose bows become magic wands as they conjure up jigs and reels that leave their audiences reeling and shouting for more.

Few seats were empty Tuesday night (11/12/13) when the Canadian couple cast their spell over the Englert Theatre. All the seats were empty when audience members sprang to their feet at the end of both halves of the nearly 2 1/2-hour Hancher concert.

Equally phenomenal, Mac Morin on piano and Tim Edey on guitar and accordion kicked up their heels, too. Literally. Whoops, cheers and hand claps from the audience provided percussion throughout, especially when all four musicians clacked their flying heels for some spirited step-dancing.

The biggest ovations, however, came when four of the five current little Leahys stepped into the spotlight to share their fiddling and dancing styles. The family has five curly-topped kids, ages 7 to 1, and another due in April. They could not possibly be cuter, and the older two already are very fine fiddlers. The others are following in their footsteps.

Music is a family affair for all the generations on both family trees. MacMaster, raised on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, is steeped in Scottish music and dance. Leahy, raised on a farm 20 hours west in Ontario, is the oldest boy among 11 siblings and the leader of his family’s band. Their muscular music has been dubbed Leahy style, in a category all its own.

When Cape Breton and Leahy styles collide, sparks fly in the most mesmerizing way.

Husband and wife have impeccable fingerwork and flawless technique, and their music courses through their entire bodies, head to toe, filling the room with fire.

They dance even when they’re not dancing, and MacMaster lets go with a couple of whoops on the liveliest tunes. Her pregnancy is beginning to show, but the energy in her fiddling and dancing hasn’t let up. The new baby in her belly is having a wild ride. Maybe that’s why all the little Leahys are such prodigies — they’ve had music flowing through them from the very beginning.

Most of the evening’s fare was light and lively — one giant Celtic celebration, but tempos did slow down for beautiful mournful tunes, including a pair of waltzes Leahy wrote and performed. MacMaster followed with a sweet solo, romantic in that Celtic winsome way. You could just hear a story told through her strings, perhaps of someone going off to sea or another long journey.

Leahy conjured up more of a gypsy feel with a couple of reels, “King of the Fairies” and “Fiddler’s Despair,” that he learned from an accordion player in Wales. He says the bow is an extension of his arm. That was displayed over and over again, as his powerful stokes shredded the ribbon, leaving flying filaments in their wake. His frenzied bowing brought a huge cheer from the crowd.

The always-popular “Orange Blossom Special” became a bullet train — nothing short of astonishing — in the hands of the four peerless performers.

Perhaps the best part of their magic is their playfulness. They simply can’t sit still — or stand still — as they roam the stage, share their stories and life glimpses and just exude joy. They tease each other and toss out silly strings of thought in the midst of their serious artistry.

We found out how the couple met, broke up for 10 years, then married and started having their babies — which means we’ll be hearing their music for generations to come.


November 12, 2013
MacMaster and Anderson pay tribute to Skinner
by John Gillis, The Inverness Oran

Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster had a unique opportunity earlier last month to pay tribute to a legendary Scottish fiddle composer, James Scott Skinner.

The Grammy Award-winning MacMaster teamed up with Scotland’s traditional fiddler and composer Paul Anderson for a concert organized by the Aberdeen Performing Arts, part of a series of concerts called the Northern Arc.

The concert was held on Saturday, October 5th and also featured the legendary Scottish band The Old Blind Dogs and some of Scotland’s finest young dancers.

“I really have to give my husband credit for encouraging me to do the concert. It was a one-off thing and not part of a tour or anything, and I really haven’t been to play in Scotland for many years now. It was very exciting to be part of the tribute to Skinner,” MacMaster told The Oran last week from her tour bus as she set out to embark on a U.S. tour with her husband, fellow fiddler Donnell Leahy.
“There were four acts in the show, and the caliber of musicianship was fabulous. I was impressed with how the audience enjoyed the show because from my memory the audiences there are quite reserved compared to North America. It was well received, and we got a call-back in the second set and they gave us a standing ovation,” MacMaster added.

Paul Anderson is considered one of the finest Scottish fiddlers and composers of his generation. He has numerous recordings to his credit and has composed more than 200 tunes in the Scots tradition.
James Scott Skinner was born in Banchory near Aberdeen, Scotland in 1843 and composed more than 600 published tunes and made more than 80 recordings before his death in March of 1927.
Skinner’s tunes have long made up a great part of the repertoire of many Cape Breton fiddling greats.
“I tried to pick out tunes I would be very familiar and comfortable with, and in selecting the tunes you can’t help but be amazed at the quality and the number of Skinner’s compositions. Of course, I’d heard many of those tunes played in my youth by my uncle Buddy,” said Natalie.

Natalie continues this month with Donnell on a tour (Masters of Fiddle) of the United States.
With their growing family, home schooling and band members added to the mix, it can sometimes be a hectic life on the road, but MacMaster says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
She estimates she still performs about a hundred shows a year, and often that means taking the children on the road as well.

Later this fall, MacMaster will be back on the road for more U.S. shows with her band. She will include some Canadian dates and a series of shows called Cape Breton Christmas in addition to a few symphony shows in Winnipeg and Victoria.
“I always enjoy doing the symphony shows as it’s a departure from what I normally do,” said MacMaster.

The new year is promising to be eventful as well.

“Donnell and I are planning to begin recording together in February, and we’re expecting our sixth child in late April,” MacMaster concluded.



August 25, 2013
Fiddles for the Fête
Cape Breton Post

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Lahey performed for record crowds at the Fortress of Louisbourg on Sunday as part of Louisbourg 300 celebrations. They were taking part in a show and fiddle extravaganza titled Fiddles for the Fête.

MacMaster said before the gig that playing at home in Cape Breton and getting a chance to revisit a historic site she has fond memories of visiting as a child would be a dream. She was also excited about a chance to play with so many fiddlers.



July 27, 2013
Fiddle greats will join up in tribute to legendary composer
Highland News

A ONE-OFF spectacular later this year will see top North-east traditional fiddler Paul Anderson team up with Grammy Award-winning Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster to pay tribute to legendary Scottish fiddle composer James Scott Skinner.

Organised by Aberdeen Performing Arts (APA), a series of concerts called Northern Arc will celebrate Scotland's formidable musical heritage by partnering great traditional Scots musicians with international artists.

In the inaugural recital, APA has paired Anderson and MacMaster, who will be flying in from her Nova Scotia home for the one-night-only show at Aberdeen Music Hall on Saturday, October 5, which will also feature the exuberant and highly popular Old Blind Dogs.

"It's going to be a spectacular night of amazing music that people will remember for a long time to come," said APA's delighted head of programming, Ben Torrie.

"Scotland, and the North-east in particular, has such a rich and diverse musical tradition, and we want to create unique opportunities to hear our great roots music in new and exciting collaborations.

"We have asked top Scottish players, starting with fiddler Paul Anderson, to choose an international artist to perform with, and promised to make it happen.

"For the first of these concerts to feature an outstanding world-class musician of the calibre of Natalie MacMaster is overwhelming for us, and the fact that she is travelling all the way from Cape Breton for this one-off event in Aberdeen demonstrates the influence that our music has had across the world and the excitement it still generates."

Already something of a legend in the time-honoured fiddle tradition of Scotland, Paul Anderson is considered the finest Scots fiddler of his generation.

He has composed over 300 pieces in the Scots style; his music providing the theme tune for the film Red Rose about the life of Robert Burns and the theme music for the PBS television show Tartan TV in the USA.

In 2008 he was the musical director for His Majesty's Theatre's critically-acclaimed production of Sunset Song, by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, and he performed at a private reception for Prince Charles at Fyvie Castle to celebrate the Duke of Rothesay's 60th birthday.

Natalie MacMaster's three-decade career has seen her amass multiple gold albums, a Grammy Award, a Juno Award for best instrumental album, eight Canadian country music awards and 10 East Coast music awards.

Married to fellow fiddler Donnell Leahy and a mother of five, she is a member of the Order Of Canada, the country's highest civilian honour, and has been described as an electrifying performer on stage and has staged concerts all over the world.

Famed Scots dancing master, violinist, fiddler and composer James Scott Skinner was born in Banchory and composed more than 600 published tunes and made more than 80 recordings before his death in March, 1927.

Tickets for the inaugural Northern Arc concert are on sale now at www.boxofficeaberdeen.com, by phone at 01224 641122 and at Aberdeen Box Office at the Music Hall and His Majesty's Theatre.



July 19, 2013
Fiddler Natalie MacMaster sizzles, even hotter than the weather
with Grand Rapids Symphony
Mlive, all Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Natalie MacMaster, who calls herself a wife and mother most of the time, happily rattles off the names and ages of her five kids.

But when this wisp of a woman clicks her heels to count off a tune and saws away on her fiddle while step dancing at the same time, you can’t help but wonder how a woman with five children under age 8 finds the stamina and the energy.

Those are the things you wonder while driving home. When MacMaster plays, you just want to listen to the music.

Grand Rapids Symphony’s Picnic Pops Series brought the Cape Breton fiddler back to West Michigan for a rollicking evening of reels, jigs and more for her first appearance at Cannonsburg Ski Area.

“What a good thing you’ve got going on,” said MacMaster with the unmistakable Scottish-influenced accent of her home in Nova Scotia.

“We don’t have this sort of thing at home in Canada,” she said. “Maybe at my home, but not outside.”

Inside with air conditioning might have been nice on a hot, humid, 90-degree July day. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Picnic Pops at Cannonsburg Ski Area, it’s that once the sun goes down, it’s a lot cooler for most of the show.

Some 2,271 hardy folks braved the heat for the concert that repeats at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. for picnicking and pre-concert fun.

It’s the 19th season of the Picnic Pops, but the series sponsored by D&W Fresh Market looks and feels brand new. The all-important audio system in the great outdoors has taken a great leap forward

Music director David Lockington opened the show with Malcolm Arnold’s popular “Four Scottish Dances,” and the softest notes of a bassoon solo came through loud and clear while the plucked notes from the string bass section rumbled in the listener’s chests.

The sound, in fact, leaped off the stage when the Grand Rapids Symphony played beautiful, Celtic influenced music, including “Obertura del Cantabrico,” by Spanish composer Daniel Sanchez Velasco.

MacMaster, on the other hand did her leaping on stage.

MacMaster hails from the remote Cape Breton Island in Atlantic Canada, where immigrant Scots brought their music with them. She’s become the best-known musical ambassador of the Cape Breton style of fiddling.

The ballad “If Ever You Were Mine,” a melody by Maurice Lennon that she calls her “most requested tune,” was lovely.

In her hands, a stately strathspey tune, full of “Scotch snap” figures with a little grace note before a longer note, suddenly gives way to a series of reels, a sudden release of tension.

Often she’s asked what’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle? Not much she says.

“It’s like calling St. Nicholas, Santa Claus,” she explained.

It’s true enough when MacMaster played duets with Grand Rapids Symphony concertmaster Jamie Crawford including a lovely version of the “Anniversary Waltz.”
With “Bach – Devil’s Dream,” a bit of classical music paired with an old-time fiddle tune, Crawford got to let his hair down a little while MacMaster got to show off her tone and phrasing.

Her career began during the “River Dance” craze, which was a lucky bit of timing for a one-woman, fiddling and dancing machine who coaxed Lockington into having a go at a Highland Fling with her.

In fact, she danced her way through many of her tunes, climaxing with a long, solo dance in the second half, followed by a somber, solo soliloquy on fiddle. Again the tension was broken with a series of reels, jam packed with virtuoso violin techniques that not all fiddlers can pull off.

How MacMaster has so much energy is a mystery to me. It’s no mystery she’s the best at what she does.


July 18, 2013
Fiddler Natalie MacMaster: The most authentic Scottish music
doesn't come from Scotland

Mlive, all Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Fiddler Natalie MacMaster hails from Nova Scotia or “New Scotland” on the North American side of the Atlantic Ocean.

But the Cape Breton-style of fiddling she plays likely is more authentic than the music found the old country.

The music Scottish immigrants brought to the New World, nurtured in relative isolation in such places as the Cape Breton Island of Nova Scotia, almost certainly survived longer, less affected by outside influences.

"No doubt evolution has occurred and will continue to occur," Natalie MacMaster said in 2009 prior to her first appearance with the Grand Rapids Symphony. But I'm told that the music of Cape Breton is the most authentic of Scottish music today.”

MacMaster, 41, who returns to appear Thursday, July 18 and Friday, July 19 with the Grand Rapids Symphony, grew up in a family of musicians, including her uncle, Buddy MacMaster, a legend among fiddlers.

She began fiddling before her 10th birthday on the craggy island where living and breathing includes playing music and dancing.

"I got it through the blood and the environment and the upbringing," she said. "It was a very natural thing, almost like learning to talk."

These days, she’s passing on her craft in new settings such as Leahy Music Camp, which MacMaster founded with her husband, fiddler Donnell Leahy.

Thursday and Friday, she’ll be at Cannonsburg Ski Area to play traditional Celtic jigs, reels, strathspeys and waltzes accompanied by a full orchestra are part of the show at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Gates open at 5:30 p.m. for picnicking, pre-concert entertainment by the Steve Talaga Trio, and children’s activities including face painting, crafts and an instrument petting zoo. Concertgoers may bring their own picnics and alcoholic beverages or purchase grilled items and soft drinks at Cannonsburg’s concession stand.

MacMaster, who describes herself as a wife and mother first, made her Grand Rapids Symphony debut in March 2009, not long after giving birth to her third child, Clare, in February.

She returned the following summer to play Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park while expecting her fourth child, Julia, who was born in January 2011.

MacMaster recorded her first album, “Four on the Floor,” at age 16, followed by several gold-selling albums, a Grammy Award nomination, a Canadian Juno Award and a couple of Top 20 albums on Billboard's World Music Charts while performing with the likes of The Chieftains, Paul Simon, Faith Hill, Luciano Pavarotti and Carlos Santana or as a solo artist to audiences.

"That was a great time to be establishing your fan base and your sound and your brand," MacMaster said prior to her first appearance with the Grand Rapids Symphony. "People were hungry for it back then. It was fresh and new, even though it's a very old music."



June 18, 2013
Natalie MacMaster relies on ‘cramming abilities’ to juggle 5 kids,
a farm and performances
By Jessica McDiarmid, Thestar.com

Juno Award-winning fiddler takes kids on the road, home schools and teaches at camp Leahy every summer.


Fiddler Natalie MacMaster with her husband, fellow musician Donnell Leahy, and their kids,
from left: Clare, 4, MacMaster holding Julia, 2, Michael, 5, Donnell holding Alec, 9 months, and Mary Frances, 7.


Natalie MacMaster has a lot on the go: five kids, a farm, a hundred or so performance dates a year.

And every summer the Juno Award-winning fiddler teaches at the Leahy Music Camp, which this year runs June 30 to July 4. She’s performing every weekend for the rest of the year and recording an album in the next couple months.

Plus, she home schools the oldest three of her kids, who range in age from 9 months to 7 years old.

“I just end up taking on things that I know are important to do and trust that with my good cramming abilities that I can make it work somehow,” says MacMaster. “And usually that’s how it happens.”

The key is flexibility, says MacMaster, whose music has also earned her two Grammy nominations and the Order of Canada.

An average day at the cattle farm in Douro, Ont., sees her husband, fellow musician Donnell Leahy, up and out the door before she wakes up around 7, and the kids get moving.

Mornings are devoted to school. MacMaster, who has a teaching degree, splits duties with another woman. Afternoons are taken up by music practice.

Home school wasn’t the plan, initially, she says. Lots of people around Douro home school, as do some family members who still live on Cape Breton, N.S., where MacMaster is from.

“There’s a lot of people in my midst home schooling and I always thought to myself, I hope I never have to do that,” she said.

But when MacMaster’s oldest daughter, Mary Frances, was 3, she ordered some books and did a little work with her. The following year, Mary Frances was old enough to start junior kindergarten but the family had a tour that fall, so MacMaster worked with her on the road again. The next year was the same, and it’s carried on like that.

“I wouldn’t be able to put (them) in school because we’re gone so much,” says MacMaster. “There’s no way I’m leaving them home and there’s no way I’m going to deny them the experience of touring.”

She takes the entire family on tour — “Take a babysitter and you’re good to go,” she says, laughing — and between schooling, rehearsals, sound checks, travelling and shows, every second of the day on the road is consumed, said MacMaster.

“Things don’t get done by the book everyday, there’s no question about it. We have to be flexible,” she said. “And all in all, it’s a wonderful experience. It takes a lot out of a person, but it gives a lot back.”

Sometimes, if it’s just a weekend performance, she’ll go with just the baby or bring one child who needs some extra “mommy time.”

“I don’t profess that it’s right (for everyone). It’s right for us,” says MacMaster. “Donnell and I have wildly unique and crazy lives and this is how our children and school and music priorities fit into our lives.”

Becoming a parent means it’s not about you anymore, says MacMaster, but doing the best thing for the kids means also taking care of yourself.

“You have to maintain some sort of sanity and personal accomplishment, for your children to see that and be able to pass that on (to them),” she says.

At the same time, MacMaster says there seem to be evermore pressures on women and many feel they have to be good at everything.

“I think it can erode on a woman’s person and I think it’s wonderful to have a sense of achievement ... and strive for better, but we just always have to be careful of what our definition of better is,” she says. “And just try to go through life taking on what’s realistic for your lifestyle.”


Leahy Music Camp – hosted by Natalie MacMaster & Leahy
Sunday June 30 – Thursday July 5, 2013

Location: Lakefield College School, Lakefield, Ontario
Pricing: Detailed information can be found at: www.leahymusiccamp.com

       

The Leahy Music Camp – hosted by the members of “Leahy” and Natalie MacMaster - has gained a reputation for being one of the most dynamic and inspirational Camps around. Since 2006, people from North America and Europe have travelled to Lakefield, Ontario to attend the Camp, learn, play, and create music.

The Camp focuses on fiddle, piano, step-dancing, and guitar, but also teaches accordion, bass, drums, mandolin, whistles, singing, audio engineering, and more. Participants learn from world class musicians as well as artists and technical experts from the music industry. Emphasis is given to skills, style, expression, and the art of working and playing music with others. A stimulating week of music, all on the beautiful campus of Lakefield College!

Visit www.leahymusiccamp.com for more info & registration
Join the Leahy Music Camp Group on FACEBOOK for up to date information


April 11, 2013
Fiddle in blood of ‘Cape Breton Girl’
By Amanda Persico, YorkRegion.com

Being from Cape Breton, fiddling is in Natalie MacMaster’s blood.

And she will be bringing her toe-tapping, fast paced jig to the Markham stage.

For two nights, Ms MacMaster will perform at the Flato Markham Theatre, April 17 and 18 at 8 p.m.

“I was born in Cape Breton,” said the mother of five. “Fiddling is in my blood. It’s part of who I am and that’s not going to change. You can take the girl out of Cape Breton, but you can never take the Cape Bretoner out of the girl.”

Performing about 100 shows a year, each experience still brings an aura of excitement even after close to three decades playing the fiddle.

“There is an energy that comes from the music,” she said. “I still get a little pang in my stomach before I go on stage. You can never over play a song, because each show is different.”

Her eleventh album, Cape Breton Girl, is a return to her roots with a traditional and true Cape Breton sound.

The two-time Grammy nominee and Juno Award winner started playing the fiddle when she was 9 years old.

“I was always surrounded by it,” she said. “I started playing when I was big enough for the fiddle.”

She has also recorded with Yo-Yo Ma, the Chieftains and children’s entertainer Raffi as well as other fellow fiddlers, such as Alison Krauss.

It’s not the fiddle that brings people to her shows, but the Nova Scotian sound that connects with the audience from cities to rural areas.

Her skill with the bow makes the fiddle sing and the audience tap their toes.

Being a mom hasn’t stopped her from working on new material, songs or recordings.

“I am a fiddler,” said. “I desire it. I breathe it. I play it. Whether I play on stage or in the kitchen for my kids, I’m a fiddler.”

She plans to bring the family into the recording studio in the coming months by recording an album with her fiddle husband, Donnell Leahy, who flourishes in more of a French fiddle style.

“We’re both fiddlers,” she said. “We have to do something together.”

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.markham.ca 


April 3, 2013
Breakfast Television - Vancouver, BC


April 3, 2013
Five children can't keep fiddler off the road
By Glenna Turnbull, The Daily Courier

Catching up with Natalie MacMaster during a three-day break in her tour, the former Nova Scotia fiddler who now calls Ontario home was not exactly sitting back relaxing at home.
No, being home means she's up to her eyeballs in the everyday running of a large household - she has five kids to juggle.

"It's doing laundry and cooking and home schooling and changing diapers and driving kids to dance classes and music lessons."

Husband Donnell Leahy is a huge help filling in while she's away, but he has a music career as well. Not only does he often accompany her on the road, but has his own successful Celtic band, Leahy, to play with as well.

How do they manage to balance it all out?

"Well, the balls don't always stay in the air," laughed MacMaster.
Sometimes they take the kids on the road with them and the two oldest, Mary Frances Rose (age seven) and Michael (age five) will take to the stage as well. Also, Clare Marie, who just turned four has a step-dancing routine. As for Julia Elizabeth, she's only just turned two and not quite ready for the stage.
The kids won't be coming along for the Kelowna show, only seven-month-old baby Alexander, who is still nursing. MacMaster said it's easy travelling with the baby,
"It's a piece of cake with just one."

MacMaster's career as a Cape Breton-style fiddler has spanned more than
30 years of performing and has earned her numerous East Coast Music Awards as well as a Junos and a Grammy for her collaboration with world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
"Cape Breton is a very musical island," she said of her homeland. She learned most of her reels and jigs at kitchen parties. Her mother taught her dancing when she was five and her father taught her to play fiddle at the age of nine. With a famous fiddling uncle named Buddy MacMaster, music was always part of her upbringing.

"There are more fiddlers per capita in Cape Breton than anywhere else in the world," she said.
Her husband Donnell Leahy also plays fiddle and MacMaster recalled having seen him play on stage when she was just 12 years old. Leahy was one of eleven children. Growing up on a farm in Ontario without a television, his family was also immersed in music. They all learned to play by ear and while he plays a more French Canadian style fiddle, the two are able to work together.

For MacMaster, she said collaborating with other artists is the best part of being a musician.
Among the many artists she's guest starred with are The Chieftains, Allison Krauss and Thomas Dolby.
While it's hard to single out any in particular, playing with Yo-Yo Ma on his Grammy Award winning Christmas CD stands out as one highlight, along with getting to play with Jesse Cook.
Are there any genres of music that seem a harder stretch for her to play?
"All of them," she replied, "There's no question, all of them stretch me. I did this cool collaboration with Jesse Cook that was probably my biggest stretch as far as posing a challenge."
MacMaster said, it either works or it doesn't.

"I've never had to walk away from anything. You know, deep down, you can do it, you just find the inspiration from the other artist, then they make you rise to the occasion."

MacMaster recently won an East Coast Music Award for her 11th CD, released last year, called Cape Breton Girl. And while there will undoubtedly be a few songs played from the new album at her upcoming show at the Kelowna Community Theatre on Sunday, she said she never specifically goes out to tour an album.
"We don't really tour a record," she said. "I put out records but play whatever I want on stage."
She does put a great deal of thought into setting up her playlists for each tour and said, "I like to put it in the right order and get the flow right, but we're always changing our show."
For now, having a break at home with her family, everything else takes a back seat, including her music.
"My music happens when I'm performing and out on tour. I have a rehearsal tomorrow, but until that happens, I'm nowhere near it in my mind," she said.

But she's careful to set aside time specifically for music and then it's husband Donnell's turn to watch the kids for a while.

Asked if there was anything else she'd like to add, MacMaster said, "I always like to leave with this quote," then proceeded to tell the story of how, at the end of a show a few years ago, when she was out in the audience signing autographs, a little old lady came up to her.

"She must have been well into her eighties and she said, 'I hate fiddle music but I loved your show.'
"So, even if you've never been out to a fiddle show, you should come. You might enjoy it."

QUICKFACTS
Who: Natalie MacMaster
Where: Kelowna Community Theatre
When: Sunday, April 7th at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $49 includes fee and taxes at SelectYourTickets.com or call 250-762-5050


March 28, 2013
Master of the bow
By Rachel Stern, Nanaimo Bulletin

Natalie MacMaster’s passion for fiddle music grows stronger as she tutors her children in the art form that has been part of her family for generations.

“Fiddle music is plain and simple and it’s in my ancestry and part of my family tree,” she said. “Musicianship is in my blood.”

Her four-year-old daughter started learning a month ago and her two older children already play the fiddle.

“I am made more passionate about it through them,” she said. “I want them to learn it. They are naturally gifted so it’s a joy.”

As a mother of five, she said balancing life and work has its challenges, but it’s not something the family sits down and tries to calculate. MacMaster, who is married to fellow fiddler Donnell Leahy, said the kids always come first.

“We have the attitude of let’s just let life pull us along,” she said.

For more than three decades MacMaster’s grace with the fiddle bow and invigorating performances have entertained audiences around the world. The musician collects traditional jigs, reels and strathspeys and makes them her own.

When MacMaster takes the stage she turns into the performer. Sharing music with others is something that brings her joy.

“Music is such a freeing thing. It is so true and right,” she said.

When she performs she takes note of the responses of the audience.

“When someone likes to hear something it takes my attention. I listen with them and it makes me tap my foot. It produces an emotional and physical response,” she said.

MacMaster is performing in Nanaimo at the Port Theatre Wednesday (April 3). She’ll play from her latest album Cape Breton Girl as well as some new pieces she’s been working on. MacMaster said her music has the ability to appeal to a wide range of people.

Tickets are $47.50 and are available by calling 250-754-8550, at the Port Theatre box office, located at 125 Front St., or online at www.porttheatre.com.


March 23, 2013
MacMaster and company impressive at Mechanics Hall
By Jonathan Blumhofer, Newstelegram.com

WORCESTER -- Music-making as a collegial experience and collective joy were two of the qualities gleaned from Natalie MacMaster's most recent show in Worcester, presented courtesy of Music Worcester on Friday night at Mechanics Hall. MacMaster, her band, and a couple of surprise guests (more on them in a moment) gave a rollicking performance that provided a snapshot of the rich musical tradition of Ms. MacMaster's native Cape Breton Island, with a couple of detours south of the border thrown in for good measure.

With more than 20 years' experience as a performer, Ms. MacMaster has lost none of her youthful exuberance. Her energetic stage presence (high-octane fiddling and simultaneous step dancing) certainly draws the attention, but it also brings out the best from her bandmates -- on Friday, guitarist Nate Douglas, bassist Shane Hendrickson, percussionist Éric Breton, and keyboardist Mac Morin.

The first half of Friday's show was dedicated to jigs, reels, strathspeys, and the like -- music largely upbeat in character and the vehicle for impressive displays of virtuosity (instrumental and danced) from MacMaster and her colleagues. The only blemish on the proceedings, which was somewhat remedied after intermission, was the bass-heavy amplification that drowned out the detail of Douglas' acoustic guitar and Morin's very involved (from the looks of things) piano playing.

But that took nothing away from the collective experience. Especially not with MacMaster as a gracious emcee who, about midway through the first half of the program, introduced her family (the aforementioned special guests). Her husband of 10 years, Donnell Leahy, also a fiddler and member of the band, took the stage for two numbers. His presence provided an interesting contrast between the playing styles of husband and wife (he was a bit more physically reserved than her but delivered a sweet, melancholy account of his first selection and a vigorous, foot-stomping rendition of the second).

And then came the kids. They have five (that MacMaster can pull off the moves she does with a 7-month-old is mind-blowing by itself). The two oldest, Mary Frances Rose Leahy (age 7) and Michael Joseph Alexander (age 5), are already continuing the family tradition (very well for their ages, I might add) of fiddle playing and dancing. After two solo turns, nicely passed off between the siblings, they were joined by their younger sister, Clare Marie (age 3), for a step-dancing routine. Then, joined by their parents, all four fiddlers turned in an energetic rendition of "Boil Them Cabbage Down." It brought the house down.

The show's second half was a bit more subdued, allowing MacMaster to take a little breather and to showcase the talents of her immensely capable band. After a solo introduction from Hendrickson, Douglas delivered a gentle, introspective account of Nat King Cole's "Autumn Leaves." Morin, whose keyboard playing throughout the night proved rhythmically acute and incisive, took a turn as a fleet-footed step dancer. One started to wonder: What can't these musicians do?

Not much, it seems. Mr. Breton's humorous solo contribution to the evening involved a church collection box worn round his neck, a bone mallet, and a wind-up toy. It elicited laughs, but also demonstrated what an excellent musician he is. The band's last two sets, one an encore, returned to the jig/reel medleys of the first half and sent everybody out into the cold, spring night in high spirits.

"Ninety percent of the tunes I know I learned from [playing at] house parties," MacMaster said at one point, referring to the Cape Breton tradition of getting together and making music among friends. Friday's event turned Mechanics Hall into one big house, and the party isn't going to be forgotten anytime soon.


March 19, 2013
Theology school to confer three honorary degrees
Herald News

Cape Breton musician Natalie MacMaster will be awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree by the Atlantic School of Theology during convocation exercises this spring.

MacMaster has drawn worldwide attention to Nova Scotia and its culture, heritage and music, the school said in a news release issued Tuesday. Integrated into her music is her Christian faith, said the release announcing details of convocation exercises May 4 at 11 a.m. in Cathedral Church of All Saints on Martello Street in Halifax.

“The musical heritage she comes from was incapable of separating the strains of the violin from songs in church and the gift of faith,” the school said in its announcement.

“Natalie has publicly given witness to the centrality of faith in her life in a quiet, humble yet firm way.”

Also receiving a doctor of divinity degree will be Martin Rumscheidt, church scholar, author, editor and translator.

Rumscheidt has a long history with the Atlantic School of Theology, having taught from 1975 until his retirement in 2002. He continues to work as a translator and is the editor and co-translator of the American edition of a recent feminist Biblical commentary published in Germany and the United States.

A proponent for peace, he represented the United Church of Canada on the governing board of the Canadian Council of Churches’ Project Ploughshares, and was a member and moderator of the Christian Peace Conference administrative council.

His current work in ecumenical relations involves Jewish-Christian theological discussion, with particular attention on the impact of the Holocaust.

Donna Mackinnon, former executive assistant to the president and board of governors of AST until her retirement in January, will be honoured as an associate.

Now living in Chester, she is a volunteer for Look Good Feel Better, a national public service program dedicated to helping women living with cancer manage appearance-related side effects of cancer and its treatment.


March 18, 2013
Natalie MacMaster Brings Timeless Cape Breton to Landmark
Mark Underwood, Port Washington Patch

Cape Breton’s Maritime Musical Daughter Dances onto Rimsky Stage in Port Washington.

Even before the music began, the Landmark’s Rimsky stage suggested something unusual was afoot. A drum kit was placed stage right front instead of its usual rear center position, and the Landmark’s grand piano opposed it stage left. This left a large area between them open to the audience’s imagination.

In Landmark’s latest World Beat series event on March 16th, a rosin’d-up, furiously bowing fiddle playing dancer (or was it a furiously dancing fiddle player?) in the form of one Natalie MacMaster was about to take up residence in that space.

MacMaster brought to town a brand of regional music and dance that was full of place, but that was also timeless. It was a music both in her blood and grown in the Cape Breton Island soil where she was raised. MacMaster is married to the talented fiddler Donnell Leahy, and is a niece of Buddy “King of the Jigs” MacMaster.

Last season Landmark featured Eileen Ivers, and Saturday’s show featured yet another able female fiddle player – this time with a twist. Even if it hadn’t been revealed that MacMaster is the mother of five, including a backstage six-month old, the current season’s performer in this tradition was to reveal herself to be a gifted dancer too. When she wasn’t bowing up a storm, she was an animated tap dancer. In fact, photographer Steven Sandick may have found that “stills” of this performer were an oxymoron.

Guessing that MacMaster’s backing musicians are all Canadians, eh? Certainly. Her band included pianist Mac Morin (also, it turned out, a capable dancer), Nate Douglas on Taylor acoustic and a Strat, bassist Shane Hendrickson on a 5 string Sadowsky made in Long Island City, and Eric Breton covering percussion of one sort or another – sometimes in duets with MacMaster’s feet.

How was the music? So lively, so easy to take in, so musical that one might be fooled into believing that there had been singing that night, too. Instead it was to be an evening of Scotch Cape Breton triplets, arpeggios and comfortably predictable cadences placed in the form of jigs, cogs and reels. By the third number, the performers were already receiving shouts at the end of the song. When MacMaster invited the audience to keep time by clapping, most needed no invitation.

At times, MacMaster was accompanied only by piano. Even if audience members couldn’t find Killiecrankie on a map at the start of a song, they’d soon be keeping the down beat with drummer Breton, who returned to the stage after one such fiddle-piano duet to add folk percussion “bones” to the mix.

MacMaster may have sung and danced her way into Landmark record books by taking the longest on-stage drink of water – and by dancing atop an already-occupied piano bench.Tossing her curly blonde mane at the audience, she accepted a standing ovation, then broadly hinted that she’d return for more. Return with an encore she did, fiddling her wireless way down Landmark aisles, ultimately bringing three young girls up to dance while she played on. Here’s it’s worth mentioning her instrument’s setup. Using a microphone dangled just above the bridge of the violin and attached to a wireless system, this device allowed MacMaster to stay with her violin’s natural sound but to stride across the stage – and beyond – at will.

Usually musicians arrive at Landmark with a portfolio of a few recognizable tunes and tunes less well known. Diehard fans may know many of them, but a musician’s best known songs carry the day. As a result, some nights Landmark listeners must navigate a landscape of both familiar and unfamiliar melodies.

A Natalie MacMaster performance is different. Even if “Danny Boy” (perhaps the only purely lyrical piece in the set list) was the only song title you carried away from the evening, everything was familiar. It was familiar even if you could no longer name farmer-ancestors coming to town to square dance after a week’s hard work. It was familiar even if you’d never studied the Highland Clearances that brought Natalie’s kin to the Canadian coast.

They were somehow tunes we knew all along, and thought we could dance to.


March 17,2013
Fiddler Natalie MacMaster to Light Up the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington, Mass.
Ruthie Napoleone, Passport-Mag.com

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are two of the world’s most celebrated fiddlers, melding their virtuosities into a whirlwind of music, dance and song, combining the best of French, Celtic, American bluegrass and even Cajun styles and making them their own. The duo is to perform as part of their “Masters of the Fiddle” tour at The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, Mass., on March 24.

The peformers, who are also married, hail from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, an island known for its hospitality—and many say that feeling of community and warmth comes through in their music. “It’s always a treat for the two of us to share our passion in life, which is music, and go out on tour together,” Ms. MacMaster has said. “This is very much a family affair.”

At the Mahaiwe performance, they will be joined by two highly-acclaimed pianists: Mac Morin and Erin Leahy. Expected on the set list are foot-tapping rave-ups and heart-wrenching ballads, along with world-class step dancing.

Ms. MacMaster, a Juno and Grammy Award-winning fiddler, has released 11 albums, most recently “Cape Breton Girl,” a collection of instrumentals that she calls a “straight-ahead traditional record” that brings home values she holds dear—family, tradition, home, and faith. Some have called the album a musical nod to her uncle, the legendary Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster. In addition to her solo career and working with her husband, Ms. MacMaster has collaborated with The Chieftans, Béla Fleck, Mark O’Connor, Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss, among others.

Donnell Leahy’s musical life is part of a family tradition that includes not only his wife and their four children (whom they homeschool, along with pursuing their music careers), but also his siblings. He’s the frontman and plays fiddle alongside his seven brothers and sisters in their acclaimed band, Leahy, which has released multiple albums, received several Juno Awards and opened for Shania Twain. The Leahys’ story was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary “The Leahys: Music Most of All.” The family of instrumentalists, singers, and dancers brings a rare level of originality and musicianship to the stage. This originality includes music that Mr. Leahy writes, arranges, and produces, and, as a result, the group is known for its unique blend of musical styles and genres, and its repertoire is more distinct than ever.
In a Boston Herald review, Ms. MacMaster was applauded for her abilities as a live performer: “To call Natalie MacMaster the most dynamic performer in Celtic music today is high praise, but it still doesn’t get at just how remarkable a concert artist this Cape Breton fiddler has become.”

Her career spans three decades, during which she has become well known for her jigs, reels, air, waltzes, strathspeys, marches and traditional folk music. “I guess culture and tradition never go out of style,” she has said. “For my crowds, they’ve been there for so many years—they just keep building and hanging on. I think they’ve watched me grow from a youthful new musician into a mature and confident performer … . I always get the sense from them that they deeply understand the unspoken essence of what I do. That’s probably a combination of the Cape Breton tradition and personality.”

Ms. MacMaster has also established herself as an electrifying performer all over the world, thrilling Carnegie Hall audiences and Massey Hall crowds, and captivating radio audiences with multiple appearances on the CBC, Canada A.M. and Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” and she has warmed television viewers with guest spots on Christmas specials such as “Holiday Festival On Ice” with Olympic ice skaters Jamie Sale, David Pelletier, Kurt Browning and world champion Jeffrey Buttle.

“Donnell and I don’t plan on making [playing together] our number one touring priority, because Leahy is still so important to him, and if he’s not playing with me, he’s playing with them,” Ms. MacMaster has said. “And I like the specialness of it; it’s not our main gig, so we only do it part of the year and we want to keep it fresh for ourselves.”

And that’s even more of a reason to see them perform live together this time around.

The show is scheduled for March 24 at 7 p.m., and ticket prices are $25 and $35 for balcony seats, $42 for members, and $47 and $67 for preferred seating. Information and reservations are available by calling 413-528-0100, or online at www.mahaiwe.org. The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center is located at 14 Castle Street in Great Barrington, Mass.


March 11, 2013
How about Nat!
MacMaster adds another ECMA to her collection
Cape Breton Post

SYDNEY — One of Cape Breton’s most decorated East Coast Music Award winners got the ball rolling Thursday night, claiming the island’s first award of 2013.

Natalie MacMaster, a native of Troy, Inverness County, won in the traditional instrumental recording of the year category for her album “Cape Breton Girl.” The award was presented at the Roots Room showcase as the 25th annual East Coast Music Week kicked into high gear in Halifax, Thursday.

“Cape Breton Girl,” MacMaster’s 11th album, was recorded at Glenn Gould Studios in Toronto and produced by MacMaster, who is also nominated for the producer of the year ECMA this week.

While the album has been described by some as a return to her roots, MacMaster told the Cape Breton Post when it was released that she didn’t see it that way.

“I don’t think of it like that. This is my 11th CD and I guess half of them are traditional and half of them are a little more experimental, so there’s no great surprise in this particular CD. It’s been done before by me and I’ve never abandoned my roots,” she said, at the time. “I’m pleased with how it turned out. I wanted to satisfy the really hard-core Cape Breton fiddle fans so it’s pretty straight ahead.”

Three other awards were handed out at the Roots Room showcase — Prince Edward Island’s Tim Chaisson received the roots/traditional solo recording of the year award for his album, “The Other Side”; Newfoundland’s The Once took home roots/traditional group recording of the year for “Row Upon Row of the People They Know”; and Nova Scotia’s Rose Cousins won folk recording of the year for her album “We Have Made A Spark.” One other award was presented Thursday night, with Jenn Grant picking up pop recording of the year honours for her album “The Beautiful Wild” during the pop/rock showcase stage.

Eight music awards will be presented tonight at various showcase stages.


February 19, 2013
They're not just fiddling around
In life and work, Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy make beautiful music together
By Bill Nutt, The Daily Record

When Natalie MacMaster says that she and Donnell Leahy are compatible, she is talking as much about their personal lives as their professional lives.

MacMaster and Leahy – both award-winning fiddlers from Canada – have been married since 2002. They also frequently perform together, as will be the case today (Friday, Feb. 15), at the Mayo Performing Arts Center.

“Our styles really complement each other,” says MacMaster. “It’s true on all levels. I don’t think there’s ever been a disagreement about music.”

MacMaster attributes that compatibility, in part, to the fact that she and Leahy each have active careers apart from each other. Since the 1980s, he has performed with his cousins in the family folk band, also called Leahy.

Meanwhile, MacMaster has worked with a broad array of artists, from the Chieftains to Alison Krauss to Yo-Yo Ma, while regularly releasing her own CDs of instrumental music.

A native of Nova Scotia, MacMaster grew up steeped in the music of Cape Breton Island, which has roots in both French and Scottish cultures. Her uncle, Buddy MacMaster, is considered one of the masters of Cape Breton fiddling, and two of her cousins – Ashley MacIsaac and Andrea Beaton – are also respected fiddlers.

“In Cape Breton, music isn’t something you choose. It’s a way of life,” says MacMaster. She picked up the fiddle when she was nine years old and was performing publicly within a year.

MacMaster describes herself as a musical sponge who enjoys experimenting with different genres of music. For example, she has played “MerleFest,” the annual bluegrass and traditional American music festival in North Carolina.

“Every time I work with someone new, I’m moved and taken to a different place,” she says. “It’s a great moment, because it challenges you.”

One of her favorite collaborators is Yo-Yo Ma; her contribution to the cellist’s “Songs of Joy and Peace” CD earned her a Grammy. But more gratifying than the award was the chance to work with Ma.

“He’s the greatest cellist in the world, but he’s so funny and light-hearted,” MacMaster says. “He’s very silly. I’m very silly, too. He once told me, ‘My inner child is intact,’ and I feel that way, too.”

As for her husband, she praises Leahy for his technical skill. “When we play, it’s very lively and spirited,” she says. “It’s very Cape Breton, but also very Ontario. But there’s a third element, what I call ‘our sound.’ ”

After some 30 years of performing, MacMaster says she is attuned her audiences. “There are two types of crowds; the ones who know me and the ones who don’t,” she says. “I want to win the crowds that don’t know me, but I also want it to be fresh for the ones who do.”

MacMaster’s touring schedule has been cut back in the past decade, since she and Leahy now have five children. But she still does session work, and she still records. (One of her upcoming projects is CD of duets with Leahy.)

Though MacMaster writes some of her own material, she also draws on the body of traditional music from a variety of cultures. “I’ll never have to worry about new songs to learn,” she says. “There’s such a wealth of traditional material out there.”

“I’m so grateful that I’m still able to do this,” MacMaster says. “Thirty years of performing, and it never loses its appeal to me.”


January 27, 2013
Fiddlers to join kitchen party fundraiser
FortMcMurraytoday.com

World renowned fiddlers and Juno award winners Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy will be performing at the Chef Michael Smith Kitchen Party fundraiser on Jul. 27 at MacDonald Island Park, the Fort McMurray Family Crisis Society has announced.

The married couple will treat the Fort McMurray audience to a show featuring fiddle-driven music, song and dance that combines French, Celtic, American Bluegrass and Cajun styles.

The pair will hit the stage during Chef Michael’s cooking event that will bring in food and drink from each province in Canada.

Tickets to the event will be available on Feb. 14 for $200 each at the MacDonald Island Park box office, with all proceeds going to the Fort McMurray Family Crisis Society’s Capital Campaign.


January 2013
ECMA Nomination!

Natalie has been nominated for an East Coast Music Award (ECMA) for "Traditional Instrumental Recording of the Year" for her latest album "Cape Breton Girl". The 2013 East Coast Music Awards will be presented on Sunday, March 10 at the Cunard Centre in Halifax, NS. Natalie will also be performing at the awards show with other nominees in the Traditional/Roots category.



December 2012
At Home With Natalie MacMaster

Get to know award-winning fiddler Natalie MacMaster
By Wendy Graves, Canadian Living Magazine (January 2013 issue)

Natalie MacMaster opens up about balancing a rewarding musical career with homeschooling her five children, while making time for the simple joys in life.

To say Natalie MacMaster has her hands full would be an understatement. The Cape Breton–born fiddler has been crisscrossing North America since October 2012 as part of a tour that will see her play more than 60 shows by the end of April.

And this past August she became a mom for the fifth time, with Baby Alec joining siblings Mary Frances, 7; Michael, 5; Clare, 3; and Julia, 2.

Now based in Ontario, Natalie talked to us before the holidays from the Lakefield-area farm she shares with her husband, Donnell Leahy (yes, from the family band Leahy).

What can fans expect from your upcoming tour?
"We'll have some good Cape Breton fiddling – very lively, joyful music. And there will be moments that have a little more depth to them; there's another type of beauty in the slower pieces. But, generally speaking, our show is very up, with the odd corny joke, and it's hopefully a night of ease for the audience."

Do the kids come on tour with you?
"It depends on where I'm playing and how long I'm going for. If I'm doing just one show, I'll take Baby Alec with me, since he's still nursing. I homeschool my two oldest kids, so Mary Frances came with me for some shows in the fall while Donnell taught our five-year-old at home. Mary Frances also danced and played fiddle in those shows."

What's it like to perform with your daughter?
"Parents say it's all about their kids. Well, it's true. Give me a good round of applause, but give her a great round of applause and I'm just beaming. For her to get standing ovations feels way better to me than for me to get them."

How has your approach to touring changed since you became a parent?
"We try to find what works best for the kids. If we stay home all the time and don't play music, that's not good for our kids, because Donnell and I believe we are meant to do what we do. There's an element in involving the kids that's healthy for them. They're not just learning music; it's the experience. We take the summer off and then go like crazy until Christmas. You are always playing that game of how much is too much, how much isn't enough."

I know you always meet fans after the shows. What have been some memorable gifts they've given you?
"I remember somebody gave me a lamp. We get a lot of children's baby gifts. We get a lot of chocolate. (I love getting a box of chocolates.) People also just give me notes; backstage I'll get a little card from somebody who wants to open up. I got a fiddle clock once. I have been given lots of fiddle paraphernalia."

You mentioned you homeschool your kids. Is that a big part of having a good work-life balance?
"I have a degree from teacher's college in Nova Scotia. I've never used it professionally, so it's kind of ironic that I'm teaching my own kids. At first it was just a trial, but this is now my third year. I like the flexibility it gives. It works well for our situation."

With five kids under age seven, when do you find time to sleep?
"I change things up. I'll crawl into bed with the kids at nine o'clock. I wake up a lot because the baby nurses and none of the kids sleep through the night. So my husband and I are up, switching bedrooms.

I might do that for a couple of nights in a row, then the next couple of nights I might stay up until three in the morning doing laundry, preparing schoolwork or meals for the next day, mopping the floor or just tidying up.

We try to be just as flexible with the kids' schooling. For a couple of days I'll teach music all morning and do some lighter school stuff in the afternoon.

And then the next day we might have a real focus on math. You just go with what you feel the kids need."

I know your husband, Donnell, is a great step dancer. Do you dance?
"I'm not a formal dancer. I dance in all of my shows, but my technique is that I don't have a technique. I never learned, but I'm passionate about dancing. I've taken a couple of lessons from my sister-in-law. I'm motivated first by exercise and second by just wanting to dance. It's a different style [of step dancing] in Ontario. I'm a Cape Breton dancer and I throw a little bit of craziness in between the moonwalk and some clogging and Irish dancing."

Do your kids ask you to play the fiddle for them, or is it more like, "Not now, Mom"?
"Every time I pick up the fiddle, the two-year-old and three-year-old want to sit in my lap. If I can play for one minute without being interrupted, it's miraculous.

Mary Frances is just starting to learn to play the piano and sometimes she wants me to play so she can accompany me. We're lucky to have a beautiful grand piano in our living room. I'll start playing the piano and the kids get their dancing shoes on and the fiddle is out. They just want to be involved. And then I get the little one sitting in my lap."

What do you remember most about your childhood Christmases in Cape Breton?
"Christmas is probably my favourite time of year. There's magic in the air. We would go with Dad to the woods to cut down a tree, then haul it back to the house. And the decorations had a certain smell to them because they were in the basement all year.

But that smell conjures up Christmas. I also remember Mom and Dad having someone who wasn't as fortunate over for turkey dinner. I remember playing fiddle for those people; that's a very vivid memory for me."

Do you have a favourite Christmas song to perform?
"I really like ‘Christmas in Killarney,' because it's so much like a fiddle tune. It's like a typical jig and has a nice, strong melody. And ‘O Holy Night' also has a beautiful melody."

What's the most memorable Christmas gift you have ever received?
"It was probably my Cabbage Patch Kid. I was freaking out. He was bald and I absolutely loved him. He's still in my bedroom in Cape Breton, and when I go home and look at him, it evokes the same kind of excitement."

And is there a gift that meant a lot for you to give to someone else?
"I remember giving my godchild a little wooden box when she was eight or nine that had a biblical verse carved into it. I thought that was a pretty special gift for her."

What role does food play in your holiday celebrations?
"It's a big part. Give me a little bit of time and I just love cooking and baking. My husband comes from a family of 11 siblings and they're all around us. So we always have a big Christmas gathering and the meal is just incredible. It's a potluck, so you're always asking, ‘Who made that?' And then you get the recipe."

Is there a dish you bring every year?
"They always put me on carrot duty. What do you do with carrots? I've made a good carrot casserole from a recipe my sister-in-law gave me. It's basically carrots, but they're done in a kind of scalloped potato sauce. The topping is what makes it so good: crushed cornflakes with melted butter. Sometimes I'll make a strawberry spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette mixed with a little maple syrup. I toast some goat cheese in bread crumbs to put on top. It looks really nice and gives it a nice bite."
(See Recipe here)

What's coming up later in 2013?
"After the tour, Donnell and I are going to record together for the first time. It's crazy: We've been married for 10 years and we haven't recorded together. We plan to do some summer festivals and, once fall hits, we plan on going to Ireland for a show on PBS. We'll do two weeks' worth of shows, but maybe stay for a month, just for the experience of living in Ireland."



November 30, 2012
Family reunion
Concert brings together MacMaster and cousins
By Kirk Starratt, Kings County Register

A nov. 25 concert in Wolfville was a taste of Cape Breton for east coast music aficionados and an unofficial family reunion for the performers.

For the first time, descendents of John and Margaret Ann Beaton from Mabou, Cape Breton - including the likes of Natalie MacMaster, Margie and Dawn Beaton, Vernon MacDougall and Lisa Cameron and Kelly Jean, Mitch, Gordie and Brennan MacDonald of Company Road - converged on the same venue at the same time to perform together.

The unofficial family reunion happened in the form of a benefit concert for the Valley Care Pregnancy Centre at Acadia’s University Hall in Wolfville.

Cape Breton fiddling icon MacMaster said she’s always so glad to be in Nova Scotia and it was a great feeling getting off the plane earlier in the day. The group of musical cousins very much believe in the cause and, when life boils down, all you really have is your family. This is something people sometimes take for granted and now, living in Ontario, she finds she has a better appreciation for her own family. MacMaster is the proud mother of five children.

The atmosphere before the benefit concert for the Valley Care Pregnancy Centre was like a family reunion for Dawn and Margie Beaton, Vernon MacDougall and Lisa Cameron, Natalie MacMaster, Company Road and all their relatives on hand.

The concert was presented by Council 5030 of the Knights of Columbus. Treasurer John MacDougall said the idea for the benefit show came from his mother, Mamie MacDougall, and it was about two years in the making. He was so pleased to see all the cousins come together like this for a benefit performance and family reunion all in one.

“It’s a big deal for all of us,” MacDougall said.

Approximately 700 people attended the event.

“These guys are playing for nothing. It’s been a phenomenal coming together of people to make this happen,” said Grand Knight Mike L’Oiseau. “The beauty of this is it’s like a big family event.”


November 19, 2012
Natalie spends time with some Huntsville area music students prior
to her sold out show at the Algonquin Theatre. (TVCOGECO)

 


November 2012
A Taste of Cape Breton Benefit Concert on Nov 25.

Click poster to view full size with info


November 14, 2012
Fiddler Natalie MacMaster: How she tours with her family
By Grace Stanisci, Sound Check

Juno Award-winning Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster has received honours such as the Order Of Canada and honorary degrees from schools like St. Thomas University (honorary doctorate,) Niagara University, New York, and Trent University.

She is a Canadian icon, but when described as such, she tells Yahoo! Canada Music that her fiddler husband Donnell Leahy likes to use a certain word to sum up his talented wife: "Timeless."

"My husband always says to me, 'Natalie, I think you're a Canadian icon,' and I'll say, 'No,' and he'll say, 'Well, you can not play or do any marketing and you're in your own little world and then you go play shows and they're sold out. You're timeless,'" she explained. "That's what he calls me, 'timeless.' Anyway, I don't know if he's right or wrong but I'll tell you this much, whatever I am, I sure enjoy being it."

With her extensive touring schedule, MacMaster says that although she hasn't found any steadfast methods to coping with children and life on the road, it's all about being adaptable and knowing what works for your own situation.

"I have no solutions for anything because for us, it changes month-to-month," the 40-year-old musician said. "Depending on who's nursing, who's going to school, who's learning to dance or play fiddle, who needs what [makes you] try to balance everybody's needs. I don't have any solutions or rules that we follow other than we do take it tour by tour, show by show, child by child, month by month."

MacMaster and her husband have five children together, ages six and under, and although they are busy raising a family and maintaining two separate music careers, they will be recording together in the future.

"Donnell and I are absolutely recording this coming year," she revealed. "We've been married for 10 years [and] it's terrible that we haven't recorded yet but that's our plan this coming year, to record and we're doing a lot more touring together."

She added, "We usually play shows and make them something special that we do on the side, that's kind of our attitude. I've spent the whole year focusing on Natalie MacMaster and then next year we'll have maybe 30 or 40 shows coming up for Donnell and Natalie…I have a running list of stuff for us to record together, but the last time I spent any time on it was a month ago. I have other focuses right now."

One of the main focuses is MacMaster's current tour, which has become a family affair with a few of her children joining her on stage from time to time.

"Mary Frances (6,) plays the fiddle first and then starts dancing [in the show] and she always gets a standing ovation and [is] a big hit, it's really cute actually," she said. "It's more than cute because it means a whole lot to see that and to know that your efforts as a parent are paying off."

She also said, "Michael is five and he has about five or six fiddle tunes that he's playing now and he has joined us on stage before as well. He has also danced a fair bit on stage, although his [style] is shall we say a bit more 'interpretative,' …and our three-year-old daughter Clare, she is a little firecracker and she's doing really well at dancing with no guidance."


October 30, 2012

ShowGo.tv talks to Natalie before her show at Yoshi's in San Francisco on October 24th, 2012.


October 24, 2012
Live stream of tonight's concert

Natalie's concert tonight at Yoshi's in San Francisco is being streamed live on ShowGoTV.
Showtime: 8:00pm Pacific time.


October 23, 2012
Original Natalie MacMaster Painting on Auction at eBay
In Support of the Kidney Foundation of Canada

Natalie is once again taking part in the Kidney Foundation of Canada's "Brush of Hope" auction. The painting is an original on acrylic and signed. Only a few days remain to get your bids in and help this great cause!

Click here to view more details and/or place a bid at eBay


October 12, 2012
Natalie MacMaster to appear at ECA, Edmonds Senior Center
Edmonds Beacon

Edmonds Center for the Arts presents multi- talented fiddle sensation Natalie MacMaster at 7:30 p.m., Friday Oct. 19.

Before the big show, Ms. MacMaster is headed for the upstairs ballroom at our very own Edmonds Senior Center from 4 to 5 p.m., where she will regale folks with tales of her travels, a bit of fiddle playing, some question and answer time – and if we are lucky, perhaps even a bit of step dancing.

This Educational Outreach opportunity is free to the public.

Natalie MacMaster is a native of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and her roots are part of her signature sound that has resonated with world audiences through 10 albums, multiple gold records and numerous Juno and East coast Music Awards.

Natalie MacMaster maintains an active touring schedule performing 100 shows a year, sharing the stage with The Chieftains, Paul Simon, Faith Hill, Luciano Pavarotti and in front of millions on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, the ABC 2002 New Year’s Eve Special and Good Morning America.

She has thrilled audiences throughout Europe and North America, especially in her native Canada, enabling MacMaster to passionately perform and promote the universal language of her Cape Breton sound.


October 12, 2012
Fiddler Showcases Her Cape Breton-style Music at the Bankhead
The Independent

Canadian fiddle virtuoso Natalie MacMaster will return to the Bankhead Theater on Oct. 23 for an evening that showcases her Cape Breton-style music. MacMaster fiddles her way from traditional foot-tapping Celtic jigs, strathspeys, and reels, to plaintive airs and heartrending ballads, occasionally breaking into world-class step dancing along the way.

Tickets for the single performance by Natalie MacMaster on October 23, 2012 at 7:30 p.m., range from $43 to $63 for adults and $14 for students.

Born into a family of fiddlers, MacMaster received little formal training but her natural sense of musicianship earned her a place on the stage as a child. Her first recording, Four on the Floor, was released when she was just 16 and since then she has been sought after by audiences and fellow musicians alike, for her exceptional talent, enthusiasm, and from-the-heart dedication to her music. She has shared the stage with a diverse roster of artists from Paul Simon, Faith Hill, and Santana, to superstar tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Her contributions on renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma’s recording, Songs of Joy and Peace, earned her a Grammy Award.

The origins of the distinctive Cape Breton musical style can be traced back to the Celtic and Gaelic-influenced music of the Scottish immigrants of the 1700s. Her love for music of all kinds influences her style, which touches on bluegrass, classical, Cajun and flamenco rhythms, and even an occasional rock beat. Her most recent album Cape Breton Girl comes full circle to demonstrate her love and affection for the local musical traditions that first sparked her interest in performing.

Tickets are available now through the Bankhead Theater ticket office, 2400 First Street in Downtown Livermore. To purchase tickets call 925-373-6800 or visit www.bankheadtheater.org


October 3, 2012
Whirlwind tour takes MacMaster back home
By STEPHEN COOKE, Halifax Herald

Natalie MacMaster is home on the East Coast this weekend for a mini-Maritime tour
that includes the Celtic Colours International Festival on Friday.

Autumn is the season when the year starts to wind down the clock, but this year for Natalie MacMaster it’s all about fresh starts.

This Thanksgiving weekend, the Cape Breton fiddler is home on the East Coast for a mini Maritime tour that includes an appearance at the Celtic Colours International Festival’s opening gala in Port Hawkesbury on Friday and a Monday matinee at Halifax’s Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. It’s familiar enough territory for her, but this time she’s coming with a recently reconfigured band playing new-to-you sets of jigs and reels, and it’s also her first trip home with her newborn son Alec Francis, born to Ontario-based MacMaster and husband Donnell Leahy in August.

“It’s been great, but it’s always busy,” says MacMaster of her trip home, on the phone from Troy. “I wish it wasn’t so busy, but we always come home around a gig or some kind of event, so you have to cram a whole bunch of things in at once.

“It seems like when I come home there’s always lots going on, but that’s what we do, that’s our life, that’s what we chose.”

MacMaster also has shows tonight in Saint John and Saturday in Fredericton, with Sunday off for a family Thanksgiving before heading to Halifax bright and early Monday morning to get ready for her 3 p.m. Cohn performance. These dates are really her first chance to break in the new band, which sees longtime keyboardist Mac Morin and cellist Nathaniel Smith joined by new guitarist Nate Douglas, from Barrie, Ont. and Montreal percussionist Eric Breton.

“We just spent last week rehearsing, I’d just met these guys. When I say that, I mean they’re not from my musical past, we’d only met over the last three months, but they’re great players,” says MacMaster, who feels the aptly-named Breton will provide the biggest change-up after her previous drummer opted to play behind Shania Twain for her two-year residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

Stuck for a backbeat for her Canada Day show with the National Arts Centre Symphony on Parliament Hill, MacMaster went looking for a replacement, but found all her rhythmic friends were busy. She got Breton’s name from her friends Cheticamp pianist Rachel Aucoin and her duo partner, Montreal accordion player Sabin Jacques, and loved how he fit into her tunes in Ottawa. She quickly asked him to join the current tour, along with Douglas, joining the ranks of talented pickers who’ve accompanied MacMaster over the years, like Dave MacIsaac, Chris Corrigan and Brad Davidge.

“I’m always looking to freshen things up, but it’s more about the quality of the musicians than the particular instruments,” says MacMaster, looking forward to presenting new arrangements and new tunes, as well as the high-wire-act thrill of putting the rookies through their paces. “I’ve based my band on the players as opposed to the instrumentation. And here we are playing our first show together the night before Celtic Colours!”

The Friday night show at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre at 7:30 p.m. is titled My Island Too, and it presents a broad spectrum of Celtic sounds and sights, including Shetland Islands ensemble Fiddlers’ Bid, colourful Metis dance troupe Asham Stompers, Jamaica/Cape Breton steel drum player Pepeto Pinto, Cape Breton singer-songwriter Cyril MacPhee, Inverness County Gaelic singer Goiridh Domhnallach (Geoff MacDonald), pianist Jason Roach and multi-instrumentalist Darren McMullen, plus the piano/accordion duo of Aucoin and Jacques.

“It’s going to be a fantastic show, I’m really excited about it,” she says. “As you know, I have five kids, so that’s where my priority and my devotion is right now, that’s the stage of life I’m in, but I look forward to these kind of opportunities that come along.

“Most of the playing that we do right now is ourselves, where we go on tour and we’re the only gig, as opposed to festivals or shows with opening acts. So this is great because I’m in with a whole bunch of other musicians, and it’s more creative. Because I have personal connections with a lot of them, we’re putting together the finale and collaborations that will happen through the night, and that’s really exciting for me.”

MacMaster’s shows this weekend mark the start of a run of 33 shows from now through mid-December, including a tour of the Northwestern U.S. and a Christmas in Cape Breton tour down the Eastern Seaboard; pretty remarkable considering Alec Francis was only born on Aug. 11, which also happened to be her mother Minnie’s 70th birthday. But he’s getting an early taste of the road, as the MacMaster/Leahy clan grows towards Partridge Family proportions.

“Now that there are five children, we all spend time with Alec, Mary Francis and Michael are holding him a lot, almost as much as I do, which is good because we’re a family, we’re a team,” she explains.

“I feel like I have good baby bonding time. I’m a nursing mother, and that forces you to take time out and sit down with your new baby. As the years go on, I can see why they put so much focus on that. ... As much as my child eats, I spend lots of time with him, it’s so important when they’re little infants.”

But as one new life enters the world, another departs, and MacMaster says she still coming to terms with the death of a member of her extended Celtic Cape Breton family, singer Raylene Rankin, who passed away last weekend after a struggle with cancer.

Besides sharing stages while growing up along the Celidih Trail, Rankin was MacMaster’s roommate when they travelled to the U.S. on Nova Scotia Tourism’s Sea Sell promotional cruise in the late ’80s, and for a time she filled in for fiddler Howie MacDonald when the Rankin Family was on tour in the ’90s.

“It’s amazing how she affects me, and I’m so sad that she’s gone,” says MacMaster, taking a moment to gather her thoughts. “And I’m sad that I never got to say goodbye. That’s what I’m most sad about; I would have loved to tell her that I thought she was a fabulous lady, and that I was thinking of her and praying for her.

“But even though it was tragic that she had to suffer, there’s still great joy in what Raylene has left for all of us. Raylene did it, she was the little Cape Breton girl who sang Gaelic and stepdanced and grew up with music all around her, and look what she did with it. She gave off as much feeling in her singing as any artist I’ve ever heard, there was no hiding how she felt, there was not even a thin veil over her when she was on stage, she was completely exposed. It was like you could hold her heart in your hand.”

For tickets to My Island Too at Celtic Colours (reserved seating, $60/$50/$40), visit the festival’s website at www.celtic-colours.com.

Tickets to MacMaster’s Monday afternoon show at Halifax’s Rebecca Cohn Auditorium are $49, available at the Dalhousie Arts Centre box office (494-3820/1-800-874-1669 or online at artscentre.dal.ca).
[ FACEBOOK EVENT ]


June 15, 2012
Divine instrumentation

Todd MacLean, The Gueardian (PEI)

"Y'all set?" Natalie MacMaster grinned to the packed-in and completely sold-out crowd at St. Mary's Church this past Sunday evening.

Without speaking into the mike she belted out this two-word greeting to the excitedly applauding pews full of fans before launching into her very first set of tunes ever played in Indian River: a reel, played in unison with soaring bagpipes to her left and backed by a driving rhythm of acoustic guitar and grand piano behind her. And, as the title of her new CD is indeed Cape Breton Girl, there could be no better tune to proceed right into but, of course, a strathspey.

Seated next to her was her guitar accompanist — none other than Islander J.J. Chaisson. And as their side-by-side feet pounded out that 1-2-3-4 accented beat of the strathspey, you could almost feel the primal roar of Inverness County physically pouring over us.

Do you know about the strathspey? It's that type of fiddle tune (signature to Cape Breton fiddlers, but played by many others as well) that you hear where the players quite forcefully tap out a rapid steady beat. And when this tight, Scotch-snapping rhythm all at once releases to the quickly-flowing one-and-three accented waterfall that is the reel (especially when it's a player like MacMaster behind it all), there truly are few better moments in music.

And with the June evening sunshine gushing in through yellow stained glass upon the four musicians as they wildly tore-up the final reel of the set, there was such raw exuberance of spirit that filled the church you could virtually taste it.

"We met when he was just 10," MacMaster said, introducing J.J. after that set of tunes. "He proposed to me back then. Gave me a 25-cent ring from the canteen," she added, as all, including J.J., erupted into laughter.

Next, MacMaster (who had no absence of energy, considering she is seven-months pregnant with her fifth child) tuned her fiddle to high bass (E-A-E-A) which, according to her, is "a trick from the olden days that they used in order to amplify the fiddle a bit." Entirely solo at this point, she then played one of the most incredible slow airs I have ever heard.

Something mystical and timeless took place in the church at that instant, and to tell you the truth, I don't even know if I can begin to describe it. I have 800 words for this article. I could probably write 5,000 words on the sound of one single note in that cathedral. All I can say is this: It was a fleeting moment whose glow will probably never leave the hundreds who were there to enjoy it.

There were so many highlights to mention from MacMaster's first concert at St. Mary's Church — and the opening show of the 2012 Indian River season — and it is completely impossible to mention them all.

But to name a few:

1. The mother-daughter duet featuring the unbelievable developing fiddle and dance skills of MacMaster's six-year-old, Mary Frances Rose Leahy;

2. Chaisson's insanely fast picked-out reels on the guitar, which nearly tore Harris' roof off the place (you should have seen the wowed look on MacMaster's face at this point — probably thinking, "Hmm. Maybe I should've married him ...");

3. Hector the Hero, Jean's Reel and St. Anne's Reel — all incredible;

4. Pianist/dancer Mac Morin who added impressive brilliance in general;

5. Piper/tin whistler Matt MacIsaac who played two harmonized whistles at once at one point, and about an eight-minute bagpipe solo;

6. The finale and standing-ovation encore where MacMaster kicked off her shoes and bounced the new baby in the belly to the radiant rhythm of a stepped-out reel.

With this kind of music going on around the little him or her in there, I think it's safe to say MacMaster will have another fiddler on the way soon enough.


May 28, 2012
Natalie guest DJ on SiriusXM Radio

The Natalie MacMaster Guest DJ show will air on "The Village" online at siriusxm.com on channel 804 on Tuesday May 29 at 6 PM ET, 3 PM PT and June 2 at 10 AM ET, 7 AM PT.

It will rebroadcast on "The Bridge", channel 32, on all radios on Sunday June 3, 8:30 AM ET, 5:30 AM PT.
No satellite radio? No prob – Click here for a 7-day free online trial


May 10, 2012
Leahy Music Camp organizers offer July 4 evening concert for winning entry

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy instruct at the annual Leahy Music Camp.
Kawartha Media Group

(LAKEFIELD) How cool would it be to host a music concert at your house? Well, those behind the Leahy Music Camp will make that a reality for one household. In conjunction with the 7th annual music camp, a home will be chosen for a July 4 evening concert featuring camp musicians.

Those interested can apply via the Leahy Music Camp website, phone 705-652-7376 or email info@leahymusic.com. The deadline to apply is midnight June 1. The winning entry will be announced June 12 on the website.

Members of Leahy and Natalie MacMaster are preparing to welcome more than 200 camp participants July 1 to 5 at Lakefield College School. Students come from across North America to receive instruction from a number of accomplished traditional and roots music performers, including Canadian Grand Master fiddle champion Mark Sullivan, Cape Breton pianist Mac Morin and guitarist J.J. Chiasson from P.E.I. as well as MacMaster and all the members of Leahy.


March 23, 2012
Kurt Stoodley of CTV Morning Live (Ottawa) chats with Natalie about her latest album and tour


Natalie performs on CTV Morning Live (Ottawa)


 


March 22, 2012
A Night Of Joy
By Frank Parrish, The Globe Leader

My wife and I, along with some friends, went to a concert the other night. It was performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and featured a fiddle player, Natalie MacMaster, who hailed from Cape
Breton, Nova Scotia. While she was a fiddle player, it would be a serious injustice to think of this very talented musician as just a fiddle player.

In case you’re wondering if there’s a difference between a fiddle and a violin, as Ms. MacMaster explained
it, there is not. But, in my generally skewed opinion of most stuff, there is definitely a difference between a violinist and a fiddle player. The concert was a collaboration of symphonic works and Cape Breton fiddle tunes from the Scots/Irish communities, in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. It was a flawless marriage of the two. When the orchestra began, I was trying to decide whether or not to close my eyes and listen, or keep them open and listen.

With my eyes closed I could see the images the music evoked. With them open I could see the concert. I chose the latter and was well rewarded. After the first piece, Natalie MacMaster was introduced. By her second song, with my eyes open, I felt as though I was in Cape Breton. I also thought that God just might be happily listening in. At one point the first chair violinist and Ms. MacMaster performed a duet. It was a song learned from her husband, who learned it from his aunt, who in turn, learned it from her parents. It was a tune handed down from one generation to another, each learning it by memory. In fact, every piece that Natalie MacMaster performed was from memory.

She shared stories, woven between songs, about the history of the music, giving us a sense of the timelessness of this music. It was a glimpse into the past, with a very real focus on the present. And it was all spun from golden threads of joy. We could see it in Ms. MacMaster’s face, in her movements as she danced, in her interaction with the orchestra, and her intimacy with the audience. The fiddle and the music were simply extensions of her life, her Cape Breton culture, and centuries of musical experiences handed down through the years. She graciously gave us an open door into her world. It was magic. The evening ended all too soon.

On the way home we all came to the same conclusion. We need times like these, in times like these. Times when joy breaks in, bringing life into a bit more perspective. That concert left me feeling spiritually lifted up. It transcended the orchestra, and Ms. MacMaster. I believe they were instruments in God’s hands, just as much as the ones they played. Did I say the night was magic? I meant it was like church...and it was fun!


March 15, 2012
F
iddler Natalie MacMaster puts some green into the weekend for Symphony Pops
By Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Natalie MacMaster and husband Donnell Leahy perform. Ms. MacMaster will go solo with the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops in a series of shows this weekend at Heinz Hall.

You might say it will be all in the family when Natalie MacMaster takes to the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops stage in Heinz Hall this weekend. There's her family heritage on Cape Breton Island in Canada, which inspires her playing through and through, and her marriage to fellow fiddler Donnell Leahy, one of 11 siblings and a major part of the fiddling family known simply as Leahy. And, oh yes, the Grammy Award-winning violinist is expecting her fifth child.

People don't know how she does it, from the marriage and children plus 100 concerts a year, to a coffee-table book about her beloved Cape Breton and a passel of recipes on her website.
Pittsburgh Symphony Pops with Natalie MacMaster

Where: Heinz Hall, Downtown.
When: 7:30 tonight and Friday; 8 p.m. Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: $20-$95; 412-392-4900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org.
Also: Ms. MacMaster will perform with the Pops at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, New Castle, 8 p.m. Monday. Tickets: $16-$59; 1-800-743-8560 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org.

Perhaps it would be best to start at the beginning.

That would be Cape Breton Island, which sits just off Nova Scotia. With its scenic roads and spectacular coastal vistas, Conde Nast travel guide has named it one of the best island destinations in the world.

About 400,000 travelers visit during the summer and fall. According to Ms. MacMaster, there is a reason for that in this land of "fishing and farming and forestry and mining and a love and passion for traditional music. It is so real and unchanged," she says. "There's just a real humility and strength in the people -- there are callouses on their hands and a sparkle in their eye."

Her husband says that there's one thing that protects the culture -- and many say this includes the purest extension of Scottish fiddle playing found anywhere -- and that is the harsh winter. She chuckles, "Once the summer's done, everybody's gone."

So by the time the young Cape Breton woman, with "hazel eyes as deep as two oceans" (as described in Canada's National Post), put out her first album at age 16, the whole island was behind her, including fiddlers such as Uncle Buddy MacMaster and cousins Ashley MacIsaac and Andrea Beaton.

So was a small army of little old men. They became really fond of her, not in "a dirty old man sort of way," she says, and began to lavish her with presents -- fiddles. She recalls how one came up to her at a concert and gave her one in a pillow case, telling the skinny young blonde that "a friend of mine wants to give this to you, but he's shy. He made it with one block of wood and one knife."

Now it hangs on a wall in her home in Douro, Ontario, with about 15 others, a "beautiful yellow fiddle with a black varnished back." Already two of her children, ages 6 and 4, play the violin. But she claims she and her husband, who can "draw the bow across a cardboard box and make it sound like a beast," are behind in producing young violinists in the family.

The subject of an Oscar-winning documentary short, "The Leahys: Music Most of All," in 1985, the Leahy family already has its own budding Leahy 2 in the next generation. When the adults play important concerts close by, say in their hometown of Lakeview, Ontario, or on Cape Breton, 20 fiddling young relatives show up, ages 3 to 16.

So what is the secret to the allure of this style, one that has brought Ms. MacMaster so many awards including best instrumental album and Fiddler of the Year from the Canadian Country Music Association and the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honor? Or so many collaborations with the likes of cellist Yo-Yo Ma, which garnered her that Grammy, and fellow fiddler Alison Kraus, R&B's Michael McDonald and the Chieftains?

Ms. MacMaster calls the Cape Breton brand "stylistically very strong in the rhythm department, it's got a great groove. Groove, groove, groove. You can't help but get on and stay on -- it's like a train going, it's hypnotizing."

And although she can play jigs and reels and airs (yes, it's all what she terms Celtic) with the best of them, she has crossed over into bluegrass, heavy metal and flamenco.

Well, maybe not. She says the Grammy-nominated "Blueprint" album had "a pile of bluegrass players on there. I'm not playing anything different. I just have maybe some different chordal patterns, with great mandolin and banjo pickin' behind me."

And the heavy metal album might have had electric guitar, distortion and big drum, but "I'm just playing like I'm playing a square dance at home. I just surround myself with amazing musicians."

She's modest when it comes to her technique, too, which derives "from the bowing. We don't do anything right," the fair-haired fiddler claims. "There's lots of places to improve. But the product is real and heartfelt and strong."

As for the Pittsburgh Symphony, Ms. MacMaster asserts that she's "terrible with my etiquette and my terminology when it comes to music and that world. But what is beautiful, you don't need any of that. It's music, and no matter what they've come from and what I've come from, we can meet."

So she'll bring a Celtic knot of love and some "great arrangements" to the St. Patrick's Day Pops festivities. And she'll not only have a distinctive lilt to her voice and a drive to her playing, but also a spring to her step-dancing.

Yes, nothing can hold this Cape Breton lass down.


February 23, 2012
Remembering a divine fiddle player
Joe O'Connor, The National Post

Bishop Faber MacDonald plays with Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster in a pub in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Bishop delivered the homily at her wedding in 2002. She will play at his funeral on Friday.
(Photo courtesy of Natalie McMaster)

They were an unusual pair, an odd-looking twosome that had a way of making people stop and look twice. She was skinny, 30-ish and blond, with hazel eyes as deep as two oceans. And he was a Catholic Bishop, a septuagenarian in a clerical collar with a wispy powdering of snow-white hair.

Stranger than their physical appearance were the poses they struck at the pub in Medjugorje, a village in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Heads slightly cocked, eyes closed, with fiddle bows in hand and with fingers flying, dancing across the strings, summoning traditional Celtic tunes — jigs, marches, reels, waltzes and airs — straight from Cape Breton before a smattering of happily speechless onlookers.

“When we went on this trip people got quite a kick out of seeing a bishop and the little blond girl playing together,” says the little blond girl, better known as Natalie MacMaster, the Cape Breton fiddling queen.

“I don’t know if Bishop Faber ever aspired to be famous for his fiddling; you know, he had an incredible ear for the music, and he could play with anybody. But somebody in that position — you have to practise, you have to be dedicated to something — and he was dedicated to his priesthood.”

Bishop Faber MacDonald, the red-headed, fiddle-playing priest from Little Pond, Prince Edward Island, died last Friday in Charlottetown at the age of 80. Sick with pneumonia, he succumbed to a heart attack after a long, good life.

Ms. MacMaster can’t remember when they first met. He was just always there, at East Coast music festivals, and always with a fiddle tucked beneath his arm.

Spiritually, they shared a common faith. Musically, they came from the same place and time, a mostly bygone era of kitchen parties, chowder pots and foot-stomping fiddling fun that runs deep in the seams of Cape Breton’s rock and the Island’s red mud.

“He grew up with the music as a part of his way of life and so did I,” Ms. MacMaster says. “There are some unspoken commonalities there, and it is not something you bring up, because it is obvious.”

Bishop Faber Macdonald and Natalie MacMaster.

Ordained a priest in 1963, the future bishop served several Catholic parishes around P.E.I., entertaining them, on occasion, with his fiddle. He worried about the death of traditional music and worked hard to revive it, helping found the Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival. Now in its 36th year, it is a top draw for tourists and fiddle masters alike, such as the little “blond girl” and her famous Cape Breton cousin, Ashley MacIsaac.

Ms. MacMaster would receive letters from the bishop once her life as a travelling musician had begun. Lengthy dispatches that were spiritual, musical and affable in tone, they mixed words of encouragement and praise with theological meditations on whatever her latest musical project happened to be.

“He had this incredible capacity to express the depths of his spirituality,” Ms. MacMaster says. “I accepted his letters as gracious gifts.”

In 2003, the fiddlers trekked to Medjugorje, along with Ms. MacMaster’s fiddler-husband, Donnell Leahy. The village is a pilgrimage site for Catholics. The couple confided in the bishop, expressing their desire to have children, lots of children. He prayed over them; Ms. MacMaster is now pregnant with her fifth child.

“He said some beautiful things,” she says. “Every time I look at my children I am reminded of him.”

Music is another reminder. Bishop Faber’s funeral will be held Friday at St. Dunstan’s Basilica in Charlottetown. His old pen pal has been asked to play a tune.

“My Mum was saying to me, ‘You know, you are going to have to have a really amazing piece.’ But I don’t look at it that way. I think all I have to play is something simple. I have to have the intent, and the simplicity, and I think that will be more powerful.

“One of my favourite quotes of Bishop Faber is the line that he ended his homily with at our wedding. He said, ‘In the words of Father John Angus Rankin there are two things in life that are eternal — music and love.’

“I think about that a lot, and I agree.”


February 17, 2012

This past Friday, Natalie invited some musical friends and family over to her house to officially release her 'Cape Breton Girl' album. Attending were some of Natalie's band members including Mac Morin and J.D Blair, members of the Leahy family, Fiddler/Guitarist J.J Chaisson from PEI and more. This electric night of music was recorded on video and will be shared with you here on the website sometime in the middle of March.
View Natalie's video here


February 11, 2012
Back to her roots
Doug Gallant, The Guardian (PEI)

I remember the first time I heard Natalie MacMaster play as if it were yesterday. It was in Halifax, 1998, during the East Coast Music Awards. Barry Kent, then the Maritime rep for EMI Music, had invited me to drop by The Lord Nelson Hotel for the launch of singer-songwriter Bruce Guthro's major label debut, Of Your Son.

Part-way through what was already an exceptional evening of music, Guthro introduced MacMaster as a special guest. I had heard MacMaster's name before but had never heard her play. It was not intentional, I had just not had the opportunity.

That night proved to be something of a revelation.

Her playing was fluid and beautifully expressive, adding a whole other layer of colour and texture to Guthro's songs. It was clear that every note she played came from the heart.

In the ensuing years, I have seen MacMaster play more than a dozen times, and every time I hear her play I take away the same sentiments. And it doesn't matter what she's playing, whether it's the traditional music of her beloved Cape Breton or something of a more contemporary nature. I have enjoyed her excursions into rock, jazz, flamenco and other genres of music and I applaud her adventurous spirit and her diversity.

But I must confess that when she returns to the traditional Celtic music that first brought her to our attention, my level of interest in her work begins to rise. And my level of interest is on the rise again.

That's because MacMaster just recently released Cape Breton Girl, an album devoted solely to traditional Scottish and Cape Breton fiddle music.

"I just wanted to do a straight-ahead, traditional record," MacMaster said recently. "I find that they're becoming less and less common."

Recorded at Glenn Gould Studios in Toronto with a stellar group of players that included keyboard player Mac Morin and guitarists Dave MacIsaac, Scott MacMillan and Brad Davidge, MacMaster's first new album in five years features a sterling collection of jigs, reels, strathspeys and other tunes, broken into several medleys.

While MacMaster uses other instruments - bass, snare drum, whistle, flute and occasionally bagpipes - the bulk of the album is taken up by what she terms the core instruments of Cape Breton music: piano and fiddle.

MacMaster feels very good about this record. And well she should.

More than any other record she has done in the last number of years it speaks to who she is. It embraces those values which she holds most dear - family, tradition, home and faith. It is a record filled with passionate, heartfelt performances and brimming with the infectious spirit of a Cape Breton ceilidh.

Those who've longed to hear MacMaster make another record like those she recorded early in her career will find what they're looking for here. For what it's worth, we should count our blessings she found the time to make the record at all.

Much of her time these days is taken up by the never-ending responsibilities that come with motherhood. MacMaster and her husband, acclaimed violinist Donnell Leahy, have four children, all under the age of seven.

Choice offerings on Cape Breton Girl include the Butcher's Jig Set which includes The Butcher's March, Angus Chisholm's and McInerney's Fancy; the Stoney Lake Reels set, which includes H. Mackworth, Lady Georgina Russell's, Tom Marshe's Hornpipe and Stoney Lake; and the My Brother Kevin medley, made up of The Fir Tree, Miss Gordon's of Fochabar, Lady Muir MacKenzie, The Lasses of Stewarton and Mrs. Norman MacKeigan.

And I love her work on Our Father / Ar n-Athair (The Lord's Prayer / an Phaidir).

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.


February 6, 2012
60 Canadians set to receive Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal

Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley has confirmed the identities of 36 people who will receive the new medal at Queen’s Park on Monday afternoon, including broadcasters Lloyd Robertson and Peter Mansbridge, filmmaker David Cronenberg, ballet dancers Karen Kain and Rex Harrington, retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, and musicians Gordon Lightfoot and Natalie MacMaster.

[View Press Release From the Office of the Lieutenant Governor]


January 12, 2012  
MacMaster comes back
C.B. fiddler, mother of four makes up for lost time with first CD in five years
Stephen Cooke, Halifax Herald

TIME FLIES when you’re having kids.

So it would seem to Cape Breton fiddler and mother of four Natalie MacMaster, who is still amazed she let half a decade slip by between record releases.

But she makes up for lost time by getting back to basics with some of her favourite musicians on her latest CD, Cape Breton Girl, a tribute to her Ceilidh Trail roots that’s dedicated to her uncle, Judique fiddler Buddy MacMaster.

"People have been saying, ‘It’s been five years since the last album... ’and I can’t believe it’s been that long," says the Troy musician from a tour stop in Indiana just before the holidays. "I guess my book (Cape Breton Aire) came out, and other projects have been coming up, but it has been awhile."

The most important project is maintaining the ongoing balance of music and motherhood, taking care of her children with violinist husband Donnell Leahy: six-year-old Mary Francis, four-year-old Michael, Clare, who turns three in February, and one-year-old Julia.

"They’ve all done this since they were born," says MacMaster, who home-schools the older kids on the road. "They like being on the tour bus, and the pools at the hotels, and it’s exciting for them. On our Christmas tour they were part of the show, except for Julia, of course.

"They came out and did a little number, and they always get a treat as a reward for dancing in the show, so life on the road is exciting for them. And the crowd loves it because they’re so cute. . . . But that won’t be the norm; it was cute to have them as part of the Christmas show, but we want to keep it special."

Performing was also a family affair in October when MacMaster and Leahy shared the stage for a series of shows called Two Fiddles, Two Pianos with longtime keyboardist Mac Morin and sister-in-law Erin Leahy, also from the family band Leahy.

"I had someone come up to me and say, ‘Natalie, we’ve seen 14 of your shows in the last 20 years, and this one’s your best.’ My parents say it’s our best show yet, too.

"Donnell and I don’t plan on making that our No. 1 touring priority, because Leahy is still so important to him, and if he’s not playing with me, he’s playing with them. . . . And I like the specialness of it; it’s not our main gig, so we only do it part of the year and we want to keep it fresh for ourselves."

MacMaster says she’d like to bring Two Fiddles, Two Pianos back to the East Coast at some point — it premiered during Celtic Colours 2010 — and currently plans to make a Maritime visit with her band at some point in the first half of 2012.

As far as recording with Leahy goes, the question about their dual fiddle dynasty teaming up in the studio has been hanging over their heads since they were wed in 2002, and they want to make it happen.

"We keep trying to get it done, and things keep popping up, life just happens, and my turnover time is just not what it used to be; my priorities have completely shifted," she explains.

"But yes, absolutely, it would be a shame to leave this world without a documented recording. We will be recording together, and sooner than later."

MacMaster’s last album, 2006’s Yours Truly, combined Celtic and contemporary sounds, including the Irish ballad Danny Boy sung by former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, but on Cape Breton Girl she assembles a small circle of East Coast friends to tackle a traditional Scottish and Cape Breton repertoire in the warm acoustics of CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto.

It’s a familiar pattern for MacMaster, alternating contemporary Celtic projects like 1999’s In My Hands and 2003’s Blueprint with grittier downhome collections like My Roots Are Showing (1998) and a 2005 collaboration with her uncle Buddy.

But MacMaster says her decisions about what to do next aren’t determined by formulas or fan requests.

"I don’t ponder that question when I’m recording; I just think, ‘What do I want to do?’ But I know people always appreciate when I do traditional stuff," she explains.

"I just felt like doing a straight-ahead traditional record. On one of the last tracks (the Pretty Marion set) I do branch out a little bit in terms of bringing in percussion and making it a bit more ‘arranged’ in terms of accentuating certain elements of the melodies.

"But I don’t ever want to lose that incredible gift that I’ve been given from my environment, so I really focused on that."


January 5, 2012
Natalie MacMaster: Cape Breton Girl Review
By Randi Beers, Exclaim.ca

Natalie MacMaster has been playing the fiddle for 30 years. She has toured with Carlos Santana, Allison Krauss, Faith Hill and Yo-Yo Ma, done two TED Talks about Cape Breton fiddling and sold over 200,000 albums. She really is the Queen Mother of fiddling. Cape Breton Girl, recorded in another national treasure, Glenn Gould Studios, is a study of Nova Scotian traditional music ― each piece is made up of a number of traditional pieces and covers that have been deconstructed and reformed to make a new whole. The album is beautifully composed by MacMaster and mostly pared down to simple piano and fiddle duets. From the happier moments of "F Medley" and "Butcher's Jig Set" to the lilting and morose "The Methlick Style," MacMaster's latest effort is a fantastic listen.
(eOne)

 

 


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