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December 19, 2007
Tis the Season to be Fiddlin 
By Greg Pratt, Monday Magazine

Natalie MacMaster brings a Cape Breton Christmas to town.

Nova Scotia-based fiddler Natalie MacMaster has had quite the year. She had her second child, released a DVD through her website and received the Order of Canada from the Governor General. Now, as the year winds down shes hitting the roadher kids in towfor some Christmas shows, Cape Breton-style.

The crowd can expect some Cape Breton tunes and were going to have a couple Christmas tunes in there as well, says MacMaster, who will be playing with the Victoria Symphony at Mondays concert. It will just be beautiful to have the orchestra playing those melodies behind me. Its such a big, grand sound; so lush. Its always a treat to play with the Symphony. Ive played with Victoria before and Im really looking forward to getting back with them, theyre all very kind and very good players.

In another sense, so are her kids. Mary Frances and Michael have been touring with MacMaster (and her husband, Donnell Leahy, also a fiddler) since they were bornand have already had some experiences in the limelight.

Theres been a couple times where Mary Frances came out on stage and she was always cute, she says. But then Michael came out on stage; my mom was holding him. As soon as the spotlight hit him he got blinded and at the same time the audience went Aww, and they clapped and it scared him. So you saw this little smile, then all of a sudden the smile turned upside down and he wailed. Of course everybody laughed and that scared him more. So he wont be going into the spotlight for a few more months.

MacMaster will be in the literary spotlight after having her first bookA Celtic Aire, about life in Cape Breton, and what its like to grow up in a musical familypublished next year. In the meantime, shes looking forward to touring Canada during the Christmas season,
referring to it as a winter wonderland. And although she loves Victoria (last time she and Leahy were here, they scheduled a rare three-day vacation so they could stay in townI went shopping a lot, she says with a laugh), I had to inform MacMaster the ground isnt
white out here as often as some Christmas die-hards would like.

Let me tell you, weve got tonnes of it here, she says of the snow out east. I can ship some out to you if you want.



December 14, 2007
Have fiddle, will travel
Victoria News

Natalie MacMaster sounds distracted.

"My little boy keeps waking up," she said. Married to Donnell Leahy (yes, one of those
Leahys) and a mother of two, MacMaster was trying to nurse her five-month-old son, Michael, while being driven to a gig in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. Not to mention talk to a reporter on a cell phone. MacMaster was getting over a cold as she juggled her fussy son in one arm and the phone in the other.

"I wouldn't call it easy, but it is doable," said the fiddling sensation, who plays a sold-out show at Victoria's Royal Theatre this Monday (Dec. 17, 8 p.m.) as part of a 45-city tour promoting her 10th album, Yours Truly.

"It's cumbersome more than anything cause there's so much stuff - it's harder to get around and takes you longer."

The Cape Breton native admits once her children are older she may have to cut back on her touring, even though some fans - like a Maritimer who recently posted a note to her website - believe she doesn't tour enough.

"My mom showed me that comment," she said. "I do a Maritime tour about every two years. If you go any more often than that it's too often. The market can't support it."

What some people may not be aware of is that MacMaster plays informally quite a bit. "The Maritimes encompasses quite a few places. Maybe they don't realize I play there all the time."

Her latest CD, Yours Truly, differs from previous works in the amount of original material it contains, she said. In addition to a song named for Peter Jennings, the ABC news anchor and her good friend, who died in 2005, the album also has an fresh take on "Danny Boy," taken up by Doobie Brothers icon Mike McDonald.

MacMaster collaborated with McDonald in a show where they were guests with the Boston Pops orchestra. They had arranged a version of "Danny Boy" which they didn't get to play, after which she asked him if he'd be interested in guesting on her upcoming album.

"He said sure and a week later he sent me the tracks - au gratis. I find the best musicians are humble and giving people," she said.

A fiddle player since age 9, she learned more than a few things from her memorable uncle, Buddy MacMaster, like how to nail an inverted grace note, but she never learned to sing well.

"I'm just no good and I accept it," she said.

Heading to the first of a two-night gig just outside of Edmonton, MacMaster said she's always surprised at who delights in her music. "Because, you know, fiddle music, it's not pop, so it always impresses me how are many people are aware of it."



December 13, 2007
Fiddler expands roots influence
Nanaimo News Bulletin

Natalie MacMaster continues to stun crowds around the globe with her feverish fiddling and mesmerizing step dancing. She first picked up the fiddle at age nine and hasn't looked back. The niece of famed Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster - with whom she
recorded a tribute album in 2005 - Natalie MacMaster quickly became a major talent in her own right.

After winning numerous awards for her early traditional recordings, MacMaster's subsequent releases have been boldly ground-breaking and received with abundant accolades.

MacMaster is credited with lifting the East Coast music style to contemporary prominence. She has a bachelor of education degree from the Nova Scotia
Teachers College, and has received honorary doctorates from St. Thomas University and Niagara University. In July 2006, she was one of the youngest people ever named a member of the prestigious Order of Canada - Canada's highest civilian honor.

Yours Truly is MacMaster's 10th album, and a return to the more wide-ranging stylings of her earlier work. Co-produced by MacMaster and her husband, fellow fiddle virtuoso Donnell Leahy of the famed Canadian band Leahy, Yours Truly finds her continuing to incorporate new sounds and concepts into her rich Cape Breton musical heritage.

The album boasts a moving version of the classic Danny Boy, featuring a lead vocal by pop superstar Michael McDonald. Overall, the sound is steeped in the driving rhythms and soaring tonalities unique to Cape Breton, with MacMaster's trademark intensity.

MacMaster performs at the Port Theatre Tuesday (Dec. 18) at 7:30 p.m.



November 30, 2007
MacMaster, Leahy fiddle around to great effect
Lynn Saxberg, The Ottawa Citizen

Members of the National Arts Centre orchestra were spread across their home stage in their usual pattern yesterday, but the grand old traditions of classical music were being subjected to the attack of a feisty line of fiddles.

As part of the orchestra's pops series, two of the best fiddle-based acts in the country, Natalie MacMaster and Leahy, are in town this week to perform with the orchestra.

The engagement began yesterday with a matinee concert in front of an audience of high-school students. A performance also took place last night, and is repeated tonight and tomorrow night.

First, a bit of background on the guest fiddlers. Cape Breton jig mistress MacMaster, 35, has won Juno Awards, released major-label CDs and is a member of the Order of Canada. And Leahy comes from Lakefield, Ont., near Peterborough, an eight-member family group. The Celtic powerhouse is evenly divided between brothers and sisters, but the head of the clan, musically speaking, is Donnell Leahy, top dog of the three fiddle-playing Leahy boys. He's also married to Natalie (they have two young children).

While MacMaster has played with the NAC Orchestra before, it's the first time for her husband's group. At yesterday's matinee, Donnell established an educational tone by talking about the roots of his family's music, and how they play by ear, contrasting it with the experience of orchestra musicians who read music. It was a school day, after all, for the students in the crowd.

His words set the scene for an imaginary battle: In this corner of the ring, four expert fiddlers who grew up surrounded by music, learned to play by ear, gravitated toward folk music and never figured out how to read music very well. In the other, 19 highly trained, exceedingly disciplined violinists who earn a salary playing their instruments and reading music.

And the winner in the showdown between fiddle and violin? It wasn't a fair fight, of course, because the fiddles were expected to grab the spotlight, and they did, beginning with the irresistible strains of Jessie's Polka.

And who could resist when MacMaster and Leahy explained how their sinewy Wedding Day Jig began life as a gift for their wedding guests?

Still, it was terrific to hear orchestra's lush accompaniment on MacMaster's rendition of the sweet Scottish piece If Ever You Were Mine. The classical musicians also lent an air of drama and texture to Leahy's German-influenced Skater. Plus, Donnell's good-natured banter seemed to catch guest conductor Stéphane Laforest off guard once or twice, the gentlemanly host momentarily ruffled.

The fiddle versus violin debate reached its zenith during a Bach-meets-the devil duet between Natalie and an orchestra violinist before the fiddles completely took over with the rousing Call To Dance medley. Jaws dropped at the dazzling footwork of the Leahy sisters during the mass finale.

In the end, the real winners were the teenagers in the audience, many of whom were surprised they enjoyed a "boring" NAC concert. "Man, that was cool when they were all on the stage dancing," one teenage boy exclaimed to his friends on the way out. There were cries of agreement: "Sick. Totally sick."

Backstage after the concert, MacMaster wasn't sure it was a compliment, but Donnell was thrilled.

"We love it when young people come to our concerts," he said. "I think young people, if they're exposed to our music, or lots of different styles, they will like it. They may not think they'll like it."

But they probably will.



November 29, 2007
Natalie MacMaster puts family first
By DENIS ARMSTRONG -- Sun Media

Natalie MacMaster joins Leahy and the National Arts Centre Orchestra for three shows beginning tonight at Southam Hall.

As popular as Natalie MacMaster is at playing Cape Breton fiddle music, the role she's focusing on most these days is playing mom.

Life on the road is a family affair for the constantly in motion MacMaster since she married her Celtic fiddle-playing husband Donnell Leahy in 2002.

As well as all the responsibilities of raising two children Mary Francis, 2, and Michael, five months, the couple now perform almost exclusively together so they can focus on their growing family.

"I'm prepared to quit if the family suffers because of all the touring," says MacMaster from her home in Lakefield. "Touring with family is a little cumbersome, but it's doable and feels right."

Balancing the demands of motherhood with the equally demanding reality of performing, MacMaster tours with a large crew that often includes her mother, mother-in-law and any other relatives who wouldn't mind babysitting while the 35-year-old fiddling and step-dancing icon is doing what she's done most of her life.

Not long ago, when she was single, the Juno Award-winning MacMaster was tireless, performing 250 shows a year, a blurred schedule she jokingly but accurately calls her "Never-ending Tour." She also found time to record 10 records since 1989, including her Grammy-nominated 2000 release My Roots Are Showing.

But since the arrival of Michael, she's capped her live shows to 75 gigs a year.

"This way, it keeps things exciting for me and I don't feel burned out," she says.

MacMaster meanwhile has no plans to retire early. She's hitting the road to plug her new album Yours Truly, which marks her return to her traditional musical roots. Then next week, she and Leahy begin a national Christmas tour.

For her first time playing with the National Arts Centre Orchestra (tonight through Saturday), she'll do three symphonic jigs as well as perform in a violin showdown with the NACO concertmaster on Bach/Devil Dance. Also on the card is Leahy, who will do their thing before joining up with MacMaster for the finale.

"I'm doing traditional music with the orchestra and progressive music with Leahy," MacMaster says. "It's exciting for me. I love touring with Donnell. Playing with him is all I would do if I could. He's such a virtuoso."

There's another twist to MacMaster's family saga. Last summer, MacMaster, who is Ashley MacIsaac's cousin, learned she is also a distant cousin to The White Stripes' Jack White.

Now that would be a family affair many would like to see.

Tickets for MacMaster's show are $29-$86 at the NAC box-office, through Ticketmaster, and the NAC website at www.nac-cna.ca.





 



October 18, 2007
Making fiddling a family affair
MacMaster, Leahy bringing next generation on the road

Ted Shaw, Windsor Star

It was a match made in fiddler's heaven. The marriage of Cape Bretoner Natalie MacMaster to Ontarian Donnell Leahy five years ago linked two of Canada's traditional music families. Now MacMaster and Leahy are bringing the next generation on the road with them, their children Mary Frances and Michael.

MacMaster, 34, has been a fixture on the Canadian scene since she was a teenager. Her grandfather, Buddy MacMaster, was a legend among East Coast fiddlers.

Leahy, at 38, is the oldest son of the famous central Ontario family act, simply called Leahy, which has featured as many as 11 siblings on the same stage.

Together, they're sharing a stage and their distinctive brands of Celtic and folk music. They also divvy up parenting duties. MacMaster and Leahy perform Tuesday at Chrysler Theatre.

It was Leahy's phone call 15 years ago that initially brought them together.

"He told me he was in Nova Scotia on business," said MacMaster. "The truth came out later -- he actually drove down to meet me."

Leahy was 23; MacMaster, 19. They had dinner, dated for two years when their touring schedules allowed it, then split up. The separation lasted a decade. But Leahy knew he had to get back together with his future wife. "When things are right, they're right," he said. "I think we both knew it."

Their paths were bound to cross again, said MacMaster: "He's a fiddler, I'm a fiddler. It was meant to be."

After reuniting, again after a Leahy phone call, it took a mere eight weeks for him to pop the question.

"It's like leaving home," MacMaster said. "You don't really appreciate home until you leave it. We didn't realize what a good thing we had until the separation."

Touring together was also inevitable. And when they finally managed to squeeze in some concerts between the solo tours, the couple decided to bring the kids -- Mary Frances, 22 months, and Michael, three months -- along for the ride.

"It's an ever-evolving process," said MacMaster. "If we have more children, we'll have to make a decision then. Definitely, my husband and my children come first."

Leahy has had plenty of practice travelling with a family. The original clan of 11 brothers and sisters now includes 21 of their kids, and many of the young ones tour with their parents.

"We all started playing when we were kids," said Leahy, "and now many of us are parents ourselves."

Leahy grew up on an Ontario beef farm where music was the main source of entertainment.

"Mom and dad both played music, so it was natural for us kids to want to do it, too. We didn't have a television, but we had our instruments."

The Leahys are the musical equivalent of Alberta's hockey-playing Sutters: "Yeah, we're tough, really tough," Leahy said. It didn't take much convincing for the rest of his family to let MacMaster into the fold.

"Natalie's such a wonderful talent, and a great person," said Leahy. "And she's from mom's neck of the woods." Leahy's mother's family comes from Cape Breton.

"How could she not fit in? She plays fiddle, she dances, and she's a little crazy like my family. It all works."



October 16, 2007
Natalie MacMaster: vivacious and talented fiddler
By Kelsey Kerr, The Desonian, Granville, Ohio

Natalie MacMaster's performance, which opened the 28th season of the Vail Series, was simply fabulous.

MacMaster taught clogging and worked with students and community members while she was here on Monday. She also worked with string players on Monday, helping them learn various fiddle pieces. During her performance, she collaborated with many musicians, including her accompanists and husband. When MacMaster asked her husband to the stage, it was quite a unique event and has been done only a few times.

The two played the gorgeous "Anniversary Waltz," since their 5th anniversary was on the day of the concert (Oct. 5). Her husband has a flair for fiddling just as she does; in fact, he plays with his family, the Lehis, on tour.

Both MacMaster and her husband swooned together as they played the waltz, as if they were waltzing themselves. It was interesting to hear and watch each of their different techniques and to see how they combined them into a beautiful blend of music.

During the show, MacMaster also invited step dancers from Granville to come up onto the stage to dance as she continued to perform. It was so great to see such a well-known artist to the fiddling and dance communities involved in aiding others to learn to play and dance.

As for the performance itself, well, it was absolutely amazing. MacMaster's energy on stage was phenomenal. She bounced about and tapped her feet while playing and, at times, she even step danced as she fiddled. MacMaster's step dancing, like her fiddling, was also intricate and fun to watch.

MacMaster's performance, as well as her personality, was very upbeat. She joked and told stories about her family growing up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, even joking about her husband's music to the audience.

While MacMaster's relationship with the audience was captivating, her interaction with her gifted accompanists was intriguing as well.

MacMaster would go up to the accompanists as she performed parts of pieces to get them on beat. It added a wonderfully warm aurora to the stage.

MacMaster's accompanists have splendid musicality just as she does. The pianist played a fiddle piece on the piano, which is very rare since it is hard to transpose fiddle parts for the piano, and difficult to play the part on the piano too.

One accompanist actually played a myriad of instruments: the Highland bagpipe, the banjo and the flute.



September 22, 2007
Natalie MacMaster In Portsmouth, NH
By GOseacoast Top Events

Cape Breton is known for its traditional fiddle music, brought to the island by Scottish immigrants, and has been well preserved by artists such as Natalie. She finds her sound
between the Celtic and Appalachian fiddle music traditions and fuses them with touches of bluegrass, world music and pop.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Sunday, October 14 - Portsmouth, NH

The third time will definitely be the charm as Music Hall favorite Natalie MacMaster returns Sunday, October 14 at 7:00 pm, and fans agree - tickets are selling like hotcakes. The upcoming concert will hypnotize the audience with feverish fiddling and merry step-dancing. The daughter of legendary Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster,
Natalie has won numerous awards for her  traditional fiddling while more recently pushing the boundaries with creative experiments.

She has already begun to make her mark on music history having won "Best Female Artist of the Year" and "Best Roots/Traditional Solo Recording" at Canada's East Coast Music Awards in 2005. Her tenth album, Yours Truly, is a rich and varied collection of songs she has written or co-written.

Natalie's performances are a testament to her boundless energy, featuring foot-tapping
rave-ups, heart-rending ballads and world-class step dancing. Executive Director of the Music Hall, Patricia Lynch comments, "Natalie MacMaster is one of those performers that makes you lose yourself in the music. We can't wait for her to come back!" With four certified gold albums under her belt, she pushes the boundaries of traditional music, fusing her brilliant Cape Breton fiddling with the sounds of banjo, dobro, and mandolin. Don't miss this Music Hall favoritein October! Natalie MacMaster performs in newly restored Music Hall.

The Music Hall is a perfect venue for Natalie - the domed ceiling and wooden floors make for superior acoustics. And now that the dome and the entire auditorium have been restored after a multi-year project funded in part by the federal Save America's Treasures program, audiences can enjoy a view of the elaborately decorated dome and proscenium arch, as well as historic finishes on the balcony, moldings and walls throughout the theater's interior. The stunning restoration brings back the work of artisans from 1878-1901.



July 3, 2007
Natalie MacMaster takes motherhood on the road
By Kym Kilgore, LiveDaily Contributor

Motherhood is not slowing down Celtic fiddler Natalie MacMaster, who gave birth to a son last week and is scheduled to launch a North American tour in late August. With the help of her mother, MacMaster has already been touring with her 19-month-old daughter. Now, two bundles of joy will get to see North America on a trek that takes the musician well into next year.

MacMaster is set to kick things off Aug. 31 in Charlestown, RI, and stop in cities primarily in the East, Midwest and Canada through early April.

In October, the fiddle virtuoso released her 10th album, "Yours Truly," which she co-produced with her husband/fellow fiddler, Donnell Leahy, of Canadian band Leahy. The set features contemporary and traditional numbers, including a rendition of "Danny Boy" sung by Michael McDonald and the tune "Farewell to Peter," which MacMaster wrote to pay tribute to late newsman Peter Jennings. The set was nominated for a Juno (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys) in the Instrumental Album of the Year category.

MacMaster also has a PBS Special scheduled to air this fall. The program was recorded last October at the Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breton, Canada, with Bela Fleck, Carlos Nunez and others.

MacMaster--a native of Cape Breton--recently became one of the youngest recipients of the Order of Canada, which is the country's highest honor for lifetime achievement. The musician is the niece of famed Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster, with whom she recorded a tribute album in 2005.



June 25
, 2007:  It's a Boy!

Michael Joseph Alexander Leahy was born into the world on June 23 at 1:15 am and weighed 8 lbs and 2 oz. Michael and mom are both doing great and should be home today. No doubt Mary Frances will be very excited to have a new little brother. Congrats!



June 7, 2007
Natalie MacMaster: Yours Truly (FolkWax Rating: 8 out of 10)
Kerry Dexter, FolkWax

Tradition And Innovation From Cape Breton.

There is a tune on Natalie MacMaster's album Yours Truly that at first had no name - and "at first" lasted for almost two years. Fiddle player Macmaster and her guitarist, Brad Davidge came up with the slow air that walks an evocative line between sadness and sweetness in about ten minutes one day, but set it aside. When Macmaster agreed to play at the funeral of her friend and fellow Canadian newscaster Peter Jennings, she realized the tune had found its place and its name, "Farewell to Peter."

As anyone who has seen her in performance knows, MacMaster can really dig into the fast tunes as well, whether they are favorites from her native Cape Breton tradition of Atlantic Canada or music she has composed herself. She's not afraid to push boundaries either, as with the pairing of her fiddle against electric guitar from Davidge or the energetic cello of Rushad Eggleston. There's straight tradition as well on several Cape Breton cuts. Michael MacDonald's take on "Danny Boy" is one of the less successful tracks as he's a bit overly sentimental with the singing on a song with which it is all to easy to take that approach. But all in all it is varied and involving recording, original tunes from MacMaster balancing fresh takes on the tradition.



May 05, 2007
Highest honour; Governor General bestows Order of Canada in Ottawa

Fiddler Natalie MacMaster of Lakefield and Dr. Robert Stephens of Warkworth - better known as "Dr. Bob" to generations of patients at his Campbellford practice - picked up Order of Canada honours yesterday.

MacMaster and Stephens joined the likes of former Chicago Cubs pitching great Fergie Jenkins; Arthur Hiller, the director of the TV series "Gunsmoke" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", as well as the film "Love Story"; home fitness guru Ben Weider; and anti-smoking activist Gar Mahood in getting invested by Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

"I was just stunned. It's like, 'Oh my gosh, where did that come from?'" MacMaster told The Examiner when she was nominated last summer. "It's a very high honour and I'm humbled by it all, for sure."

Stephens told ChristianWeek magazine he was shocked to be appointed to the Order of Canada, but glad the government recognizes the value of volunteer work.

"I am accepting this honour as a representative of all medical missionaries," Stephens told ChristianWeek.

MacMaster, originally from Cape Breton, moved to Lakefield in 2002 after marrying Donnel Leahy, a member of the village's popular Leahy musical family.

MacMaster says living in Lakefield has been easy because the village in many ways resembles her East Coast hometown.

"The people and the community are just, my gosh, a gift from heaven," she said in last year's interview.

"All the beautiful families in the area, young families like ourselves, I'm telling you, I'm getting a free education on raising children."

Despite making Lakefield her home, MacMaster says it hasn't necessarily influenced her music.

"My marriage has influenced my music, my family has influenced my music and my baby has influenced my music," she said.

"All those things come from living in Lakefield, but I'm not home very much, and I don't write music on the riverside. I can be anywhere."

Often credited with putting a face on the Atlantic music scene, MacMaster has steadily been picking up fans across the county, in the United States and in Europe.

MacMaster credits her success to the type of music she loves to play. She says it's authentic East Coast, authentic Canadian and people just seem to be attracted to it.

"It's music that's very important to me. We have a rich heritage and I think people crave culture, they crave tradition. I feel that when I play," MacMaster said.

"It's a family music, something that's passed down so naturally. It's not forced and people crave that. They want that natural music."

Her hectic touring schedule keeps her on the road continuously but she still spends about six months at her Lakefield home.

"The other cool thing about (Lakefield), people don't make a big deal of me," she said. "You go some places and people want the autographs and the pictures and want to stare and those type of things, and that's fine, but there's really none of that in Lakefield."

Stephens has been a medical doctor for 60 years, having graduated the University of Toronto in 1947. In the 1950s, Stephens worked as a missionary in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo with his wife Ruth (who died last year) and their two children. In 1960, they left on the last plane before independence was declared in what was then known as the Belgian Congo, escaping a violent independence war. He left his Campbellford practice in 1990 to devote himself full-time to executive director work with the Evangelical Medical Aid Society and the Christian Medical and Dental Society.

The group included volunteers, scholars, businesspeople, and renowned artists.

Twenty-nine people were named members of the order, and 12 were promoted to higher ranks within the order.



April 30, 2007
Natalie to receive Order of Canada on May 4th

Natalie will be receiving the Order of Canada from Govenor General Michaelle Jean on May 4th at a special ceremony in Ottawa. The Order of Canada was established in 1967 to recognize outstanding achievement and service in various fields of endeavour. It is Canada's highest honour for lifetime achievement.



April 22, 2007
Natalie TV Specials

Natalie's PBS Special, recorded in October 2006 at the Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breton with Bela Fleck, Carlos Nunez and others is scheduled to air in early 2008. Please stay tuned here for updates as they become available.

There have also been many inquiries as to whether the Bravo TV Special "Natalie MacMaster & Friends" (aired April 21) will be shown in the United States. We regret that only the Canadian Bravo station will be airing this show.



March 30, 2007
Pop Talk: MacMaster mixes traditional sounds with rock, jazz and Latin
by Nick Rogers, Bend Weekly

Natalie MacMaster never feels her baby kick back while she's busy dancing and fiddling onstage. But the kid is certain to have a killer sense of rhythm once the Celtic musician gives birth in June. Energetic stomping and hopping is as integral to MacMaster's Cape Breton fiddling style as the musical performance itself. With child, she modifies her movement a bit.

"I hop less and focus more on the rhythms with the feet," says MacMaster, 34, who also had to dial down her dancing when carrying daughter Mary Frances in 2005. "I'm still doing all the dancing I normally do, just with a little different focus. Being mindful of my heart rate is the only difference."

Quickened pulses are a natural byproduct of MacMaster's music, which places respectful Celtic-traditional sounds within diverse arrangements that lean toward rock, jazz or Latin. An electric eruption strikes midsong on "Volcanic Jig," the kickoff track on her 2006 studio album, "Yours Truly." It also contains step dancing that sounds like clacking castanets ("David's Jig"), a hint of Aaron Copland's rustic, orchestral Americana (the finale of "Flea as a Bird") and gentle balladry ("Farewell to Peter," a tribute to the late Canadian newsman Peter Jennings).

Fiddling came second nature to MacMaster - she's the niece of fellow Cape Breton musician Buddy MacMaster and cousin of fiddlers Ashley MacIsaac and Andrew Beaton. Her singular body of work came from a regular rotation of non-Celtic tunes during childhood.

"I listened to everything from Ozzy Osbourne to Anne Murray," MacMaster says of growing up in Troy, a rural town in the province of Nova Scotia. "That comes out in all that I do, I'm sure."

MacMaster started on fiddle at age 9 and made her performance debut at a Nova Scotia square dance. Yet, while the Cape Breton tradition fostered talent, it didn't necessarily beckon as a career.

"When I was young and playing fiddle, no one in Cape Breton made a career out of it. They all had other jobs that they relied on," MacMaster says. "So I thought, at best, I'd be doing this on the side of a day job. I never imagined it as a career. It wasn't in the realm of possibility at the time."

In 1989, at 16, MacMaster self-produced "Four on the Floor," initially released on cassette. Two more self-made albums followed, and by the time she was 21, she says she knew music was all she'd ever do. (At one point, her grueling tour schedule reportedly required her to turn down a role as a featured musician in "The Lord of the Dance.") She released her Rounder Records debut in 1997 and went on to share stages with the Chieftains, Faith Hill, Carlos Santana and Alison Krauss.

"My Roots Are Showing," a 2000 album, was nominated for a Grammy. In 2006, MacMaster became one of the youngest to receive Canada's highest civilian honor, membership in the Order of Canada.

"Yours Truly" earned MacMaster her latest Canadian East Coast Music Award. The record also is nominated for a Juno - Canada's Grammy equivalent, which MacMaster has won before.

It marked the first time MacMaster produced with her husband, Donnell Leahy, of Irish group Leahy. It's also the first to mainly feature original songs.

"There was no inspiration or reason why I did that, other than that I didn't want it to be a traditional record, and that music I'd been writing for 10 years had built up and circulated into my own live repertoire," MacMaster says.

It does, however, include a duet with Michael McDonald on "Danny Boy" - a traditional tear-jerker that some, MacMaster included, might say has worn out its welcome. "Personally sick" of the song, MacMaster met blue-eyed soul singer McDonald during the taping of a PBS special.

When producers wanted them to perform something together, McDonald suggested "Danny Boy." On the record, he sings his vocals in an atypical three-four-waltz time signature and changes up the chord progressions - alterations MacMaster says gives the song "a brand-new life."

"I'm a huge fan of (McDonald's), and if he suggests anything, it's the right answer," MacMaster says. "Apparently his father sang it to him, so it wasn't 'Danny Boy' for the sake of 'Danny Boy.'"

An untitled tune of MacMaster's that stuck with her was a "sweet, sad" ditty she drew up one day with her guitar player. She says she spent more time mulling a title for the song than any other she'd written. It was the first song she thought of after getting a call from Kayce Freed, Peter Jennings' widow, to perform at his memorial. MacMaster struck up a friendship with the ABC news anchor after he personally asked her to perform during a New Year's Eve special several years ago.

"The first thing that came to my mind was 'That's going to be Peter's tune,' and I called it 'Farewell to Peter.' That was exactly the title it should have," she says.

Apart from bringing up her new baby, MacMaster will have plenty to keep her busy this year. A concert DVD is due out, along with another PBS special and book ("Natalie MacMaster's Cape Breton Air," with photographs by Eric Roth). And she's eager to mix classical music with Cape Breton's sound, so that might be next on her diverse docket.

"This is music I've known since I was born," MacMaster says. "It's just ingrained in my fiber. When I hear traditional Cape Breton fiddling, there's no music in the world that affects me like it does. It feels like I'm home no matter where I'm at."



March 22, 2007
First-rate fiddler fixing to fascinate Fondy
By Jared Blohm, Fond du Lac Reporter

It's hard to blame internationally renowned fiddling virtuoso Natalie Mac Master for looking forward to a little down time. Famous in part for her distinct take on Celtic music that she honed in her hometown on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and also for an intense live show in which she awes the crowd with fiddle and foot, the 34-year-old has been recording and performing almost non-stop since she was a child.

"I haven't had a summer off since I started playing and I was 9 1/2 when I started. This is the first," Mac Master said Tuesday in anticipation of a five-month break.

But before the mother of one, who brings her 15-month-old daughter on the road with her and is only months away from having her second child, can kick up her feet and relax, she'll bring her tour to a close Sunday night with a performance at the Fond du Lac High School
Performing Arts Center, 801 Campus Drive.

"We'll be very excited and energetic," Mac Master said. "There's always mixed feelings (about finishing a tour), especially when you've been on the road so long. It will be an exciting night for us."

Mac Master and her band are not the only ones who are eager for the show.

"Her performances are high energy and at the same time a tender balance with those of us who love the Irish song ballad," said Jack Talbot, marketing and program manager for Windhover Center of the Arts, which is putting on the performance. "Fond du Lac will not want to miss this magic moment."

Large influxes of Scottish settlers came to Nova Scotia in the 1800s and brought their culture, including music, with them. That tradition has largely stuck and is the foundation of Mac Master's music today. While Mac Master's music is rooted in the traditional Celtic style of Cape Breton, she is known for how she molds that sound into new creations by blending elements of rock, jazz, Latin, bluegrass, country and more into her pieces to form something entirely her own.

"Mostly it's just letting the piece of music dictate what the arrangement should be," she said.

Now supporting her 10th album, "Yours Truly," Mac Master's talents have not gone unnoticed.

"To call Natalie Mac Master the most dynamic performer in Celtic music today is high prose, but it still doesn't get at just how remarkable a concert artist this fiddler has become," the Boston Herald said.

Paste magazine has called her a "fiery fiddler" and the Los Angeles Times describes her music as "irresistible, keening passion."

Windhover Executive Director Phil Zimmerman said it was "quite a coup" to get an artist of Mac Master's talent to perform in Fond du Lac.

"She's the number one female Celtic music performer in the world," Zimmerman said, noting that in the past, Mac Master has performed in Appleton and Oshkosh. "We are excited and I hope that the people in the community share the excitement. It's really something that people here should be proud of and supportive of the fact that we can have this concert here in Fond du Lac and they don't have to drive an hour to get somewhere to see her."

Mac Master said Wisconsin fans have been very supportive.

"We have a lovely little fan base who are just very supportive," she said. "I'm sure I'll recognize people in the crowd."

Though Celtic music may not be for everyone, Mac Master said she believes there is something for everyone at her shows.

"There's a lady that went to my show once. She was probably 80 years old and when the show was over, she came up to me and said, 'I hate fiddle music, but I loved your show,'" Mac Master said. "I think that's the coolest quote I ever got."



March 20, 2007
Famous fiddler coming to Anderson
LEE NOBLE, Herald Bulletin

Grammy-nominated Canadian folk star Natalie MacMaster is bringing her famous fiddle to Anderson. She's not scheduled to bring any faddle. The fiddling, step-dancing MacMaster's foot-stomping show featuring North American folk will be at the Paramount Theatre Centre Thursday.

MacMaster has been heralded as a remarkable concert artist by The Boston Herald, a "ball of fire" by the Los Angeles Times and "maximum entertainment" by the Boston Globe.

Most of it purely Celtic, MacMaster's music earned her recognition as an ambassador for
traditional East Coast music, and for lifting the style to its contemporary heights.

But her newest album, "Yours Truly" (Rounder Records, 2006) blends jazz and Latin stylings
with her usual fiddling for a unique musical experience. The show at the Paramount is part of the tour that kicked off with the new album, and includes many newer songs and MacMaster's traditional favorites.

Otherwise, she's been put in a league with other noted instrumentalists like Bela Fleck, Jerry
Douglas, Sam Bush and Edgar Meyer.MacMaster's folk style comes from her homeland,
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Her band includes herself on fiddle, Brad Davidge on guitar and vocals, Shane Hendrickson on bass, Mac Morin on piano and keyboards, Matt MacIsaac on bagpipes and whistles and Miche Pouliot on percussion.

Recently, MacMaster became one of the youngest ever named a member of the order of Canada ­ Canada's highest civilian honor ­ for her contributions to Canadian culture and her efforts to bring the music of Cape Breton to an ever-increasing number of listeners.

The show is just one stop on an extensive U.S. tour that began last fall celebrating the release of her new album, "Yours Truly." On October 10, 2006, "Yours Truly" became her tenth album, and represented her return to the wide-ranging stylings of the album "In my Hands," in which she first integrated jazz and Latin musical stylings into her own.



March 15, 2007
Celtic twist. Natalie MacMaster mixes traditional sounds with rock, jazz and Latin
By Nick Rogers, Springfield State Journal Register

Natalie MacMaster never feels her baby kick back while she's busy dancing and fiddling onstage. But the kid is certain to have a killer sense of rhythm once the Celtic musician gives birth in June. Energetic stomping and hopping is as integral to MacMaster's Cape Breton fiddling style as the musical performance itself. With child, she modifies her movement a bit.

"I hop less and focus more on the rhythms with the feet," says MacMaster, 34, who also had to dial down her dancing when carrying daughter Mary Frances in 2005. "I'm still doing all the dancing I normally do, just with a little different focus. Being mindful of my heart rate is the only difference."

Quickened pulses are a natural byproduct of MacMaster's music, which places respectful Celtic-traditional sounds within diverse arrangements that lean toward rock, jazz or Latin.

An electric eruption strikes mid-song on "Volcanic Jig," the kickoff track on her 2006 studio album, "Yours Truly." It also contains step dancing that sounds like clacking castanets ("David's Jig"), a hint of Aaron Copland's rustic, orchestral Americana (the finale of "Flea
as a Bird") and gentle balladry ("Farewell to Peter," a tribute to late Canadian newsman Peter Jennings).

Fiddling came second nature to MacMaster - she's the niece of fellow Cape Breton musician Buddy MacMaster and cousin of fiddlers Ashley MacIsaac and Andrea Beaton. Her singular body of work came from a regular rotation of non-Celtic tunes during childhood.

"I listened to everything from Ozzy Osbourne to Anne Murray," MacMaster says of growing up in Troy, a rural town in the province of Nova Scotia. "That comes out in all that I do, I'm sure."

MacMaster started on fiddle at age 9 and made her performance debut at a Nova Scotia square dance. Yet, while the Cape Breton tradition fostered talent, it didn't necessarily beckon as a career.

"When I was young and playing fiddle, no one in Cape Breton made a career out of it. They all had other jobs that they relied on," MacMaster says. "So I thought, at best, I'd be doing this on the side of a day job. I never imagined it as a career. It wasn't in the realm of possibility at the time."

In 1989, at 16, MacMaster self-produced "Four on the Floor," initially released on cassette. Two more self-made albums followed, and by the time she was 21, she says she knew music was all she'd ever do. (At one point, her grueling tour schedule reportedly required her to turn down a role as a featured musician in "The Lord of the Dance.") She released her Rounder Records debut in 1997 and went on to share stages with the Chieftains, Faith Hill, Carlos Santana and Alison Krauss.

"My Roots Are Showing," a 2000 album, was Grammy-nominated. In 2006, MacMaster became one of the youngest to receive Canada's highest civilian honor, membership in the Order of Canada. "Yours Truly" also earned MacMaster her latest Canadian East Coast Music Award. The record also is nominated for a Juno - Canada's Grammy equivalent, which MacMaster has won before. It marked the first time MacMaster produced with her husband, Donnell Leahy (of Irish group Leahy, which performed in Springfield in 2005). It's also the first to mainly feature original songs.

"There was no inspiration or reason why I did that, other than that I didn't want it to be a traditional record, and that music I'd been writing for 10 years had built up and circulated into my own live repertoire," MacMaster says.

It does, however, include a duet with Michael McDonald on "Danny Boy" - a traditional tearjerker that some, MacMaster included, might say has worn out its welcome. "Personally sick" of the song, MacMaster met blue-eyed soul singer McDonald during the taping of a PBS special.

When producers wanted them to perform something together, McDonald suggested "Danny Boy." On the record, he sings his vocals in an atypical three-four-waltz time signature and changes up the chord progressions - alterations MacMaster says gives the song "a brand-new life."

"I'm a huge fan of (McDonald's), and if he suggests anything, it's the right answer," MacMaster says. "Apparently his father sang it to him, so it wasn't 'Danny Boy' for the sake of 'Danny Boy.' "

An untitled tune of MacMaster's that stuck with her was a "sweet, sad" ditty she drew up one day with her guitar player. She says she spent more time mulling a title for the song than any other she'd written.

It was the first song she thought of after getting a call from Kayce Freed, Peter Jennings' widow, to perform at his memorial. MacMaster struck up a friendship with the ABC news anchor after he personally asked her to perform during a New Year's Eve special several years ago.

"The first thing that came to my mind was 'That's going to be Peter's tune,' and I called it 'Farewell to Peter.' That was exactly the title it should have," she says.

Apart from bringing up her new baby, MacMaster will have plenty to keep her busy this year. A concert DVD is due out, along with another PBS special and book ("Natalie MacMaster's Cape Breton Air," with photographs by Eric Roth). And she's eager to mix classical music with Cape Breton's sound, so that might be next on her diverse docket.

"This is music I've known since I was born," MacMaster says. "It's just ingrained in my fiber. When I hear traditional Cape Breton fiddling, there's no music in the world that affects me like it does. It feels like I'm home no matter where I'm at."

Canadian jig

A distinctive spin on Celtic fiddling with traceable roots to ... Canada?

Natalie MacMaster is one of several neighbors to our north to help put Cape Breton fiddling on the international map. So where is Cape Breton, and just how does its style of Celtic
fiddling differ from others?

Cape Breton Island is part of the province of Nova Scotia, connected to mainland North America by the Canso Causeway. Gaelic-speaking Scots brought jigs, reels and marches to Cape Breton in the 19th century after the Highland Clearances, a forced emigration from their homeland. The Cape Breton style came to include step-, square- and highland-dance moves made while performing.

One primary fiddling characteristic is upbowing, which applies more pressure. Musical dynamics often include plenty of grace notes and double stops (simultaneously playing two notes). MacMaster's frequent collaboration with bagpipes dovetails with her fiddle's fluidity and tone.

"But I would say the biggest thing with Cape Breton style is the rhythm," says MacMaster, whose shoe clomp can be heard on "Traditional Medley" from her 10th album, "Yours Truly." "There's a very unique rhythmical style that's very, very powerful - the strength behind all the music. I think it comes from the dancing being so connected with the music. I don't know how to describe the rhythm other than it's just like a train. It starts, and you have no
other choice but to hang on. It takes you away.

"It's definitely thriving," she adds of the Cape Breton style. "It's very much being carried on by young fiddlers, and it should last a very, very long time, as it has already."



March 9, 2007
Fantastic fiddler heading to Hemmens
By Mike Danahey, The Courier News

It's been said (or at least it was said in Boston) that fiddler Natalie MacMaster prances, twirls, bounces and swaggers across the stage. All this, and she's due to have her second child in June.

Performing in such a condition (and touring with her firstborn toddler in tow) "is not too bad," said MacMaster, with typical Canadian understatement. "There are adjustments, but I have my aunt with me to help. It may not be ideal, but you can make it work."

Besides, she has performer relatives who tour with as many as eight youngsters traveling with them. Such is life for the instrumentalist from the musically-inclined Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, who, on Sunday, brings her band to the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin.

In fact, the region is part of Canada's East Coast Music Awards, and MacMaster's recent release, Yours Truly , was named Roots/Traditional Solo Recording of the Year. She's also nominated for a Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy) for the same disc, which is indeed rootsy, but, like a good deal of MacMaster's work is an eclectic blend of old and newer styles, as well.

"One of the more interesting compliments I ever received was from an old lady who told me she hated the fiddle, but still loved my show," recalled MacMaster.

The new album includes a version of Danny Boy , with vocals from former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald. The pairing came about after MacMaster met McDonald a couple years ago when both were taping segments for a Boston Pops PBS special. The producers asked if the two would play together, and McDonald suggested Danny Boy. McDonald came up with a smoky, slow arrangement in waltz time, and things went so well, MacMaster asked McDonald to do a studio version with her.

"I would never have covered Danny Boy. But the approach he took was so unique. I thought, 'How cool for him to do this,' as he's not known for (Irish music)," said MacMaster.

The album also includes an instrumental, Farewell to Peter , named so in honor of a fellow Canadian, the late TV newscaster Peter Jennings. He was a fan of MacMaster's music and called her out of the blue to appear on a TV special he put together in 2002.

"Things like that never happen, and he was really down to earth," said MacMaster.

Jennings' widow asked MacMaster to play at his memorial service in 2005, and MacMaster chose a plaintive number which at that point had no name. That melody is now Farewell to Peter.

MacMaster also lost a dear friend and relative late last year when Celtic-Canadian John Allan Cameron passed away after a long battle with bone cancer.

"He was a pioneer," said MacMaster.

In another twist of fate, in May of 2006, MacMaster's guitarist Brad Davidge was helping unload some gear when he lost part of a finger on his right hand. The act carried on, though.

"He didn't skip a beat and only missed six shows," said MacMaster. Still, don't expect MacMaster's show to be all weepy ballads, as it's "mostly very upbeat," she said.

And if her music entices you to visit Cape Breton for the sites and sounds, MacMaster had a suggestion: "Go in July and August. There's a festival every weekend," she said.



March 8, 2007
Fiddler promises 'big show' full of variety, energy
By Tahree Lane, Toldoblade.com (Toledo, Ohio)

Fueled by bloodlines flowing with music and dance, Natalie MacMaster brings passion and talent to the stage.

With 10 recordings to her credit, the 34-year-old who fiddled for dances in Cape Breton, N.S., as a girl appears in Detroit and Sandusky in the next 10 days.

In light of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day, her program is full of Irish and Scottish melodies, as well as tunes from her North Atlantic island home.

Her Sandusky show on Tuesday, open only to Erie County residents, features her five-member band (bass, drums, piano, guitar, and bagpipes).

"It's very much a big show in that it's very full and it has a lot of variety and a lot of energy," said MacMaster in a telephone interview from Connecticut. There will be traditional pieces that employ the piano, guitar, and fiddle, and others that have a fusion/world-music feel with electric guitar and pipes. She'll dance, rhythmically while playing music instead of her usual hopping, because she's six months pregnant, but she'll do the high kicks that step dancing is known for.

At some shows, her Aunt Mary Janet, who looks after MacMaster's 15-month-old, Mary Francis, on the road, passes off the baby to a band member and joins MacMaster on stage for a bit of dance. MacMaster said she was fine while pregnant and touring last year, but the ultimate stamina test may be during 2008's 40-city spring tour, when she'll have two babies in tow.

Five Detroit performances, March 15 to 18, will be in the 2,000-seat Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center, a 1919-vintage theater that underwent a long $60 million renovation and reopened in 2003.

MacMaster will be accompanied by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra playing a concerto by Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738), she said, as well as a group of jigs, medleys, a duet with the concertmaster, and a beautiful, slow air, "If Ever You Were Mine," by contemporary fiddler Maurice Lennon.

"People love it," she said.

For orchestral shows such as in Detroit, MacMaster selects songs she wants to perform and turns them over to one of three arrangers with whom she works. They arrange the parts for each instrument, and she reviews the final product by listening to a computer program that plays all the parts. If it sounds too heavy or lacking in drama, she'll have the arranger tweak it.

The difference between a fiddle and a violin? None, except when she's going through airport security when she calls it by its high-rent name: violin.

"I once read that Itzhak Perlman said you're not a real violin player unless you call yourself a fiddler. I read music and play by ear."

Her 42-day, 28-city tour mirrors that of her husband, Donnell Leahy, who's on a separate tour performing with seven of his 10 siblings in the group, Leahy. She first heard Leahy perform when she was 12 and got a recording of his when she was 17. "I was impressed," she said.

When she was a college freshman, he telephoned out of the blue and invited her to dinner. They dated two years, broke up, and reunited 10 years later. Married for four years, they live in Lakefield, Ont., about two hours east of Toronto, where he farms beef cattle with his father. Her mother, like Leahy's, was a step dancer and her father, like Leahy's, is a fiddler, she said, adding that as far back as anyone can remember, her ancestors were musicians, dancers, and singers.

Natalie MacMaster's Tuesday concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Sandusky State Theatre is open only to Erie County residents, for whom it is free. MacMaster performs with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in the Max M. Fisher Music Center, 3711 Woodward Ave., March 15 at 10:45 a.m. and 8 p.m., March 16 and 17 at 8:30 p.m., and March 18 at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $15 to $70. Information: 313-576-5111.



March 8, 2007
Fiddler breaks from Celtic roots. Rock, pop elements enliven Canadian's latest disc
By Kevin Ransom, Ann Arbor News

In the beginning, fiddler Natalie MacMaster toed the traditional line. As one who grew up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, MacMaster initially hewed strictly to that region's distinctive, tradition-bound style of playing Celtic music. Over the last decade, however, MacMaster has cast a wider net, drawing liberally from rock and pop elements. And on several tracks from her latest disc, "Yours Truly,'' MacMaster's fiery fiddle is again framed by a rock-ribbed rhythm section - not to mention sinewy electric guitar.

The disc was co-produced by MacMaster's husband, Donnell Leahy, fiddler for the Canadian Celt-rock band that bears his family name.

"Even if he hadn't produced the record, Donnell's input was inevitable,'' said MacMaster, who comes to the Tecumseh Civic Auditorium on Saturday. "Since he's also a fiddler, I really value his opinion, because he also knows the instrument inside and out, and knows my capabilities.''

One of the most exhilarating tracks on the disc is the second tune, "NPG: The Sunday Reel / The Old Ladywood Reel,'' which is propelled by the high-energy interplay between MacMaster's flying fiddle and the huffing bagpipe work of bandmate Matt Mac-Isaac - while electric bass and drums keep things cooking underneath.

"We'd been playing that in our live set for a while before we recorded it, but the interaction was always different,'' said MacMaster by phone from her home in Lakefield, Ont. "We'd always just improvise off of each other. So we just recorded it live, with the two of us playing off of each other spontaneously.''

Another tune, "Matt and Nat's,'' is a searing slice of Celt-rock worthy of early Fairport Convention, as it's bolstered by guitarist Brad Davidge's serrated, edgy riffs.

But not all of the record is fusionesque. A few tunes showcase MacMaster's trad beginnings, like the fittingly mournful "Farewell to Peter,'' written for the late TV newscaster (and fellow Canadian) Peter Jennings, with whom MacMaster had developed a friendship during the last three years of his life. She played the tune at Jennings' 2005 funeral service.

"We met in 2002 when he invited me to perform on his New Year's Eve special,'' says MacMaster. "It turned out he had some of my older recordings, which really surprised me at first. Who knew that Peter Jennings liked Cape Breton fiddle music?''

Ann Arbor fiddler Marty Somberg noted that MacMaster "comes from a long line of famous Cape Breton fiddlers, and she's as good or better than her predecessors. Plus, she has a cute personality, and she's funny, and is good with the crowd in a very informal way - she really puts the audience in a receptive frame of mind.''



March 7, 2007
MacMaster means music in motion
By Garaud MacTaggart , Buffalo News

The art of fiddle playing as it is practiced on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, is one that references a tradition that hails back to Scotland for its roots. Musicians like Alex Francis MacKay, Joe MacLean and Jerry Holland are just a few examples of Cape Breton's fiddling legacy, but Natalie MacMaster is a member of the (relative) youngsters who have taken what has gone on before and given it their own twist.

MacMaster's concerts are also pretty kinetic, not the sort of staid, cast-in-stone, folkloric renditions that happen when a tradition becomes ossified. She knows from firsthand experience, by learning from the living masters of her art, that playing the fiddle is, more often than not, a call to the dance floor.

During MacMaster's concerts, motion is a near constant; she jumps around the stage, romping between the various backup musicians in her entourage and engaging in her obvious love of dance. All of this activity is in addition to her fiddle playing, which is an exuberant, artful display of craft, skill and intelligence that comes near to boggling the mind.

Tuesday night's concert at the (almost) filled to capacity Center for the Arts at the University at Buffalo was even more extraordinary as MacMaster made some obvious changes in her stage act that took into account her six months of pregnancy - such as sitting down for a lovely and fairly lengthy duet with her pianist, Mac Morin - but still managed to do a fair amount of hoofing.

Movement was a given from the moment MacMaster and her band took the stage. All the music - be they jigs, reels, strathspeys, marches or waltzes - were all played with a sparkle and a sense of wonder. When the bandleader sat out a few measures to give her musicians a chance to shine on their own, the results were definitely top notch.

Morin played some lovely duets with MacMaster, but also proved his own musical worth in combination with guitarist Brad Davidge and the versatile bagpiper/whistle wizard Matt MacIsaac. The latter, a wonderful player on a much maligned instrument (the pipes), also showcased some decent chops on the banjo,another instrument susceptible to mockery by the musically intolerant. Bassist Shane Hendrickson and percussionist Miche Pouliot were adept at providing a solid yet flexible foundation from which the rest of the band could
take off.

Still, there was no doubt about the focus of the crowd's attention. MacMaster's personality and musicality were central to how well the concert came off and the resulting display of affection from the audience for the performer was all the confirmation needed to declare her show a rousing success.



March 7, 2007
Fiddler shares talent with OU
Brianna Voight, The Post Online (Athens, Ohio)

Fiddler Natalie MacMaster will peform a variety of new and old pieces in her show tonight at Ohio University. Renowned fiddler Natalie MacMaster will present her blend of traditional and
contemporary Celtic music tonight at 7:30 p.m. The Post's Brianna Voight spoke
with MacMaster before her performance at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial
Auditorium.

The Post: If you had to pick one piece that was your favorite to perform, what would it be and why?

MacMaster: I couldn't. It's a collection of all the pieces that make the show memorable. Sure, there are some pieces that I look forward to, such as 'Blue Bonnets (Over the Border),' but for me it is the entire collection and where they are in relationship to each other that makes the show memorable.

The Post: What should the audience expect from your Athens concert?

MacMaster: Well, a little bit of everything, I guess. An upbeat show full of variety but with tender moments as well. Some singing and dancing. And of course, some fiddle music. You know, the best compliment that I ever received was after a show, and an elderly lady came up to me. She looked me right in the eye and said, 'You know, I hate fiddle music, but I loved your show.' That just meant so much to me.

The Post: What is your favorite part about performing?

MacMaster: Probably that connection with the crowd. That's what performing is all about after all: Performing in front of a live audience. It's all about that connection, and it's great because every night it is different.

The Post: What advice do you have for people who dream of performing?

MacMaster: Definitely practice on your instrument or whatever your talent may be. Practice everyday. Make that your No. 1 priority. A lot of people focus on the business aspect of this. You have to make your talent your number one and everything else will follow.



March 4, 2007
Born to be a fiddler. Celtic musician Natalie MacMaster mixes old
and new sounds while keeping tradition alive
By Anne Neville, The Buffalo News

Natalie MacMaster is home in Lakefield, Ont., on a break from a tour that started Feb. 11 and will go until the end of March. While there, she's working on a PBS special to be released in the fall and enjoying home life with husband Donnell Leahy and nearly 15-month-old Mary Frances Rose.
She's looking forward to the release of "Collection" in March, hot on the heels of "Yours Truly" last October, and also to the birth of their second child in June.

It sounds like a lot, but remember, this is a woman who can dance and fiddle at the same time - bow, feet and blond curls all flying.

She'll bring her show, which showcases everything from energetic, exuberant reels to rhythmic waltzes, from mile-a-minute fiddling to gentle, evocative bowing, to UB's Center for the Arts on Tuesday.

The best-known representative of the Celtic-rooted music of Canada's Cape Breton Island, MacMaster said she grew up - in Troy, which she notes "isn't on some maps" - with "music everywhere."

"I got it three ways," she says. "The first was in the bloodlines, both my Mum's side and Dad's side. Going right back through the generations, there were always musicians in the families. Then also through my community, the area where I grew up had a very strong musical tradition, and then at home."

At home, MacMaster says, "I heard music every day, not live music, but Mum would always have cassette tapes playing and records. It was Cape Breton traditional music, but I listened to other stuff too, I listened to pop radio but Mum would always have fiddle music on every day."

MacMaster began playing piano and dancing at age 5, and first picked up a fiddle when she was 9. By the time she was 10, she was playing on stage in a community where the talent level and the expectations were high, especially of a MacMaster. Her uncle, Buddy MacMaster, had long been established as one of the area's top fiddlers.

"I never had any other job, never had time to have any other job," she says. "It took me through all my summers and then through the rest of the years as I got older."

"Dying to get out again'

The 34-year-old has finished 10 CDs - the first two self-produced, and has maintained a touring schedule that is exhausting to read about. Through the years, MacMaster has come to Buffalo about once every 18 months, and she says, "It's always been good, and I've always noticed that the crowds seem to really like me."

It's that affection flowing out from the audience that makes touring invigorating, she says.

"I find all of life goes away when you're on stage, it just becomes about the music and the crowd," MacMaster says. "I even found that the first show I did after I had my baby, two months after I had her - I'm telling you, I hit that stage and I didn't even know I had any children. It was the weirdest thing! When the show was over, I was like, "OK, now I'm back to Mommyhood,' but as soon as I was on stage, it was about what it was always about, which was me and the music and the crowd and my band, and it's been like that with every show since."

Still, keeping up her hectic schedule can be exhausting, she says. "When December came last year, I was so sick of touring, I said to Donnell, "I just might quit!' and he laughed at me, he said, "Natalie, you couldn't quit if you tried with every fiber of your body, that's so ingrained in you to perform live.' I would say two weeks passed and I was dying to get out again. It's like anything - you do something a lot, even if you love it, and you just get tired of it and you need a break."

Similarly, she says, "The recording process itself is actually very draining. I do get the urge to record, and then when you go through the whole process, by the end of it, you wouldn't care if you ever set foot in the studio again. Give yourself another year, and the urge is there again, and you're motivated, and you get all these new ideas and new material you want to put it down."

When she tours now, a baby sitter - usually her mother, sister-in-law or aunt - holds little Mary Frances on the side of the stage so she can watch the show. Could she tour without her daughter? "I couldn't and I wouldn't want to and I'd quit before I would," she says firmly.

If MacMaster herself inherited the genes for a musical life, imagine the DNA dance going on inside her little girl. Not only does Mary Frances get to watch her mother's glorious concerts, but her father, who plays with a group called Leahy, "comes from a family of fiddlers - there's 11 of them and they all play the fiddle," says MacMaster.

"Farewell to Peter'

A song on her new CD, "Farewell to Peter," is a touching tribute to the late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, a native of Toronto and lover of Cape Breton music.

The story behind the song began in 2001, when MacMaster received a phone message from Jennings himself, asking her to appear on his New Year's Eve special. She says, "It was quite exciting and also quite out of the ordinary, because most people of that stature have other people to make phone calls for them, and also they would do it through my management or my agency," she says.

She did appear on the show, and played a request from Jennings, "Glen of Thickets," which she had recorded on her second CD back in 1991.

"I thought right off the get-go that he was a really, really cool down-to-earth guy," she says. "Then he made some trips to Cape Breton and he would call and ask, "Where should I go?' and my Mum talked to him on the phone a couple of times."

After he died, Jennings' wife, Kayce Freed, asked MacMaster to play at his memorial service. MacMaster says, "I was like, "Sure, sure, sure,' and I got off the phone and thought, "What am I going to play?' "

Then she remembered the song with no name.

Two years before Jennings' death, she and her guitar player, "just messing around," wrote a sweet, sad tune "literally in 10 minutes," she says. Then came the hard part: "I never spent so long trying to come up with a title for a tune in my life. It had no name for two years, though I tried. And I always felt that the tune had to be appropriately titled, because to me it has a real sweetness but it also had sadness. So when Kayce phoned, I thought, "That's going to be Peter's tune and I'm going to call it "Farewell to Peter.' "

His death is the sadness, but, she says, "the sweetness is for those who knew him and for those who still go on thinking about him, and the legacy he left, and if you're a believer in God like I am, I believe that he's being very well taken care of right now."



March 4, 2007
Natalie MacMaster's discography (All from Rounder Records)
The Buffalo News

A Compilation, 1998
This release incorporates songs from her first two self-produced cassettes, "Four on the Floor," released in 1988 when she was 16, and "Road to the Isle," released in 1991.

Fit as a Fiddle, 1993
Based on traditional Cape Breton fiddle music but with plenty of innovation, these 13 tracks include reels, jig sets and strathspeys, which are slow Scottish tunes in 4/4 meter designed for stately dancing.

No Boundaries, 1997
This wide-reaching recording includes guest vocalists Bruce Guthro and Cookie Rankin. Music videos were made from "Catharsis," "Fiddle and Bow" and "Drunken Piper."

My Roots are Showing, 1998
"Over a tour of 13 cuts, MacMaster fires up a danceable array of reels, jigs and marches that would "bow-tie mere mortal violinists. MacMaster is flawless in a very difficult music to execute.' " - Randy Rodda, News reviewer. Grammy-nominated.

In My Hands, 1999
"The title track ... begins with a funky, bass-driven beat. Another song, "Gramma,' incorporates a recording of MacMaster's 93-year-old grandmother's voice. Her fans, MacMaster says, don't mind such experimentation." - Mary Kunz Goldman, News reviewer

Live, 2002
This live two-disc CD shows where MacMaster is now musically and where she started. Disc One is culled from one of her high-energy shows with a full band, in Mississauga; Disc Two is a recording of her playing at a Cape Breton square dance in a hall at Glencoe Mills.

Blueprint, 2003
Bluegrass-infused reels, waltzes, jigs and ballads, with guests Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Edgar Meyer and Alison Brown.

Natalie and Buddy MacMaster, 2005
Natalie teams up with her Uncle Buddy, an icon on the Cape Breton Island music scene, for this recording, which also includes the piano playing of Buddy's sister, Betty Lou Beaton.

Yours Truly, 2006
This CD ranges from the lively - "Flea as a Bird" and "David's Jig," on which Natalie can be heard jigging and step dancing - to a heartbreaking version of "Danny Boy" sung by Michael McDonald and the sad and sweet "Farewell to Peter," an ode to MacMaster's friend Peter Jennings.



March 3, 2007
Lady of the dance.  Celtic fiddler (and mother) gets the crowd going
By Emily Cary, The DC Examiner

Cape Breton master fiddler Natalie MacMaster and her highenergy band storm into George Mason University’s Center of the Arts Sunday. Her wildly entertaining shows generate packed houses, stamping feet and clapping hands as her magical fiddle recaptures traditions that originated in the Scottish Hebrides centuries ago and segues into contemporary tunes evoking bluegrass, jazz and rock.

Married to Donnell Leahy of the popular Canadian band sporting his surname, she is expecting their second child in early summer and touring with 15-monthold Mary Frances in tow, thanks to caring relatives who babysit during shows. Free to spread the power of Celtic music from the stage, she fiddles with jaw-dropping passion and sets the hall on fire whenever she executes her step-dancing prowess.

“We try to create a show with up-to-the- inute music that’s energetic and touches everyone in the theater,” MacMaster says. “The best compliment I ever had came from a woman who told me she hates fiddle music but loved my show.

“We’ll definitely perform at least four tunes from ‘Yours Truly,’ my latest CD, some from older recordings, and some not yet recorded. Along with great traditional music, there will be some of my own compositions.”

MacMaster grew up in a musical family in picturesque Cape Breton, where most residents are steeped in the fiddling tradition passed down from Scottish ancestors. Her ten albums have captured many awards, including Best Female Artist of the Year and Best Roots/Traditional Solo Recording at Canada’s East Coast Music Awards in 2005. Two CDs landed on Billboard’s Top 20 Selling World Music charts, and four earned gold status in Canada.



February 28, 2007
UMass to rock with MacMaster's Celtic fiddling
By George Lenker, The Republican

Natalie MacMaster may be pregnant, but she's not letting her delicate condition affect her performances - at least not too much.  MacMaster, who is known for her unbridled dancing during her concerts, is expecting her second child in June.

"I do have to tone it down slightly these days," she said with a laugh during a telephone interview last week. "I don't dance for quite as long during some songs and I'm focusing more on the rhythm of my foot movements and not jumping around as much."

MacMaster will bring her footwork and fiddle talents to the University of Massachusetts Fine Arts Center tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

It's hard to believe that MacMaster has been around for almost two decades, but that's partly because she released her first album, 1989's "Four on the Floor," at the tender age of 16. Last year she released her 10th album, "Yours Truly," on which she once again finds innovative ways to blend her traditional Cape Breton fiddle music with more modern genres.

But one track on the record is surprising in a different way. MacMaster brought in former Doobie Brothers singer Michael MacDonald to croon a version of the Irish standard "Danny Boy." Even MacMaster admitted that she usually isn't a big fan of the song, which is often seen as a tired cliché in Irish-American culture.

"Like a lot of people, I'm sick of 'Danny Boy' because I've heard it too many times and it can be so cheesy," she said. "But when I heard Michael MacDonald sing it, I realized what a beautiful song it could be. He put different chords behind it and it sounded so good."

MacDonald and MacMaster originally were collaborating on the song for a television show, but the tune got cut at the last minute. But MacMaster liked MacDonald's take on the song so much she asked him to include it on her CD.

The album was also the first time MacMaster and her husband, Donnell Leahy, produced a CD together. As time grew tighter for hiring a producer, Leahy suggested they just do it themselves.

"Donnell is a great motivator for me and he said I should just work with the band on the musical ideas and then use him as a sounding board," she said. "I'm really happy with it, but I have to say it took a long time. We're not very efficient."

MacMaster's masterful band is a big reason behind her success, she said. Keyboardist Mac Morin, guitarist Brad Davidge, drummer Miche Pouliot, bassist Shane Hendrickson and piper Matt MacIsaac all contribute a lot to her sound. This is one reason MacMaster tries to showcase each player as much as possible in concert.

"I look at it like they are doing me a favor by playing with me," she said. "It's not all about me; it's about putting together music that covers a wide range of emotions."

It doesn't hurt that MacMaster plays music that has stood the test of time.

"It has a lot to do with how old some of the music is, and that it doesn't come from someone trying to be a pop star. It's music that comes from the heart," she said.

And despite the fact that she plays mostly instrumental music in a world that makes idols out of singers, MacMaster is happy with her place.

"In a sense, my greatest weakness is also my greatest strength," she said. "I can't get played on commercial radio, but that also means I'm not committed to have to do that, so it gives me freedom. I don't have to have a hit single."



February 28, 2007
Natalie MacMaster: No fiddlin' around
Alan Lewis, Vermont Guardian

Natalie MacMaster has long been an admired traditional Cape Breton fiddler whose early albums won numerous awards. After releasing a 1998 compilation, she came back with 1999's In My Hands, which her official biography claims "fused Jazz, Latin, and the guest vocals of label mate Alison Krauss."

By the time of In My Hands, MacMaster's music was being critically noted for its innovations; and her 2000 offering, My Roots Are Showing, was honored with a Grammy nomination. Discs that followed — Live (2 CDs), Blueprint, and the latest, Yours Truly — are brilliant
recordings. Blueprint has been among a handful of this writer's all-time favorite albums since its 2003 release.

Such accomplished studio work should come as no surprise to music fans in Vermont and throughout New England who have been among MacMaster's foremost followers from the start. "New England audiences are extremely loyal," said MacMaster, "and it is my best market in the states." She allowed that if the occasion ever called on her to reside in the United States, "I'd move somewhere in the Northeast." 

MacMaster is a niece of legendary Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster. She took up the instrument at age nine, leaving plenty of time to make a name for herself. And Buddy MacMaster was not the only inspiration among her kin. Many years ago, John Allan Cameron, her cousin, gave the most amazing concert in Brattleboro. He approached the stage as if this would be an introspective coffeehouse folkie show. A percentage of the songs he played could fit in with light, mainstream family fare. But he drew energy from the music and from the crowd, worked in dance tunes, and by set's end he was practically on fire. It was a really astonishing transformation.

Asked to comment on Cameron's style, MacMaster said, "You just described a typical John Allan concert. John Allan enjoyed what he did more than anyone else I know. His enthusiasm was contagious."

In fact, feet in Windham County may still be beating on floors from that night's performance.

On paper, Natalie MacMaster's album Blueprint would seem like a major departure. She and members of her band recorded it with high-powered roots-music players such as Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Alison Brown, and Bela Fleck. MacMaster says there is no country and western influence in her music, yet this Cape Breton/bluegrass combination worked
phenomenally.

"With Blueprint," she explained, "there was no learning curve for any of us. It was the first time I played with those musicians, and it was an instant natural blend."

Asked if any recording was a pivotal, career-changing disc, MacMaster said, "My CDs are very different from one another, therefore they all have their own unique life. Yours Truly is unique, yet again, simply for the fact that eighty percent of the music is original."

"Exploratory, yet firmly grounded" is one way MacMaster's publicity characterizes her music. The word "grounded" is especially descriptive because this music so often connects with movements of the feet down at ground level: toe-tapping and dancing.

Yours Truly features good variety, but nonetheless it is dominated by often lively dance music as exemplified by such track titles as "Minnie and Alex's Reel" on Blueprint and "Julia's Waltz" and especially "Volcanic Jig" on Yours Truly.

"Dance music and Cape Breton fiddle music are one and the same," said MacMaster. "There is no separation of the two for me. Certainly, the audience picks up on this. If they're not dancing, they're at least tapping their feet.

"Sometimes at our concerts a dancer will be in the crowd dancing, and I'll invite them on stage. And every now and again the quality of this dancer is exceptional. It always blows me away when there is a really amazing dancer on stage with us whom I've never met before."

"Flee as a bird to your mountain, Thou who art weary of sin." These are the opening lines of verses included in many collections of 19th-century sentimental music such as Heart Songs.

A cut on Yours Truly bears the similar-looking yet much lighter title, "Flea as a Bird." And the CD's stomping lead-off track has the apropos name, "Volcanic Jig." Asked if her playing has a mirthful element, MacMaster said, "I do hear an element of humor in some of my tunes. For example, `Flea as a Bird' from Yours Truly and the clog medley from Blueprint." Boston's Symphony Hall is said to be one of the two best concert rooms in the world for acoustics.

"Definitely one of my favorite venues in this country," said MacMaster. "Every time I perform there, I feel I need to do something extra special. I'll have surprises for my audience again this year."

In 2005, MacMaster, with her husband (and fellow fiddler) Donnell Leahy, became the proud parent of Mary Frances Rose. Then in 2006, MacMaster became one of the youngest people ever named a member of the prestigious Order of Canada. First-time parenthood and Canada's highest civilian honor could be hard to top, but MacMaster enthused, "Stay tuned for our DVD and PBS special to be aired in the fall. And stay tuned for the arrival of our second child later this year!

"With regards to the Flynn Center, I have a long history with the fans there. They are a very strong crowd — always making us feel loved and appreciated. Funny story for you: That's where I got my first pair of cow socks — from an audience member."

For good old Cape Breton fiddling with a new-fashioned twist, pull up your own cow socks and hoof it on over to the Flynn Center.



February 28, 2007
Yours Truly: CD Review
Salvatore Esposito, Italian Music e-zine

Natalie MacMaster is a truely talented violin player and songwriter, this new album, titled Yours Truely mix traditional and contemporary songs and features a wonderful rendention of Danny Boy, sung by Doobie Brother Michael McDonald.

Talento indiscusso quello di Natalie MacMaster, violinista e cantautrice di Cape Breton, Canada, figlia del grande fiddler Buddy MacMaster e cresciuta sin da piccola con la musica nel sangue. La MacMaster alle spalle ha una lunga carriera, fatta di ottimi dischi incisi per lo più alla corte della Greentrax, da cui di recente si è allontanta per proseguire la sua strada nella piena indipendenza. Il risultato di questo nuovo corso della sua carriera, è Yours Truely, un disco dalla bellezza incredibile che abbraccia musica tradizionale, rock, spunti progressive e in uno stile originalissimo in cui convivono splendidamente northern music, celtic sound, bluegrass, tradizione canadese, jigs and reels.

Per capire che siamo di fronte ad un piccolo capolavoro, basta ascoltare la travolgente Volcanic Jig, dove prima si apprezza ad un duetto tra il violino della MacMaster e il Cello di Rushad Eggleston e poi la linea melodica viene rifinita con la chitarra elettrica di Brad Davidge. Sulla stessa scia si pone il medley NPG che mescola reels e jigs e la successiva The Sunday Reel dove si apprezza un bel duetto con la cornamusa di Matt MacIsacc. Le divagazioni western swing di Flea As A Bird aprono alla più soffusa Farewell To Peter, una triste ed intensa melodia ricca di fascino. Se Matt & Nat’s è un muscolare celtic-rock, più orientata verso la tradizione è David’s Jig la perfetta introduzione alla strepitosa resa del traditional Danny Boy, cantata da Michael McDonald dei Dobbie Brothers. Un medley di brani tradizionali apre prima all’elegante melodia di Cape Classico a tratti colorata di flamenco, poi alla fascinosa Julia’s Waltz in cui si intrecciano violino e accordion in una melodia tipicamente francese. Chiude il disco la soffusa Interlude, con il violino della McMaster a dipingere un’altra melodia eccellente.



February 27, 2007
MacMaster's art: Fiddlin' around
Daniel Gewertz, Boston Herald

Anyone who thought Natalie MacMaster might slow down her ferocious fiddling/dancing theatrics just because she is five-months pregnant doesn't really know this musical whirligig from Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island. Looking even fitter than her fiddle, MacMaster pranced, twirled, bounced and swaggered about the Symphony Hall stage on Sunday afternoon: a master musician in constant motion, yes, but also a highly disciplined showwoman who doesn't make a single move that isn't part of her theatrical plan.

At 34, MacMaster still revels in girlish energy, yet her shows are the work of a mature, knowledgeable star. Folk mavens can focus on every fleet, phenomenal note her dazzling band makes; casual listeners can just let the fun and entertainment flow over themselves.

MacMaster and her sensational band concentrated on the sizzling, new Rounder CD, "Yours Truly," starting the show with her fond nod to fellow Canadian Peter Jennings: a slow, ruminative walk of a tune called "Farewell to Peter."

Then this merry affair kicked into fierce, jumping overdrive. While every band member is a marvel, Mac Morin's ability to translate fiddle tunes into driving yet liquid piano was the most unusual touch. Veteran drummer Miche Pouliot was like a whole symphony of beat. Though Matt MacIsaac played small pipes, tin whistle and even banjo, it was when he hoisted his bagpipes and joined MacMaster for perfectly arranged duets that the melodic vivacity of this
diverse show reached its zenith.

The only misstep was "Danny Boy," a song so overdone, it needs to be either heartbreaking or reinvented to deserve reviving. On MacMaster's new CD, guest Michael McDonald sounds like a foghorn; onstage, Brad Davidge tried hard, but lacked the requisite emotion.

Boston is like a second home to MacMaster, and family spirit ran deep Sunday. Her brother, stage-shy guitarist Kevin MacMaster, played expert traditional duets with Natalie. It was his first time onstage in 20 years. And when babysitter/aunt Mary Jane came onstage to dance, she handed MacMaster's 15-month-old daughter, Mary Francis, to guitarist Davidge. The adorable toddler bounced to the beat, while her mother danced so heartily -- tap, step and even barefoot -- the baby in her womb must also have experienced a great show.



February 23, 2007
Fast on their fiddles: Natalie MacMaster/Eileen Ivers
Performers add modern elements to traditional Celtic reels and jigs
BY Marty Lipp, The Star Ledger, New Jersey

Two female fiddlers coming to the area prove that great Celtic music comes from this side of the Atlantic, too.

Natalie MacMaster has become the pre-eminent ambassador of the Scottish-derived music from Cape Breton Island, Canada, dazzling audiences with her high-energy playing and step-dancing. Part of a musical family and community, MacMaster, 34, had her first gig at the age of 10 playing at a local fair. As a teen she would play with just a piano accompanist at square dances in "some dance hall in the middle of woods somewhere."

These square dances, that still run today, were formative to her playing, she said. "The source of the rhythm of the music is the dancers' feet." As she broke out as a solo artist, MacMaster began adding modern elements, alternating between reels and jigs, and
rock-like compositions.

Listening to MacMaster tear into her fiddle with the energy of a metal guitarist, one might think she is naturally hot-wired, but she said, "Actually, I like slow songs." She said she likes to keep audiences engaged with faster tunes, particularly in concert, but hopes to record an album of slow songs one day.

Although she is now five months pregnant, she keeps dancing, noting she didn't stop during her last pregnancy until she was about eight months along. "I take precautions," she said. "I don't do hopping, or go as high."

On her latest album, "Yours truly" (Rounder), MacMaster plays mostly her own compositions. They are widely varied, from the rocked up "Volcanic Jig" to the slow, pretty "Julia's Waltz."

For Eileen Ivers, 41, learning the fiddle began in a class of 20 Irish-American kids in an Irish pub in The Bronx. Ivers, the daughter of Irish immigrants, took to the instrument and the old-fashioned music, even though it made her "not the coolest kid on the block."
The teenaged Ivers went with her parents to Ireland and won the prestigious All-Ireland competition, going on to earn seven championships there while still a teen.

She landed a series of high-profile gigs -- Cherish the Ladies, Hall and Oates -- but Ivers didn't consider music a career and pursued a higher degree in math. Music kept on distracting her, until she became a featured performer in the original London run of
"Riverdance." Playing her blue electric fiddle, "Old Bluey," Ivers tore up the place night after night for three years, finally telling herself: "I think this is what you're supposed to be doing."

Ivers said she first got her signature blue fiddle at Manhattan's Music Row on 48th Street at the age of 18. She spotted the blue shellacked fiddle, fell in love, bought an armful of electric pedals and walked out "completely broke and as happy as I could be."

Like MacMaster, Ivers was steeped in traditional music, but easily incorporates non-traditional sounds. With her band, Immigrant Soul, Ivers mixes Irish tunes with African and Latin music. "I like to keep going where you're heart's going," she said, noting that her music always has the elemental Irish swing known as nyah.



February 19, 2007
Fiddler On The Stage. Natalie MacMaster performed with her band Friday and Saturday nights at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts.
By Anna Blaise, The Daily Campus - University of Connecticut

Small tables and candlelight set the relaxed cabaret mood for Natalie MacMaster, as she fiddled her way into the cold night on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Jorgensen center for the Performing Arts. The full audience, composed mostly of local residents, was attentive and waited patiently for MacMaster to fiddle away. Energetic and passionate about her music, MacMaster performed her first piece with her band and had the audience tapping and clapping as she fiddled.

The music played was energetic and felt as if you were in a folk festival. Surrounded by her band, MacMaster dominated Jorgensen and made everyone feel at home.

"This is amazing," shouted someone in the audience.

MacMaster is one of the best-known musicians from Cape Breton, Canada. She comes from a family of fiddlers and started fiddling when she was nine. She plays music from the roots of Scotland, Ireland and Appalachia. In 2006, she became the youngest person ever named to the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian award.

Her bandmates are John Chiasson, who played bass and vocals, Allan Dewar, who played the piano, Matt MacIsaac who played bagpipes and whistles, and Miche Pouliot, who played the drums.

As she introduced each players, MacMaster made joked about competing with her husband but "of course, [she's] the best at fiddling."

"I really enjoyed the show," said Slava Vernidub, a 6th-semester finance major. "It's not something I'm used to but I really like it. [MacMaster] is so energetic and the songs she plays are cheerful and sparkly."

Throughout the show, MacMaster made jokes about how it is a Saturday night and "the booze is in the air." She made the audience comfortable by laughing away and talking about her family and how she is expecting a second child, even though she was tapping Scottish style accompanied with her drummer.

One of the songs she performed that had the audience clapping and shouting at the end was "If Ever You Were Mine," by William Morris with Tracy Bennels at the piano. The tune was sad but relaxing and amazingly beautiful.

"My favorite part was the duet with the piano. It touched my heart and I think I even cried listening to it. It was truly beautiful," said Carol Toddland, a Coventry resident.

At intermission, the audience barely moved, but talked among themselves about how amazing MacMaster was. During the second half of the show, she performed a duet with one of her guitarist who is also a songwriter. When the concert was over, everyone stood up and applauded heartily. People then made their way towards the table where her tenth CD, "Yours Truly" was available.

"I wasn't familiar with her music until I came here today," said Bob Toddland, a Coventry resident. "But I will be sure to follow her music from now on. This show was truly amazing."

(Photo by: Ryan Sayers). Natalie MacMaster performed with her band Friday and Saturday nights at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts.



February 19, 2007
ECMA WIN FOR NATALIE!

Natalie wins the East Coast Music Award for Roots/Traditional Solo Recording of the Year, For her latest album 'Yours Truly'. The ECMA gala award show took place last night at the Halifax Metro Centre. for a full list of winners, visit www.ecma.ca



February 10, 2007
MacMaster can fiddle, dance and endear
MARY COLURSO, The Birmingham News

Natalie MacMaster, still slender as a violin bow, did not split her pants Friday night at Birmingham's Alys Stephens Center.  That's what happened seven years ago, when the Canadian fiddler and step dancer performed a show here at Five Points South Music Hall.

We haven't seen MacMaster since - not because of any embarrassment on her part, of course, but because her career has grown and developed, taking her to other cities and stages.  Her family has grown, too, as MacMaster was quick to announce during her Birmingham concert. She and her husband, fiddler Donnell Leahy, have a 14-month-old daughter, Mary Frances Rose, who was on tour with mom.

MacMaster also pointed to her ever-so-slightly bulging belly, happily informing the audience that she was five months pregnant. Her delicate condition didn't prevent MacMaster from delivering a sturdy, energetic performance, backed by a five-member band.

The native of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, started off at 8:10 p.m. with a resounding yip and waved her bow high in greeting. Then she and her group launched into a lively series of jigs, reels and airs that were highly influenced by Scottish and Celtic traditions.

Listeners in the nearly full house didn't need a musicology degree to figure it out. MacMaster made these origins clear during her between-song commentaries, which were instructional and funny. In a very natural way, she made her colleagues seem like family and ticketholders feel like an intimate community gathering. She's an embracing performer, consistently nimble and vivacious.

MacMaster praised her band members - pianist Tracey Dares, guitarist Brad Davidge, drummer Miche Pouliot, bassist Shane Hendrickson and piper Matt Macisaac - and featured them with solo segments throughout her two-set show.

One of MacMaster's originals, "Volcanic Jig," began with a fiddle-guitar duet and later integrated the rest of the band, building to a mini-rock explosion. Touches of jazz and country made their way into the music as well.

Overall, the program reflected her desire to blend classic and contemporary material into a seamless signature sound. Vocals were scarce during this concert, but does anyone really expect MacMaster to sing while she's fiddling and dancing?

Only an artistic superwoman could pull off such a feat. The Birmingham audience seemed content to appreciate MacMaster as she is: an extremely talented double threat.



February 9, 2007
Natalie MacMaster not just fiddling around at Stephens Center
Mary Colurso's Blog Everything Alabama

Natalie MacMaster, still slender as a violin bow, did not split her pants Friday night at Birmingham's Alys Stephens Center. That's what happened seven years ago, when the Canadian fiddler and step dancer performed a show here at Five Points South Music Hall. We haven't seen MacMaster since -- not because of any embarrassment on her part, of course, but because her career has grown and developed, taking her to other cities and stages.

Her family has grown, too, as MacMaster was quick to announce during her Birmingham concert. She and her husband, fiddler Donnell Leahy, have a 14-month-old daughter, Mary Frances Rose, who was on tour with mom. MacMaster also pointed to her ever-so-slightly bulging belly, happily informing the audience that she was five months pregnant.

Her delicate condition didn't prevent MacMaster from delivering a sturdy, energetic performance, backed by a five-member band. The native of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, started off at 8:10 p.m. with a resounding yip and waved her bow high in greeting. Then she and her group launched into a lively series of jigs, reels and airs that were highly influenced by Scottish and Celtic traditions.

Listeners in the nearly full house didn't need a musicology degree to figure it out. MacMaster made these origins clear during her between-song commentaries, which were instructional and funny. In a very natural way, she made her colleagues seem like family and ticketholders feel like an intimate community gathering. She's an embracing performer, consistently nimble and vivacious.

MacMaster praised her band members -- pianist Tracey Dares, guitarist Brad Davidge, drummer Miche Pouliot, bassist Shane Hendrickson and piper Matt Macisaac -- and featured them with solo segments throughout her two-set show.

One of MacMaster's originals, "Volcanic Jig," began with a fiddle-guitar duet and later integrated the rest of the band, building to a mini-rock explosion. Touches of jazz and country made their way into the music, as well.

Overall, the program reflected her desire to blend classic and contemporary material into a seamless signature sound. Vocals were scarce during this concert, but does anyone really expect MacMaster to sing while she's fiddling and dancing?

Only an artistic superwoman could pull off such a feat. The Birmingham audience seemed content to appreciate MacMaster as she is: an extremely talented double-threat.



February 9, 2007
Fabulous fiddling
Barre-Montpelier Times Argus

BURLINGTON ­ Natalie MacMaster, the virtuoso fiddling phenomenon from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, brings her high-energy band to the Flynn main stage with a magical evening of Celtic-flavored music and step dancing on Thursday, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts and the University of Vermont Lane Series will bring MacMaster back for her fifth visit to Burlington, where she has developed a fiercely loyal following.

As a fiddler, singer, and world-class step dancer, MacMaster is known for pushing the
boundaries of traditional music, fusing her brilliant fiddling, steeped in the Scots-Irish
tradition, with the sounds of American bluegrass, folk, and pop. The New York Times says "her fiddle playing bites into the jigs and reels and makes the slow melodies sing."

MacMaster is a six-time Fiddle Player of the Year honoree at the Canadian Country Music Awards. She has won two Juno Awards (Canada's Grammy) and has been nominated for a U.S. Grammy as well. She was recently celebrated as Best Female Artist of the
Year at Canada's East Coast Music Awards and was also honored with the award for Best
Traditional/Roots Recording for her latest album, Yours Truly. MacMaster recently became one of the youngest artists ever named a member of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honor. She has shared the stage with renowned acts including
Carlos Santana, the Chieftains, Paul Simon, Luciano Pavarotti, Alison Krauss, Mark O'Connor, the Boston Pops, and dozens of world-class symphony orchestras.



February 07, 2007
Junos: Natalie MacMaster Declares Herself Pregnant Hottie
Caitlin Hotchkiss, ChartAttack.com (Photo By Noah Love)

Celtic music fans, wannabe highlanders and worldly soccer moms rejoice: Natalie MacMaster's still here and still brandishing one mean fiddle. The proud east coaster's been at this game since she was nine years old, and with the rate at which she's pumping out the tunes and tours (even at five months pregnant), there'll be no shortage of Irish jigs and reels anytime soon. MacMaster's new Yours Truly is up for an instrumental album of the year Juno Award, and ChartAttack chatted with her at Tuesday's Juno nominees' media conference in Toronto.

ChartAttack: We're sick of the whole Canadian modesty thing — can you give us some blatant self-promotion to justify your nomination?
Natalie MacMaster: What can I say about myself? Well, for a five-month pregnant lady, I'm still pretty friggin' hot. I'm still fiddling. I just shot a DVD and a television special for PBS. I just got nominated for my album, Yours Truly, which has about 80 per cent of the material written by me, which is a first. I haven't been much of a writer in the past. Other than that, I'm actually heading out on tour tomorrow [Wednesday].

Which Bryan Adams song best describes you? Why?
Oh God, which Bryan Adams song is it? [singing] "If you love a woman…" That one. Love it.

If you win, what are you gonna do to celebrate?
Well, I can't drink, so obviously no champagne. I'll probably call my mother and gloat. She's the best person to gloat with. She's been a big help and has had great faith in her daughter, for sure.

Are you going to prepare a list in case you win?
To be honest, there's going to be so much happening before then that I'm not even thinking about what to do to prepare. But I'm definitely prepared for how these things go. I like to be on the ball, so I'll make sure I give it some thought.

Do you watch the Junos when you're not nominated?
If I can, I do. By that, I mean that I'm usually touring so much during the year that I miss the Grammys, the Junos, all those shows. They're usually on during the popular touring time. But yeah, if I have the day off, I'll watch it.



January 11, 2007
Popular Culture Series Presents Natalie MacMaster With Seattle Symphony
www.huliq.com

Clap and stomp the night away with Natalie MacMaster as she brings her fiddle and Celtic-inspired band to Benaroya Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 23, at 7:30 p.m. The eclectic program will include selections from MacMaster's extensive canon of fiddle tunes. In addition, guest conductor Adam Stern will conduct Seattle Symphony in performances of
Holst's Brook Green Suite and Mozart's lively Overture to The Marriage of Figaro.

The niece of famed Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster, Natalie MacMaster first picked up a fiddle at age nine and hasn't put it down since. She has appeared with dozens of major symphony orchestras throughout the world and collaborated with some of the most popular artists, among them Carlos Santana, The Chieftains, Paul Simon,
Luciano Pavarotti, Alison Krauss and Mark O'Connor. A testament to her incandescent musicianship and boundless energy, MacMaster's live performances feature foot-tapping rave-ups, heart-rendering ballads and world-class step dancing by the artist herself.

MacMaster has recorded and released seven albums in Canada and the U.S., and has received a Grammy nomination, as well as several Juno Awards for Best Instrumental Album and Canadian Country Music Awards for Fiddler of the Year. Two of her CDs have charted on Billboard's Top 20 Selling World Music Charts and four have been certified Gold in Canada.

Adam Stern returns to Seattle Symphony after having served as Seattle Symphony Assistant Conductor from 1992 to 1996 and Associate Conductor from 1996 to 2001. Currently, he is Music Director/Conductor of the Seattle Philharmonic and the Port Angeles Symphony. Some of his conducting highlights include leading Seattle Symphony premieres of Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 3 ("Pastoral") and Elgar's Symphony No. 2. He was also the Music Director of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra from 1994 to 2000 and was credited with improving the orchestra's sound and flexibility, increasing audience support, and greatly expanding the orchestra's repertoire. Stern has
worked with many of the country's best Orchestras. His New York conducting debut, an all-Baroque concert with the New York Chamber Symphony at Alice Tully Hall, was a notable success.

Stern is a strong advocate for music education, serving as Director of Instrumental Music at the Lakeside Upper School. He is also a composer, pianist, writer and lecturer on music. He has also worked extensively as a recording producer and, in 1990, won a Grammy as Classical Producer of the Year for his work on the Gerard Schwarz/Seattle Symphony American music series.

Gustav Holst composed the Brook Green Suite in 1933 during a hospital stay (where he died in May 1934). The piece was written for the junior orchestra at St. Paul's Girls School and was intended to be in a contemporary style easy enough for his pupils there to perform. It was reportedly named after Brook Green, the location of his 1901 wedding.

The character of the piece evokes the sounds of English folk song, although the melodies are attributed to Holst himself. The Prelude is based on a descending C-major scale, with the cellos covering two whole octaves. The next section, Air, sounds as if it were inspired
by the sounds of the English countryside. The final section, Dance, is said to be based on a tune Holst heard while traveling in Sicily.

Mozart's Overture to The Marriage of Figaro is often described as "fresh." It takes the listener on a roller-coaster ride from start to finish, giving audiences a glimpse into its composer's sometimes humorous, at other times maniacal, disposition. It begins with a whisper and, in the next moment, coalesces into a theme that is quickly off and running. Festive trumpets and drums sound in a delightfully frenetic introduction. The opening whisper is reprised and once again takes off with rushing scales. The piece ends in a brilliant fanfare for the full orchestra.



January 11, 2007
News From Natalie

» Natalie has sent in a letter to the website fans with her latest news....  [view letter]
» She also wanted to share with you a recent photo with Mary Frances... [
view photo]



January 9, 2007
CD REVIEW: Natalie MacMaster: Yours Truly
by Jason MacNeil

Natalie MacMaster is from my own stomping grounds on Cape Breton Island. The relative of fiddling great Buddy MacMaster and a cousin of Ashley MacIsaac, the young MacMaster seemed to take the high road while MacIsaac seemed to burn brightly
but burn out just as quickly. Slowly but steadily, MacMaster continued to break new
ground, expand her horizons, and attract larger audiences. The first album from MacMaster in a couple of years finds her sticking to what she does best, namely reels, jigs, laments, and anything else that would fit perfectly into any Maritime, East Coast, or Atlantic Canadian "kitchen party."

MacMaster wastes no time getting into her niche with the bouncy and fluid "Volcanic Jig", which is given a slightly classical feeling over the Celtic overtones thanks to cellist Rushad Eggleston, who seems to veer from a slow, deliberate style of playing to a rather frantic, vibrant, and energetic mode. And MacMaster, like so many other fiddlers, relishes in the fact that Eggleston can handle some lead duties during the middle portion. Think of something along the lines of Celtic Woman or Altan and you should get the gist of this song's energy and flow before breaking open for a fine finale. From there,
MacMaster changes gears somewhat with the reflective "NPG", a string of three reels or jigs fused together starting off with the slow but toe-tapping "The Sunday Reel" featuring a dueling fiddle/bagpipe portion with Matt MacIsaac. Here the music is a bit more genre-crossing and seems to fall more into the "world/pop/adult contemporary" realm. But MacMaster is just as strong here as ever in terms of his playing, even when the tune takes a somewhat funky detour.

MacMaster has never been one to shy from different styles or genres, and the slow,
shuffling and jaunty "Flea As a Bird" hops around as quickly as the aforementioned insect on a hot shovel. There's a bit of Western swing in the track that the musician seems to lap up eagerly. From there it morphs quickly into a train-chugging number that picks up speed and never seems to slow down. Again, there are three, wait, four songs coming into the mix, with "Flea As a Bird Clog" giving way to "The Night We Had the Goats Reel", which is another traditional piece. The first song that doesn't quite fit the
happy-go-lucky domain is "Farewell to Peter", a tender lament that has MacMaster accompanied by Eggleston and guitarist Brad Davidge. It's sweet and to the point, although it does nothing to add to MacMaster's existing mastery of such a number.

What is interesting is the somewhat edgier, rougher, and ragged rock-Celtic feeling behind "Matt & Nat's", a song that could have been inspired by listening to Ashley MacIsaac's earlier rock-oriented albums. But things get very strange quickly thereafter when "Danny Boy", the traditional classic, is performed. Performers include MacMaster on fiddle and Michael McDonald on lead vocals. Michael McDonald? Doobie Brother
Michael McDonald? Yes and . well, it's not good. Not by a long, sling, or even a scatter shot. Although the mood is haunting and sparse, McDonald sounds like he's completely and utterly lost on this track, even more than usual. While he still has that soulful quality to his voice, it's a track that doesn't work for some people, especially McDonald and someone like Dr. John.

MacMaster returns to her strengths and atones for this miscue with "Cape Classico", a slightly flamenco-tinged fiddle feel that weaves its way around a simple but elegant arrangement. After this slight interlude, she counts in another change and takes things back into more of folksy, Celtic flavoring. Possibly the prettiest number here is the Parisian-sounding "Julia's Waltz" that has a fine supporting blueprint composed of
acoustic guitar and accordion. It's on this track where MacMaster is basically front and centre throughout, with some of the sweetest notes on the album performed in a span of about two to three minutes.

The album concludes with an "Interlude", perhaps an oddly named tune for the closing track. Nonetheless, MacMaster delivers another sweet track that is basically her thanking the fans for the album and the musicians who make it possible. It's an interesting touch and could be a forerunner of acceptance speeches that could result from this finely-crafted album. It's one John Allan Cameron, yet another relative of Natalie MacMaster, would be proud of.



January 9, 2007
Fiddling stars, impressionist lined up for Stratford series
By James Reaney, London Free Press

Master impressionist Andre-Philippe Gagnon and fiddle masters Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy have separate dates at Stratford's Festival Theatre.

MacMaster and Leahy, the married team of violin stars, play the theatre on Jan. 20. Gagnon visits on Feb. 3. Concert time is 8 p.m. on both nights. The concerts are part of Stratford concert producer Chris Parson's ninth annual winter series at the Festival Theatre.

MacMaster, who is expecting the couple's second child, and Leahy have appeared on stage at each other's concerts before. But this month's concert is billed as the first time they are the main act together. They are performing with a hand-picked band.

Last month, Leahy travelled to a MacMaster concert in Southwestern Ontario from their home near Lakefield, Ont. At that concert, MacMaster brought Leahy -- who leads the family ensemble Leahy -- on stage for a duet of The Anniversary Waltz.

After taking a break over Christmas, she is to begin a major U.S. tour just days after the Stratford date.

"If you consider the fact that years ago, all of the fiddlers that I admired growing up had other day jobs, it is amazing what I've been able to do," she says. "Still, to this day, if I had to plan what I would dream of it all being, I would never come up with something so great."

The Quebec-born Gagnon is a world-famous impressionist who has played 3,500 shows in 11 countries. After jumping to stardom in 1985 when he appeared at the Just for Laughs comedy fest in Montreal, he was featured on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. On Carson's show, Gagnon performed his version of the famine-relief anthem We Are the World, doing all 18 famous voices.



January 8, 2007

(Rounder Records) FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Natalie Mac Master To Perform On Good Morning America, Monday, January 22
NEW DATE. RESCHEDULED FROM JAN 3rd.

Cambridge, MA – On  January 22nd, Grammy-nominated fiddling virtuoso Natalie Mac Master will perform on Good Morning America. Backed by cello and guitar, Mac Master will perform "Farewell to Peter" – a touching tribute to her friend, the late journalist Peter Jennings. The original tune is featured on Mac Master’s acclaimed new studio album Yours Truly.

Released this past Fall, Yours Truly was produced by Mac Master and her husband Donnell Leahy and finds the "fiery fiddler" continuing to ingeniously incorporate new sounds and

concepts into her rich Cape Breton musical heritage. Featured among a mix of evocative originals and timeless traditional numbers is a "heart rending" rendition of "O Danny Boy" featuring stirring lead vocals from Michael McDonald.

Beginning January 23, Mac Master will kick off an extensive U.S. tour in support of the album, including tour dates throughout the East Coast and Midwest.

Founded in 1970, Rounder Records is America’s premier independent label. Rounder and its Zoë, Heartbeat, Philo and Bullseye Blues imprints have a catalog of over 3000 albums, representing a wide variety of folk, roots, rock, blues, and reggae music.


 



January 8, 2007
Juno Nomination for Natalie

Natalie received a Juno nomination this week for "Instrumental Album Of The Year" for her latest album 'Yours Truly' (Foreign Media Group*KOCH).

The East Coast native continues to stun crowds around the globe with her feverish fiddling and mesmerizing step dancing. Each new album displays a creativity and range that constantly expands the boundaries of the genre. Yours Truly is her tenth album. MacMaster, who picked up the fiddle at age 9, became one of the youngest people ever to be named a member of the prestigious Order of Canada