Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy: Visions from Cape Breton and Beyond - A Celtic Family Celebration
Back by popular demand, MacMaster and Leahy once again showcase their unique talents, and share stories of the first family of traditional fiddlers through dancing, singing, and world-class music-making.
Presented by Parker Arts
Indeed, when two of the planet’s very best fiddle players married in 2002, the proverbial mantelpiece was instantly crammed with JUNO and East Coast Music Awards. Though MacMaster and Leahy followed different trajectories – she a Cape Breton native who could step-dance before she could walk; he the oldest brother of acclaimed family group Leahy – both had assuredly crested the traditional music peak.
Their first recorded collaboration, 2015’s Bob Ezrin-produced album One, which was followed by 2016’s A Celtic Family Christmas (and which cemented the couple’s status as powerhouses on the seasonal circuit) confirmed MacMaster and Leahy were as dynamic working together as they were working apart.
That’s no small feat when your combined album sales exceed one million; when past collaborators include classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma, bluegrass star Alison Krauss and banjo ace Béla Fleck; and when your ecstatic fan base (which boasts Shania Twain and The Chieftains) stretches from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Sydney, Australia.
“The fiddle was definitely common ground for us when we first got together,” MacMaster, a Member of Order of Canada since 2006, recalls with a chuckle. “But I was so in awe of Donnell’s family, of 11 siblings who could play and had a family band. And here I am now doing almost exactly the same thing. Well, kind of.”
MacMaster is referring to her and Leahy’s six musically gifted children, who today are the centrepiece of the MacMaster/Leahy live set though not because the couple necessarily envision showbiz careers for Mary Frances, Michael, Clare, Julia and Alec (Sadie’s only 3).
Rather, the pair realized early on that being on the road without their kids was infinitely harder than touring with them. That the children were already being home schooled (MacMaster has a teaching degree) made enacting that decision easier.
Perhaps ironically, blending their personal lives proved much easier for MacMaster and Leahy than merging their highly distinctive Celtic-rooted musical styles, which explains why the One album arrived more than a decade after their wedding even though the pair played together often.
“With Donnell, I had to listen more deeply to subtleties in his music so that I wouldn’t muscle over them,” MacMaster says, noting that she met One producer Ezrin (see also Alice Cooper, KISS, Lou Reed) when guesting on singer Johnny Reid’s 2013 A Christmas Gift to You album.
MacMaster continues: “I also had to try and roll with his rhythm. Having said that, I still play in my Cape Breton style. Only about 40 percent of our show is us playing together. The other 60 percent is arrangements where we each take turns or are playing alone.”
MacMaster pauses and reflects. “This whole thing – first playing music by myself, then playing music with Donnell, then touring with Donnell and the children and all of us playing music together – has evolved in a very natural way.
To learn more about MacMaster and Leahy, CLICK HERE!
To listen to their music, CLICK HERE!