» February 20, 2011
August 23, 2008
September 30, 2007
January 11, 2007
» March 24 2006
» December 5, 2005
» June 24, 2005
» Octobber 15, 2004
» January 20, 2004
» December 24, 2002
» May 9, 2002
» February 16, 2002
» September 6, 2001
» March 13, 2001
» October 7, 2000
» June 8, 2000
» February 29, 2000


» 2011 News & Press
» 2010
News & Press
» 2009 News & Press
» 2008 News & Press
» 2007 News & Press
» 2006 News & Press
» 2005 News
» 2004 News
» 2003 News
» 2002 News
» 2001 News




December 30, 2006
The Rose a hit with East Coast fiddler
By Tina Depko, Brampton Guardian

Natalie MacMaster created quite a buzz when she recently played her first concert at the Rose Theatre. The fiddler has a large fan base here in Brampton, fostered by years of performances at the Heritage Theatre. Her Dec. 15 concert date was the first event to sell out when The Rose's professional entertainment series was announced this summer.

"It is really wonderful to think that people are so excited about down home music," MacMaster said in an interview with The Brampton Guardian. "I'm always amazed at how well the fiddle music translates to people. I think it is because it comes from the heart."

The Juno Award-winning musician said she was happy with her performance, but even more so with the new hall.

"It was a beautiful place to play, no question about it," she said in her thick East Coast accent. "I like that it holds a lot of people, but they are close to you since the theatre is wide and isn't too deep."

It is not difficult to see why MacMaster is such a draw. The 34-year-old has a friendly demeanour and, more importantly, plays a mean fiddle. She breaks down the barriers of traditional concert-going by encouraging the audience to clap and dance along to her lively reels, strathspeys and jigs.

"A big part of a show is audience interaction," she verified. "I want to make them feel like I've been playing with them as opposed to being on stage separated from them."

MacMaster and husband Donnell Leahy have a one-year-old daughter, Mary Frances Rose, who comes along on all of her mom's tours.

The fiddler delighted the Brampton audience with the surprise announcement that she is also three months pregnant. MacMaster said she is "blessed" to be having another child. During the interview with The Guardian, she added that she doesn't foresee setting down her fiddle to raise her family, although the extent of her touring and recording may be have to be altered over time.

"I have to make music - it is in my blood," she said. "Whether it is in a square dance hall or Carnegie Hall, it doesn't matter as long as I'm making music. It is going to get harder as my daughter gets older and she has to be home to go to school. At that point we'll tailor our schedule again for what works for the kids. They are number 1."

MacMaster is taking a month off for Christmas before embarking on an extensive tour of the U.S. starting Jan. 23. She said audiences can't seem to get enough of fiddle music south of the border.

"I think the Americans look at it as something foreign and they get very excited about it because it isn't theirs," she said. "They are a really exuberant crowd down there."

When asked if there is a goal she is working towards, MacMaster replied she already has everything she could ever want.

"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 stated. "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."

December 18, 2006
9 Famous Canadians share their holiday memories
By Julie Hunter, Canadian Living (Jan. 2007 edition)


"Last year, a few days before Christmas, everyone gathered together at my brother-in-law's place in Lakefield, Ont. The night was spectacular -- it was one of those beautiful, clear nights, where the light of the full moon reflects off the snow and everything looks bright. My brother-in-law hitched up his team of horses with a large sleigh
and took the whole party down into the woods where a large campfire was waiting for us. I had never been on a sleigh ride before, and it was awesome! With the fire, the moon and the night, Christmas was in the air for sure."

-- Natalie MacMaster, Juno Award-winning fiddler.

December 15, 2006
MacMaster is the real deal
Performance leaves us asking: When will she record an album of seasonal songs?
By Robert Reid, The Record

Peruse the holiday section of any music store and you'll find an inordinate amount of Celtic Christmas music. Look closely at the artists involved and you'll discover that many of the seasonal albums appeal to marketing niche rather than present authentic Celtic music. Ironically, one of Canada's genuine Celtic artists has yet to record a seasonal album, even though she performs popular holiday concerts. Natalie MacMaster, who brought her holiday concert to a multi-generational, sold-out audience at the River Run Centre on Thursday night, is the real deal. Related to Buddy MacMaster, one of the world's greatest traditional Celtic fiddlers, not to mention Cape Breton bad boy Ashley MacIsaac and the recently deceased John Allan Cameron, who began popularizing the music of Cape Breton in the 1960s, MacMaster started playing fiddle and step-dancing when she was a wee lass.
Celtic music pedigree doesn't get any purer.

MacMaster reaffirmed the adage about the show going on with verve, spunk and vivacity. Three-and-a-half months pregnant with her second child and suffering from the flu (which means she can't take medication), she played and danced like a trouper. She revealed her condition to the audience in the event she had to suddenly leave the stage.
At concert's end, she expressed her gratitude.

"I feel like we've been in it together. Thank you for your support tonight."
She also received support from family. Her husband, Leahy lead fiddler Donnell Leahy, drove down from their home outside of Lakefield, Ont. to be on hand in case he had to pinch hit for his wife.

She acknowledged his support by inviting him on stage for a duet of The Anniversary Waltz. It was a lovely moment. But it was also fascinating to compare and contrast the styles of two accomplished fiddlers. Dressed in crimson satin, MacMaster resembled an elegantly wrapped present, flanked by festive Christmas trees on either side of the stage.
Most of the concert consisted of medleys of fiddle tunes from Cape Breton, proving that artists don't have to perform a complete program of holiday music to capture the seasonal spirit. She also performed Volcanic Jig, an original tune from her recently released 10th album, Yours Truly.

This doesn't mean holiday music was forgotten.

She offered a lovely version of O Holy Night - "my all-time, favourite Christmas hymn," she said - in addition to a seasonal medley of It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Silver Bells, Let It Snow, Winter Wonderland and Sleigh Ride. She also accompanied guitarist Brad Davidge as he warbled his way through Mel Torme's Christmas Song (chestnuts roasting on an open fire).

MacMaster is a generous performer. She shared the spotlight with her band (which also appears on Yours Truly) including pianist Mac Morin, drummer Miche Pouliot, bassist Shane Hendrickson and Matt MacIsaac on bagpipes, banjo and whistle. Morin received an especially enthusiastic applause when he took centre stage and played a Gaelic song (Alas For Me) and a fiddle tune, The Devil and the Dirt, on the grand piano. The second set opened with MacIsaac demonstrating his mastery of the warpipes with a stirring solo medley.
Given the popularity of seasonal albums - can you name an artist who hasn't recorded one? - coupled with the popularity of MacMaster's holiday concert, the question begs answering.

When will the sweetheart of Cape Breton fiddle music record a seasonal album?
One thing is guaranteed. A seasonal album from the fiddle of Natalie MacMaster would be a winner - whether recorded in the studio or live on stage.

December 14, 2006

East Coast Music Awards
Natalie has been nominated for two East Coast Music Awards (ECMA) for:
Female Artist of the Year and Roots Traditional Solo Album (for Yours Truly).
The ECMA's take place February 2007 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
www.ecma.ca for more information.

Folk Alliance Award
Natalie has also been nominated for a Folk Alliance Award for Traditional Artist of the Year.
Award Winners will be presented in Memphis, Tennessee in February 2007.
www.folkalliance.org for more information.

December 6, 2006
Master of her domain
By Jim Barber, Barrie Advance

Not long after Mary Frances Leahy entered the world nearly a year ago, her mom, noted Canadian fiddler Natalie MacMaster took one look at the cute and cuddly little newborn, then looked up at her father Donnell Leahy and claimed she would never be able to tour again.

The pull of the maternal instinct told MacMaster that she could never bear to part with her child for any length of time.

Fortunately for her, Mary Frances, and the tens of thousands of fans who would have missed her high-spirited live performances, including those coming to see her at Georgian College's Gryphon Theatre on Dec.
8, she brings the youngster along for the ride, meaning she rarely misses a moment with mommy, and mommy is still able to bring the joy of the Cape Breton fiddle to audiences around the world.

"[About two weeks after] she was born, I had some shows coming up in two months, and I said to Donnell, 'I think we need to cancel them.'
And he said 'just give yourself another two weeks, let a month pass,'" she told Orillia Today from her home just outside of Lakefield, Ontario.

"And jumpin, things just kind of changed. I got broken in, so to speak, and adapted, and Mary Frances got a little stronger and better. And I was like, 'okay, I can do this.' And when I actually did go out on the road, I found it almost easier, because I had help on the road ... I had somebody totally dedicated to me and my baby.
Actually, it was my mother."

MacMaster added, though, that if any part of the touring life were to impact negatively in any way on little Mary Frances, she wouldn't hesitate to shut things down.

"So far so good. Everything's been fine and everything's been doable and manageable and enjoyable, but the priorities are still what they should be. My family is first. And if that starts to suffer, or it there is anything negative affecting Mary Frances, then we have to modify it."

MacMaster's swing through Barrie is part of a Canadian tour to support her recently-released album Yours Truly. Full of peppy and emotive reels, jigs and the finest of traditional Cape Breton songwriting, Yours Truly also features a stirring rendition of the classic Danny Boy, featuring the soulful vocals of former Doobie Brothers singer, and noted solo artist, Michael McDonald.

"I met him at a TV special we were shooting with the Boston Pops and Michael McDonald was the other special guest, and they asked us to do something together, so he chose Danny Boy," she explained.

But the evening's show ran over the allotted time for television and the two never had a chance to perform the song.

"And we thought, well gosh, we've worked on it, let's do something with it. So I said that I was recording ... and so I invited him to be on it. And he said yes, and he sent me the tracks about a month later. He's a really nice guy."

There is also a sad lament for the late television newscaster, and native-born Canadian, Peter Jennings, called Farewell to Peter.

MacMaster said she was asked to perform at his memorial services, and wanted something new and original to play for the assembled mourners.

"It was actually written three years ago. Myself and my guitar player, Brad Davidge were in the dressing room at a hockey rink, and we were just noodling around, I was playing some melodies and he was just chording and it actually just came together in five minutes,"
MacMaster said. "And it want nameless for two years ... I always liked it and had it sitting there, and then when Peter Jennings' wife called me and asked me to play at the memorial service at Carnegie Hall, I thought of that tune and said, 'you know, that's going to be Peter's tune.' Because it just sounded like him. It was a sad piece, but very sweet."

MacMaster didn't even know Jennings was a fan until one day, years ago, she came home and found a message from the ABC news anchor on her answering machine.

"He was inviting me to be on his ABC New Year's Eve special and that's how I met him. Apparently he was a huge fan, and he asked me on a couple more things after that. And he even called me a couple of times saying he was coming to Cape Breton with his wife and (asking) where should they go. And I hooked him up with my mom and she hooked him up with all the hot spots."

The memorial service was also quite an experience.

"There was Barbara Walters and Larry King and all sorts of fancy people," she said. "And my God, the musicians there were incredible; Yo-Yo Ma, Alison Krauss and Wynton Marsalis, just amazing people."

MacMaster has always felt compelled to bring the traditional music of her home region of Cape Breton to a wider world.

She and husband Donnell, who still tours and records with his family act, Leahy, started the Internet radio station Cape Breton Live a year ago. Its purpose is to showcase indigenous artists and music on the World Wide Web.

"It's all live, and it's just great for people wanting to hear Cape Breton music. It's different every week. They put a new show on every Sunday and it plays through the week. It's great for all the displaced Cape Bretoners."

A link for the radio website can be accessed at her website.

For her work in promoting her musical roots, as well as for her charitable work, MacMaster, at 34, became one of the youngest people to be named to the Order of Canada. The announcement came last summer, but a date for the ceremony has yet to be announced.

"It's just awesome. It's totally an honour and it's very unexpected.
It's something that you never ever think of or aspire to, and then one day it happens ... I don't know what it all means but I like it,"
she said.

Yours Truly is available in stores now, and tickets for MacMaster's Dec. 8 show at the Gryphon theatre are available at the box office at Georgian College.

December 2006
Straight from the Heart: Macmaster's album, Your's Truly
By Robert L. Doerschuk, Strings Magazine

When you make your name in a form of music that's based on tradition, every new project poses the same question: Do you respect or stretch the boundaries? Grammy-nominated fiddler Natalie MacMaster's answer on Yours Truly is to do both by drawing from the conventions of Cape Breton while tinkering with details: The opening notes of "Volcanic Jig," for example, come from the incendiary cello of Rushad Eggleston, though the electric guitar that surfaces in the mix toward the end of the track is a cheekier tweak of the formula. On "Matt and Nat's" a synthesizer joins the overdriven six-string and slamming drums. And the breakdown toward the end of "Flea as a Bird," pairing MacMaster with pianist Allan Dewar in a jig-meets-jazz fandango, is a little surprising and definitely delightful.

The constant in all this is MacMaster's performance. A player of wide expression, she stirs emotion through minimal gesture on the plangent "Farewell to Peter," in remembrance of her longtime friend, the late news anchor Peter Jennings. Then, on "Mother Nature," behind a wordless vocal chant, she drives the rhythm section with a precisely articulated ostinato, her bow bouncing on the low strings, which blossoms into a fluid line during the bridge.

Some tracks are more questionable, especially "Danny Boy," featuring Michael McDonald's umpteenth guest vocal this season, this time on a tune that's a little too obvious yet not wellsuited to his furry baritone. And the last track, "Interlude," is cute the first time you hear it, though MacMaster's spoken thanks to her colleagues, family, husband, and God, as well as her sighing assurance that "I just love music," pale upon repetition.

Still, her exploratory instinct, not to mention her infectious brio, is what we've come to
expect­in this regard, at least, it's good to not be surprised.

Yours Truly features: Natalie MacMaster, fiddle; Rushad Eggleston and Natalie Haas, cello; Matt MacIsaac, bagpipes; Jens Krüger, banjo; Brad Davidge, guitar; Allan Dewar or Erin Leahy, piano; Denis Keldie, organ; Alexander Sevastian, accordion; John Chiasson, bass; Michel Pouliot and Tom Jackson, drums; and Mary Frances Leahy, coos and cries. (Rounder, 11661-7065-2)

Excerpted from Strings magazine, 2007, No.145

November 22, 2006

I am very sorry to hear of the passing of my cousin, John Allan Cameron. But I am comforted by the fact that his suffering is over.

John Allan Cameron's music was passionate, raw and honest, reflecting who he was and where he came from. He was a master at communicating his craft, delivering it with great spark and authority. One could not help but be hypnotized by his performances.

He spent much of his life sharing the joy of music with the world, but those who knew him personally understand that his character was even more joyful, brilliant and dynamic. He went through life with a skip in this step, a smile on his face and some humorous story to set the mood.

John Allan Cameron will be missed and remembered.

~ Natalie

November 7, 2006

Celt In A Twist: Apart from all her marvelous musical gifts, Natalie MacMaster is one of those rare entertainers who makes each of her gazillion fans feel as though he or she has a very personal and convivial relationship with the Cape Breton fiddler. Her new album is a salutation that each of us can take to heart, because, as it always has, that’s where her music is coming from. Natalie joins me by phone to chat a bit about Yours Truly.
It’s great to talk with you again, Natalie.

Natalie MacMaster: Yah, it’s great to talk with you too!

CIAT: How’s your family especially your latest addition, Mary Frances Rose? She’s what, a year old now?

NM: She’s 11 months old now and she’s just wonderful. I’ve been touring with her. She goes with me everywhere (baby gurgles in the background). She’s really good on the road. I actually have her with me now. We’re off to surprise my husband who’s also on tour with Leahy and we just showed up today to surprise him. We have three days off from our own tour so … lot’s of traveling but fun stuff.

CIAT: How does that work, touring with your little girl. Do you get some help with that?”

NM: I do. I have a relative who comes with me on every tour, either my mother, my cousin or my sister-in-law. It works out really well. It’s hard sometimes when Donnell (Leahy, her husband) and I are touring at the same time; we’re apart for maybe two or three weeks. But, you know, time passes and that’s what we do for a living, so it’s totally manageable.

CIAT: Is it too early to say whether she’s showing any musical inclination at this point?

NM: Definitely! When she hears music she gets calm. It makes her peaceful and relaxed and sometimes she’ll fall asleep. Sometimes she will dance to it but she always gets more focused. Whatever she’s doing, she just sort of relaxes and focuses on the music.

CIAT: Congratulations on the new album. There are some real standout tracks which I want to touch on. But let’s start with the delicate tribute to Peter Jennings. How did make known to you that he was a fan?

NM: I was living in an apartment in Halifax and I got home one day and was check my voice messages and there was one from Peter Jennings asking me to come and perform in New York on his ABC New Years Eve Special in 2002. I was just shocked to get a call from him because I had never met him before. But, it turns out he was a real fan and he had us on his show and I met him a couple of times after that and we kept in touch so that was really nice.

CIAT: And, how did the Michael MacDonald treatment of Danny Boy come about? Was that something he just had to get off his chest or was that your idea?

NM: It was my idea, sort of. It was his idea in the beginning. What happened was we were both performing on a TV special for the Boston Pops. We were both guests on that show and they asked us to do collaboration together. He suggested Danny Boy, so we worked out the number for Danny Boy. It turned out that since this was for TV, they ran out of time and that was the number that they cut. So, after doing the preparation work for it and all of that, I said to Michael, “You know, I’m actually working on a record right now. It would be lovely to have you come on as a guest. Would you be into that?” And, he was like, “Sure!” So, he graciously agreed and sent me the tracks about a week later.

CIAT: You’ve got your Celt in a Twist and we’ve got Natalie McMaster online to give us the inside on Yours Truly, not me, the new album. Visit her at nataliemacmaster.com for some cute as a bug baby pictures of Mary Frances Rose. Catch up with Natalie’s fascinating road journal as well.

The thing I always admired about you, Natalie, is the way you seem to anticipate my tastes in contemporary Celtic. In My Hands came out at a time when I was consumed with Celtronica. Then you released Blueprint, when I was starting to explore the cross-influence of Celtic and Bluegrass. Now, I’m really digging the new chamber sound of bands like Nickel Creek and Crooked Still and especially the percussive cello playing of Natalie Haas. And, there she is on your new record. Tell me how that collaboration came about.

NM: Well, I met Natalie Haas at the Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp many, many years ago. I teach there every year. And, I would say there’s a new breed of cellists out there.

CIAT: Exactly!

NM: Yah, they have all of the skills of a classical musician but they have all the workings of a fiddler, so to speak. They play fiddle tunes on the instrument. They do rhythmic bow movements and they funkify it. So, it’s a great combination and I just love it! I really, really do. I love the class of it and I love the groove. So, I have her on there and Rushad Eggleston, another of those great cellists.

CIAT : Well, the Volcanic Jig that kicks off the album is just amazing. This is a new label for you as well isn’t it?

NM: Yes, it is actually. It’s not your standard label (www.foreignmediamusic.com ); it’s more of a distribution deal. I’ve been through many different labels and all kinds of different structures for my records, and this is a good one. It’s working very well for us right now.

CIAT: We’re going out on one of my favorites from Yours Truly called Matt & Nat’s. I assume you’re the Nat half of that equation.

NM: That’s right! And, the other half is Matt MacIsaac, the piper in my band. Matt & Nat’s was originally just a working title for the tune and I couldn’t come up with anything better, and I thought it was kind of cute so … and it’s just a reel. It’s the treatment that makes it unique. It’s heavy, very heavy … lot’s of electric guitar.

Natalie MacMaster was interviewed November 7th by Cal Koat for broadcast on Celt In A Twist

October 8, 2006
'Round the world with MacMaster. Troy fiddler joined by artists from U.S., New Zealand, Galicia at 10th Celtic Colours
Stephen Cooke, Halifax Herald

WHEN CELTIC COLOURS called the first concert of its 10th anniversary year Natalie MacMaster: Bringing the World Home, they weren't kidding.

They managed to scour three corners of the globe to find performers who could share the stage with the talented Troy fiddler, and came up all aces with first-time visitors U.S. banjoist extraordinaire Bela Fleck and New Zealand singer Hayley Westenra, and a festival favourite, Galician piper Carlos Nunez.

On Friday night, the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre rang with the sounds of some of the best musicians in the world, even attracting a few dignitaries like Premier Rodney MacDonald, MP and ACOA minister Peter MacKay and of course Mayor Billy Joe MacLean.

But it was the artistry onstage that had everyone's attention, with nearly 2,000 concertgoers there to see who MacMaster had chosen for her special Celtic Colours kickoff.

The fiddler got things started with a ripsnorting reel, backed by her five-piece touring band, while a battery of cameras captured the show from multiple angles for a PBS TV special.

"I've waited for tonight for a very long time," said MacMaster, catching her breath between numbers. "We're so very proud to be part of Celtic Colours, one of the best festivals in the world.

"They're taping us for PBS, which is very nerve wracking, but very exciting at the same time. I'm just glad to be at home doing it and that all of you could be a part of it.""

Then MacMaster performed a solo stepdance with only drummer Miche Pouliot driving her on with a martial beat towards a hip-swivelling finish. "They're backstage wiping sweat off me, but I don't mind, it feels good to sweat."

"Now to put you guys to work," she grinned, eyeing the band. With that they launched into a minor key jig with a dark, earthy feel, then into a reel with MacMaster driving it with fast cuts of the bow, and finally a dance from MacMaster while piper Matt MacIsaac blew a tune.

"I think I could use that powder now," she adlibbed.

MacMaster talked about how important music was to her home life growing up in Troy, a constant presence in her house and the homes of her friends and family.

"Celtic Colours is an extension of that," she explained, "with the music integrated into the spirit of the people and the beauty of the countryside." With that, she and her band sat in a semicircle and played a downhome ""blast of tunes;"" a set of strathspeys and reels in G, with MacIsaac switching to banjo. Even when she's sitting down, MacMaster can't keep still, as her feet pounded a sharp tattoo to the beat of the music.

After the stirring melody of Blue Bonnets Over the Border, with the added texture of Wendy Solomon's cello and Bob Quinn on keyboards, MacMaster could barely contain her excitement at being able to ""bring Bela to Cape Breton."

The famed banjo explorer didn't disappoint, with a solo medley that stretched from bluegrass to the clear blue sky of his own blend of folk and jazz, with his lickey-split picking tossing in a refrain from The Beverly Hillbillies just to keep listeners on their toes. Then Fleck, MacMaster and pianist Mac Morin performed as a trio, with the two stringed instrument players engaging in playful counterpoint, with Flecks syncopated plucking meshing with MacMaster's smooth bowing. Thank goodness the PBS cameras were there to capture it for posterity.

Then, to celebrate the fourth anniversary of their wedding at Stella Maris parish, just up the highway, MacMaster performed a duet with fiddling husband Donnell Leahy on - what else? - the Anniversary Waltz, with the familiar melody soaring in the hands of the two master musicians. As an added surprise, their mothers Minnie MacMaster and Julie Leahy performed an impromptu stepdance to the hearty whoops of the crowd.

Announced by MacMaster as someone "I'd like to adopt as the sister I never had," Westenra dazzled the crowd with a gorgeous rendition of Ave Maria, backed by MacMaster and Solomon, and Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now, accompanied by Fleck. Her rich tone and impressive note control, with no excess filigree or window dressing, explain why the New Zealand teen has been consistently wowing crowds since her debut.

After a brief intermission, MacMaster and her band returned with two songs from her brand new CD Yours Truly, Volcanic Jig and Flea as a Bird introducing rock and jazz elements and showcasing guitarist Brad Davidge to good advantage.

Piper Nunez, delayed earlier by a bomb scare in Paris, proceeded to blow listeners away with his seasoned blend of musicianship and showmanship. He started with a mournful air, with an almost Arabic feel, before tearing into a furious jig, his fingers a blur on the chanter, letting out a series of whoops in a display of pure musical abandon. Next was an all-star trio of Nunez with MacMaster and Fleck, with their three distinct tones coming through loud and clear, a tribute to the sound crew on duty that evening.

As the show built to a climax, the musicians gathered in the centre of the stage for a set MacMaster titled Madness where "we'll just do whatever we want to do and see what happens." What happened was dynamic, with MacMaster playing a reel with her own personal flair, Morin taking a deft piano solo, Nunez playing the wooden flute with the speed of a hummingbird's heartbeat, Fleck contributing a flow of nimble triplets and MacIsaac blowing a lively jig on the tin whistle.

Then Westenra generated whoops of recognition with the first few bars of Kenzie MacNeil's Cape Breton anthem The Island, and it's hard to imagine the familiar melody ever sounding lovelier.

As if that wasn't enough of a finale, MacMaster was joined by Judique fiddling icon and uncle Buddy MacMaster for an emotional duet backed by 90 members of the Cape Breton Fiddlers' Association.

The theme of the concert was bringing the world to Cape Breton, but this heartwarming moment was a strong reminder that Cape Breton is also a world unto itself.

October 6, 2006
Natalie MacMaster: She's got the whole world in her bow hand
Natalie MacMaster kicks off Celtic Colours tonight with ‘the biggest show’ of her career
Laura Jean Grant - the Cape Breton Post

PORT HAWKESBURY — She’s performed at Carnegie Hall, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and with Luciano Pavarotti.

But it’s tonight’s Bringing the World Home show that Natalie MacMaster is describing as the “biggest show” of her illustrious career.

The performance at the Civic Centre in Port Hawkesbury kicks off the 10th edition of the Celtic Colours International Festival.

MacMaster says the original idea came more than two years ago from her husband, Donnell Lahey, who envisioned Natalie “bringing the world home” now that she’s taken her own music to the world.

Although she loved the idea and felt Celtic Colours would be an ideal setting, the timing wasn’t quite right for last year’s festival as she was expecting her first baby.

This year, everything came together and MacMaster is excited to be back in Cape Breton for a few days, not only for the show, but to celebrate some family milestones. Earlier this week, daughter Mary Frances turned 10 months old and she and Donnell celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary.

“This time four years ago I was excited for my wedding and it’s funny to be here at this time again, doing probably . . . the biggest show of my career,” she said. “It’s pretty neat.”

The show, which will be televised on PBS at a later date, features MacMaster, her band and a number of special guests.

“The world is being represented by three artists: Béla Fleck from the (United) States on banjo, Carlos Núñez from Spain on pipes and Hayley Westenra from New Zealand on classical vocals,” she explained, adding that there will also be “a few surprises.”

MacMaster says Celtic Colours organizers should be commended.

“I think it’s a wonderful festival,” she said. “It’s very well thought out and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”

MacMaster isn’t the only one brimming with excitement today. Celtic Colours organizers are thrilled to have one of the festival’s strongest supporters headlining their opening show.

“Natalie has been with us from the first year and every second year, at least, she’s played the festival,” said festival co-director Joella Foulds. “It’s a big 10th anniversary project for us to be part of this and because it’s going to have coverage on PBS with millions of viewers across the U.S. , it’s a very good thing for Celtic Colours.”

The Celtic Colours International Festival includes concerts, shows, workshops and special events in communities across Cape Breton. Some of Cape Breton’s finest singers, musicians and dancers will be joined by artists from as far away Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Denmark, Spain, New Zealand, England, the United States and across Canada for the nine-day celebration of Celtic music and culture.

Visit www.celtic-colours.com for a complete schedule.

October 4, 2006
Bringing the world home
Natalie MacMaster returns home to Cape Breton with some musician friends
to open the 10th Celtic Colours International Festival.
By STEPHEN COOKE. Halifax Herald

Natalie MacMaster kicks off the 10th anniversary on Friday night at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.  In it's 10 years of existence, the Celtic Colours International Festival has become one of the most impressive traditional music events in North America, bringing talent from around the world to this remote corner of the continent.

And every year, visitors from all over come to hear the brilliant musicians, enjoy the breathtaking autumn scenery and feel the warmth of Cape Breton hospitality.

And it's impossible to imagine any of it happening without the groundwork laid by Cape Breton musicians and international ambassadors like the Barra MacNeils, the Rankin Family, Ashley MacIsaac or Natalie MacMaster, who kicks off this 10th anniversary on Friday night at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.

A native of Troy on Cape Breton's western Ceilidh Trail, MacMaster returns to the festival from her current home in Ontario with husband Donnell Leahy to perform shows and catch up with musical friends. Usually she appears on the Celtic Colours roster every couple of years, and she knew there was something special about the event from the very first time she stepped out onto the stage of one of its many concerts.

"My favourite moment at Celtic Colours was the concert I did with Sharon Shannon," says MacMaster, citing the famed Irish accordionist. "It was in Port Hawkesbury, the first year of the festival, and it was a Gaelic Women show. I just really enjoyed playing with Sharon Shannon, she's amazing.

"Celtic Colours is great, it's a celebration of music, and our culture, and the best part about it is how it takes place all over the island. People from away, and even locals, get to go around the island, and they're not just stuck in one place all the time. And of course there's always good music, and interesting ways of pairing up musicians to keep it sounding fresh."

For her hand-picked roster of guests on Friday night in Port Hawkesbury, MacMaster has included U.S. banjo innovator Bela Fleck, who appeared on her 2003 CD Blueprint, in his Nova Scotia debut; Galician bagpipe virtuoso Carlos Nunez, whose jaw-dropping performances have been a Celtic Colours favourite for the past few years, and chart- popping Australian soprano Hayley Westenra.

"We've got some surprises too, I've got some surprises up my sleeve," says MacMaster excitedly about the show, which will also be recorded for broadcast by PBS. "They're going to be... you know what? This is such a corny term, but it's so true, there will be some magical moments. And I mean it, it's true!"

The surprise up MacMaster's other sleeve is her new CD Yours Truly, which landed in record stores yesterday. Recorded largely with her touring band, it features vibrant, road-tuned performances with Brad Davidge's guitar bursting forth on Volcanic Jig and the sound of Matt MacIsaac's pipes dancing with MacMaster's nimble fiddle on Matt and Nat's.

Over the past few albums, MacMaster has managed to give each record its own singular taste, from completely traditional to contemporary Celtic blends. On Yours Truly, it's a more balanced sound thanks to the use of the musicians she knows best.

"I don't always think they're going to be as unique as they turn out to be," says MacMaster. "I did the Buddy and Natalie record, and that was totally trad, so this year I had a lot of tunes that I was writing that weren't so traditional, and believe it or not I actually liked them. That's rare for me, I usually toss them."

There are special guests on the record, including sister-in-law Erin Leahy and aunt Betty Lou Beaton on piano, First Nations entertainer Tom Jackson on vocals and former Doobie Brother Michael MacDonald on a stirring rendition of Danny Boy, that came about after the two performed on a Boston Pops TV special.

But the best guest clip of all is a cute vocal contributed by 10-month-old daughter Mary Francis on the final track, an instrumental piece that closes out the album.

"It's not really a tune, it's more of a mood piece, and Donell said I should make it a little thing at the end where I say thanks to everyone who helped out with the record.

"It was really hard at that point to get anything out of her, she was so young - just over a week old. So it was hard to get her. There's a bit of crying, you don't want the wail where she's going 'WAAAAAH!' you just want a cute little cry, so it was fun picking the clips."

SEPTEMBER 20, 2006




Cambridge, MA – On October 10, Rounder Records will release Yours Truly – a new studio album from Grammy-nominated fiddler, “spark-plug” (Time Out NY) composer and step-dancer Natalie Mac Master. Produced by MacMaster with her husband, fiddler Donnell Leahy (of the famed Canadian band Leahy), Yours Truly finds the “fiery fiddler” (Paste) continuing to ingeniously incorporate new sounds and concepts into her rich Cape Breton musical heritage.

Featuring members of her dynamic road band alongside such acoustic music luminaries as Rushad Eggleston (cello), Jens Krüger (banjo), and Natalie Haas (cello), Yours Truly boasts

a wide-range of evocative originals and timeless traditional numbers steeped in the driving rhythms and soaring tonalities unique to Cape Breton. Among the album’s most touching moments are “Farewell to Peter,” an original tribute to Mac Master’s friend, the late journalist Peter Jennings, and a stirring rendition of “Danny Boy” featuring soulful lead vocals from Michael McDonald.

Yours Truly follows up 2003’s Blueprint (Rounder) which combined Mac Master’s brilliant fiddle playing with the best of American roots instrumentalists and won her “Best Female Artist of the Year” and “Best Roots/Traditional Solo Recording” at Canada’s East Coast Music Awards in 2005. Recently, Mac Master was one of the youngest people ever named a member of the Order of Canada – Canada’s highest civilian honor – for her extensive contributions to Canadian culture and her tireless efforts to bring the music of Cape Breton to an ever-increasing number of listeners.

Mac Master and her band kick off an extensive U.S. tour this fall to celebrate the release of Yours Truly. Tour dates are listed on the schedule page. More information is available at www.rounder.com or

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.

For more information, please contact:
Jennifer Sacca at 617.218.4503 or email
Lauren Calista at 617.218.4483 or email

September 27, 2006
Yours Truly, Natalie MacMaster
By: ChartAttack.com Staff

Fiddle mistress Natalie MacMaster, who in many ways has become the face of Celtic music from Atlantic Canada, will release her Yours Truly album via KOCH Records on October 3.

MacMaster's instrumental prowess has made her an international music ambassador, and she's moved beyond the traditional Celtic tunes of her youth to add her own contemporary spin to music that still respects its roots. Such respected musicians as Alison Krauss, Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas have contributed to her albums, four of which have been certified gold for selling more than 50,000 copies in Canada.

The squeaky-voiced MacMaster is the niece of famed Cape Breton, Nova Scotia fiddler Buddy MacMaster, with whom she recorded a tribute album last year. She became one of the youngest people ever to receive the Order Of Canada in July, and has numerous other awards and honours to her credit. She's shared the stage with the likes of Santana, Paul Simon, Luciano Pavarotti, Faith Hill and Don Henley, and has performed on Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien's late-night talk shows.

MacMaster married another fiddle whiz, Leahy's Donnell Leahy, in 2002. They had their first child last year, but that hasn't slowed the new mother down.

Leahy and MacMaster co-produced Yours Truly, her 10th album. It features a mix of traditional numbers and originals, including a rendition of "Danny Boy" sung by Doobie Brother Michael McDonald and "Farewell To Peter," which MacMaster wrote to pay her respects to her friend, the late Canadian newsman, Peter Jennings.

Rounder will release Yours Truly in the U.S. on October 10.

MacMaster will support the new album with an Ontario tour in December that will include these dates:

December 02 - Mississauga, ON @ Living Arts Centre
December 04 - Brantford, ON @ Sanderson Centre
December 06 - North Bay, ON @ Capitol Centre
December 08 - Barrie, ON @ Gryphon Theatre
December 9-10 - St. Catharines, ON @ Brock University
December 14 - Guelph, ON @ River Run Centre
December 15 - Brampton, ON @ Rose Theatre
December 16 - Markham, ON @ Markham Centre
December 18 - Oakville, ON @ Oakville Centre For The Arts

August 27, 2006
Happy birthday, Saanich!
Fiddler Natalie MacMaster teams up with symphony at UVic concert
By Amanda Farrell, Victoria Times

A modest but appreciative crowd helped Saanich celebrate 100 years at UVic's
Centennial Stadium Saturday.

While the large track field and empty bleachers seemed to dwarf the crowd
during parts of the festivities, they proved to be a fitting backdrop as the  sun set and the music of the Victoria Symphony and Juno award-winning fiddler Natalie MacMaster filled the stadium.

The audience was treated to performances from jugglers, clowns, and the Greater Victoria Police Pipes and Drums Band as well as a round of Saanich trivia before the symphony took the stage and opened with Also Sprach
Zarathustra, a.k.a. the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Maestra Tania Miller drew some chuckles from the crowd by dedicating the opening piece to the recently demoted planet Pluto. But it was Cape Breton native MacMaster who stole the show.

Wearing a sparkling tank top, the energetic fiddler and her golden curls
bounced and bobbed seamlessly between soulful pieces such as If Ever You Were
Mine and upbeat numbers like Carnival Medley.

MacMaster's performance was greeted with lengthy bouts of applause and the
Order of Canada recipient took the time between tunes to banter with the
audience and offer a glimpse into the history behind her music.

The evening marked the end of Saanich's centennial festivities, which kicked
off in March.

Photo: Fiddler Natalie McMaster and Victoria Symphony Orchestra play to an
appreciative crowd at Centennial Stadium in the finale of Saanich Centennial
celebrations on Saturday. Photograph by : Debra Brash, Times Colonist

August 25, 2006
Famed fiddler performs
By Amy Dove, Oak Bay News

There might not be an eloquent way to describe the marriage between Cape Breton fiddle music and an orchestra, but the message comes across loud and clear on stage.

"You don't hear orchestras playing fiddle tunes very often," said Natalie MacMaster with her twangy Cape Breton accent.

MacMaster takes the stage with the Victoria Symphony Saturday, Aug. 26 for the grand finale of the Saanich centennial celebrations. Playing with a trio of piano, guitar and fiddle from her own band backed by a full orchestra is nothing short of powerful, MacMaster said.

"There is also a delicateness and a sweetness and a strength. There are so many different levels."

Each show is tailored to the audience: Saturday's offering will feature more traditional music. MacMaster started fiddling at the age of nine, but is now breaking out from traditional Celtic music to add jazz and Latin influences to her sound.

One thing is for sure however - she is sticking to her roots.

"The last thing I want to be is a rock band and there is always a tendency of that if you don't watch it," she said.

With plans to take the music back to a more traditional fiddle tone, working with symphonies continues to be a highlight in her tour schedule.

"I don't do many of them. They are very much a treat."

MacMaster and her band will perform with the Victoria Symphony Saturday Aug. 26. Gates open at 6 p.m. with the show scheduled for 7:15 p.m. at the University of Victoria Centennial Stadium. Tickets were still available at the UVic Ticket Centre Wednesday. The centre is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will remain open all day Saturday. For more information contact 721-8480 or www.auditorium.uvic.ca.

August 24, 2006
Concert a family affair for new mom MacMaster
By Sarah Petrescu - Victoria Times Colonist

For Natalie MacMaster, the joy of touring now includes stepping off the stage and having her nine-month-old daughter, Mary Frances Rose, there to greet her.

"It's the best thing in the world," says the Cape Breton fiddle sensation. "I couldn't imagine leaving her behind for any length of time. She loves the music, too."

MacMaster is taking a well-deserved break at the Lakeside, Ont., home she shares with husband, Donnell Leahy, a fellow fiddler and Cape Bretoner, and member of the popular group Leahy.

Summer is usually a busy time for musicians, with flurries of music festivals across the continent hungry to book a toe-tapping fiddle dynamo.  With a new baby and two touring schedules to manage, MacMaster says it's tricky to keep the season a family affair.

"I try to make summer not so busy, but it's a bit inevitable," she says. She's looking forward to her concert in Victoria this weekend because it will be a rare occasion when the whole family will come along -- and take a few days to relax here afterward.

"We never take time off, so this is a very special little vacation for us," MacMaster says.

She will play with the Victoria Symphony at Centennial Stadium Saturday to mark the final hurrah of the Saanich Centennial celebrations.

MacMaster compares having a full orchestra as her backup band to being on a luxury cruise ship. She recently played the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and has played with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. 

"My little 10-piece band feels like a speed boat in comparison; we can zip around a lot," she says. "But having all those extra musicians can feel very powerful and wonderful."

They will play MacMaster's own tunes and a mix of traditional Cape Breton Island music, which Victoria Symphony Maestra Tania Miller is very excited about.

"I already adore her music and fiddle music in general," says Miller. "As a conductor, what I love about it is that she's leading us. It's her music and our job to feel her groove. It's great to be able to work with artists, pop stars or not, in that way."

MacMaster's career is not of the typical pop star -- and she would probably deny she is one. Like many other kids from her small town of Troy, Nova Scotia, she took up the fiddle young, at the age of nine. Music and dancing were a constant presence in her home. MacMaster's uncle is renowned fiddler Buddy MacMaster.

"Music has always been part of my life and culture," she says.

Few fiddlers/step dancers can claim two spots on the Billboard World Music  Charts, five certified gold records here in Canada (meaning each album sold 50,000-plus copies) and two Juno wins. This July, MacMaster was awarded the Order of Canada, an honour she was not expecting.

"I was in complete shock when I found out," MacMaster says. "You just do your thing, live your life and try to do well in music. Then something like this surprises you and it does feel wonderful."

MacMaster has been called an ambassador for the east coast, bringing Cape Breton culture to the masses through her high-energy shows and cross-genre musical appeal.

Last year, she and Leahy started the [online] radio show Cape Breton Live which features live concert recordings from the island. 

"People from around the world listen online. Whether they're from Cape Breton or not, they enjoy a glimpse into the culture," MacMaster says.

She will release her 10th recording, Yours Truly, this fall. The album is the first to be dominated by MacMaster's own tunes.

"It's exciting and it was time," she says.

"I've never gone after a radio hit. That's not my appeal. I think the people who like my music and concerts will be very pleased."

August 14, 2006
Fiddler Natalie MacMaster brings Irish energy to Egg
By Michael Lisi, Times Union

ALBANY -- Natalie MacMaster is kinetic.
The Cape Breton Irish fiddle master doesn't stand still on stage. She can't. It's as if she's the human equivalent of a Jolt soft drink. She stops her feet, shouts and dances while she fiddles, all with a big smile on her face. Even when she sat down during a solo by pianist Mac Morin during her Sunday night performance at The Egg, she quietly bounced her foot to the beat.

MacMaster was engaging, entertaining and, of course, energetic at The Egg, romping through a nearly two-hour performance that left fans in the Hart Theatre shouting for more.

MacMaster and her five-piece band wrapped up their current tour -- part of which was spent opening shows for Bela Fleck -- in fine style on Sunday night, stomping through a mix of reels, jigs, strathspeys and clogs that had many of the 450 fans at The Egg tapping their feet and clapping along to her bouncy sound.

She embraced the small but lively crowd, opening the show with a pair of lively reels that showcased her unique musical mix, an amalgam of traditional Irish music, bluegrass, folk, jazz and rock 'n' roll -- the latter driven by drummer Miche Pouliot and bassist Shane Hendrickson.

The fiddler didn't stray too far from her traditional Irish music roots, at one point playfully warning fans that a set of songs called "The Silver Spear" would "bring the Irish out of you."

It was almost impossible to sit still while MacMaster and her band played the quick, bubbly, selection of reels and jigs.

For her part, MacMaster was a bundle of energy. She bounded around the stage while she sawed at her fiddle, wearing a big grin as she showcased the Cape Breton sound.

That sound, MacMaster explained, has at its core piano and fiddle. She and pianist Morin proceeded to play a set of jigs and reels in the Cape Breton style that were as infectious as they were beautiful.

MacMaster is an amazing fiddler, moving easily from a delicate air to a jig that she slowly accelerates to breakneck speed. She's connected to the traditional sounds, yet she's been able to adapt them to her rock band setup.

She put down her fiddle to do a little dancing, mixing tap with Irish step dancing as she went beat-to-beat with drummer Pouliot. MacMaster shared the spotlight with each member of her band, joining guitarist Brad Davidge on a soulful rendition of "Danny Boy" and jamming with Hendrickson on a Celtic instrumental.

Natalie MacMaster is always fun to listen to and watch. Her show at The Egg on Sunday night was no exception. Michael Lisi is a freelance music critic from Clifton Park and a frequent contributor to the Times Union.

August 13, 2006
After Dark: 'Planet' concert was out of this world
By Geoffrey Gevalt - Burlington Free Press

SHELBURNE -- Picture this: It's late Thursday night on the Shelburne Museum grounds. The rain has come and gone, the sun has returned and set with only a faint last glow in the darkened west behind the stage. On stage right is Future Man.

He is 48 years old; a pirate hat with a white feather tops his longish locks. Hanging from his neck, and embraced by his arms, is his unique invention -- a box with buttons that looks as though it's put together with duct tape, with a fret-like thing poking out its left side. Future Man calls it a Drumitar, a computer synthesizer that creates percussion sounds that depend on where -- and for how long -- Future Man touches the box or
the "fret." The sounds range from cymbals to congas to bass drum to, well, sounds that certainly I hadn't heard before.

So there he is swaying, gyrating, his fingers playing his computerized drum set. He's doing a polka. And a good one at that. Center stage is Del McCoury, a good deal older than 48, with a hairdo reminiscent of the Ozarks in the '50s, almost all white hair combed back and poofed up -- no baldness on this man -- dressed in a light tan suit, tie and dark shirt, strumming a brown guitar and leaning forward to croon closer to the microphone.

Stage left is Victor Wooten, 41-years-old with mini-locks who looks maybe 17 or 18 at the most, who happens to be Future Man's younger brother and, also, one of the best bassists in the country. Wooten has his electric bass resting upright on a stool and is playing it like an acoustic, the rhythm simple, the notes almost humorous, but wait, there's something else. He's doing a polka, too. Sort of.

The complexity of his dance is this: Alan Bartram (dark suit, tie, blue shirt, black hair slicked back), acoustic bassist for McCoury, is rotating around the stool with Wooten and is, at various moments, taking over on the bass from Victor, without missing a note or beat as at times one of them strums while the other does the fingering and vice versa.
They're smiling.

But wait, there's even more, in fact 11 more musicians on stage: the rest of McCoury's band -- mandolin, fiddle, banjo players, two of whom are McCoury's sons; Natalie MacMaster, master fiddler from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and her band including a distant relative on pipes; Bela Fleck, extraordinary fusion/bluegrass/blues banjo player and the other member of his band The Flecktones: Jeff Coffin playing, on this number, a
soprano sax. Future Man and Wooten are, of course, the other Flecktones.

On stage then is the entire Acoustic Planet Tour -- a BELA, 4D melange of races, ages, backgrounds, musical genres -- and they're all doing the first encore, some kind of Tennessee blues/polka/Celtic/funk/bluegrass/jazz fusion number. It's awesome. And so is the final encore, a traditional reel played like never before. And so you have the picture of the end of a four-hour concert that began (shortly after the rain stopped) with MacMaster, segued into McCoury and ended with the Flecktones. There was no break between bands; as one band finished up with its final song individuals from the succeeding band came up and took over, one player at a time, and finished out the song long after the first band had finished. Flawless, fascinating transition.

Each band was superb, MacMaster and her band made you dance, Scottish traditional with Cape Breton drive. McCoury made you smile, the band's tight bluegrass mixed with McCoury's plaintive, twangy voice. The geographic range of the music can be imagined -- from Scotland to North Carolina, Africa to Cape Breton, Nashville to Chicago -- Celtic, bluegrass (with only a hint of Old Timey), jazz, R&B and, well, Future Man. Example? One of the Flecktones' numbers, "P'Lod in the House."

Future Man explained: He wrote the song in a dream. He dreamt that Jeff Coffin, who is also a composer, wrote a new song and it was good. It was about a P'Lod which, Future Man, explained, is "a good alien" who comes to visit on election years and is photographed shaking hands with the future president and the photographs appear all over. "They are never wrong," he said of the P'Lod's ability to choose the winner.
Go figure. The song was just as wigged out, but was also, at the same time, breathtaking. As was Bela Fleck who stretches the range of a banjo like no one in the world.

Some concerts are concerts. Some are good, and some are not so good. And then there are musical experiences, like Thursday, when the audience got something more, something unique. On this night a group of extraordinary musicians -- brought together because of their talent, their eclectic range and their ability to embrace each other's styles -- got together and explored, entertained and made music on a beautiful Vermont evening with no bugs and a gorgeous sunset.

If you were on hand to witness the Acoustic Planet Tour, you know.If you weren't, well, make sure that the next time you have an opportunity, you go.

August 13, 2006
Natalie MacMaster at the Cape Cod Melody Tent
TED Blog online

Every summer I escape California for Cape Cod in hopes of injecting my kids with a little bit of the East Coast. After settling in with the troupes, I quickly check the local papers to see what music and theater is playing during our stay. I've gotten pretty lucky in past years and this year was no exception. What did I see was playing? A double bill of two of my favorite performers -- Bela Fleck and Natalie MacMaster. I have seen Bela Fleck play live a number of times before and am always blown away by his creativity and versatility (on the banjo, no less).

But as virtuosic as Bela Fleck is, the star of this show was Natalie MacMaster. As she did at TED2002 and TED2003, Natalie won over the audience with her charm and exuberance (and a little bit of step-dancing) and then blew everyone away with her astonishing bowing technique, engrossing melodies and the pure musicality of her joyous music. If Natalie comes to your town, you must drop everything and go hear her play. You will thank me.

August 11, 2006
MacMaster waltzes off with 'Highland Fling'
Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times

Natalie MacMaster strode on stage Saturday night with the confident gait of a performer accustomed to commanding a venue — even one as large as the Hollywood Bowl. And she proceeded to do precisely that as the guest performer in a program appropriately titled "The Highland Fling: A Celtic Celebration."

In recent, the Cape Breton-based violinist (she prefers "fiddler") has become one of the principal exponents of the traditional music of the Canadian Atlantic Coast, while crossing over comfortably to other areas in recordings with the likes of Alison Krauss, Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer. This time, she stayed fairly close to tradition with a spirited collection of reels and jigs, accompanied by her own group, as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Bramwell Tovey.

Although her violin work was lively and articulate, enhanced by the intricate melodic ornamentation typical of the Celtic fiddle style, it was MacMaster's overall presentation that was most impactful. Constantly moving, continuing to play as she broke into a spirited step dance at a climactic moment, she offered a complete package of audio and visual delights.

Her version of "The Anniversary Waltz" in a Celtic transformation with the Philharmonic was both unexpected and entrancing. And her energetic duet with concertmaster Alexander Treger combined Bach with a traditional hornpipe, "The Devil's Dream."

The program opened with the orchestra, under Tovey's direction, performing music with Celtic overtones. Mendelssohn's "Hebrides Overture" (also known as "Fingal's Cave"), for all its maritime qualities — he composed it while visiting Scotland's Hebrides Islands — still sounds more European than Celtic. Peter Maxwell Davies' "An Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise" gave the Philharmonic an opportunity to have fun with its depiction of a whisky-drenched wedding party and its early-morning alcoholic aftermath.

Tovey's spontaneous commentaries, filled with wit and whimsy, were an enormous asset — as they could surely be to future Hollywood Bowl concerts.

August 9, 2006
Bela Fleck strings together nonstop Acoustic sensation
By Daniel Gewertz - Boston Herald

At this brilliant, genre-bending show, the best touch of all may have been the set changes. In a maneuver of technical and musical mastery, the three acts of the Acoustic Planet Tour switched sets without a dropped note or a moment’s silence.

Playing a sprightly Cape Breton instrumental, each member of the Natalie MacMaster Band was smoothly replaced mid-tune by a musician in the Del McCoury Band. By the time the groups had changed places, the geography of the music had altered from MacMaster’s Nova Scotia to McCoury’s Tennessee without a missed beat. When the Flecktones took over, the magic act was repeated.

The nonstop three-and-a-half-hour show ended with everyone onstage for the most intricate multicultural hoedown imaginable.

Bespectacled banjo wizard Fleck led his crew in a typical bravura set. ‘‘Kaleidoscope,” one of many tunes from their new CD, ‘‘The Hidden Land,” combined flamenco, Dixieland, bluegrass, modern jazz and Middle Eastern music. Later on, the Beatles’

‘‘Come Together” and the Surfari’s ‘‘Wipe Out” dipped in and out.

The Flecktones are always both supertight and spacey, yet their music’s emotions are growing more apparent. When Jeff Coffin got a bit outside on saxophone, Fleck reined things back in, sometimes all the way to the back porch.

McCoury’s quintet was also in sensational form, mixing songs by Richard Thompson and John Sebastian with gospel and bluegrass. Even Shawn Camp’s cliched ‘‘My Love Will Not Change” was ennobled by hot and impeccable extended instrumental sprees.

If McCoury’s band was the most tradition-bound, MacMaster’s was the most theatrical. Nobody step-dances and fiddles simultaneously with as much verve as MacMaster, who tapped, stepped and high-kicked with post-"’Riverdance" pizzazz.

Her band goosed tradition with just enough rock spirit. And when Fleck joined her for a duet, MacMaster looked as thrilled as any of the 3,500 happy fans attending.

Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, with The Del McCoury Band and Natalie MacMaster. At the Bank of America Pavilion, Monday night.

July 2006
Natalie to attend Leahy Music Camp

Leahy is looking forward to welcoming students of all ages and levels of experience to their first ever music camp. The camp is scheduled to take place from the evening of July 11-14, 2006 at Viamede Resort, www.viamede.com . Viamede is a full-service resort on Stoney Lake, just north of Leahy’s home town of Lakefield.

Participants will receive three full days of instruction in the areas of fiddle, piano, and step-dancing from members of Leahy, Natalie MacMaster, and other special guests. In addition, there will be other scheduled events for participants to enjoy.

"Down time" during the camp schedule will allow participants the opportunity to jam with other students, meet people from across North America, and take advantage of the many recreational facilities at Viamede Resort including swimming, canoeing, tennis, hiking, biking and more

» Download the Brochure & Application Form (PDF)

Please do not hesitate to contact the Leahy office if you have any further questions or concerns. info@leahymusic.com or (705) 652-7376. See you in July ‘06!

July 25, 2006
MacMaster named to Order of Canada
Halifax Herald / Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Fiddler Natalie MacMaster, retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, former newspaper columnist Michele Landsberg and sociologist Reginald Bibby are among 77 people named to the Order of Canada.

Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean named 25 officers and 52 members to the order Monday. Recipients will accept their insignia at a later ceremony, Jean said in a statement.

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 and has three different levels of membership: Companion, Officer and Member.

Three Nova Scotians were named officers to the Order of Canada. They include Constance R. Glube, Halifax, law; Norman Horrocks, Dartmouth, heritage; and Denis Stairs, Halifax, education.

Among the Nova Scotians named as members of the Order are MacMaster, Lakefield, Ont., and Troy, arts-music; Walter Ostrom, Indian Harbour, arts-visual; and Elizabeth Pacey, Halifax, heritage.

June 28, 2006
Celtic Colours welcomes Bela Fleck
Banjo whiz joins global lineup for 10th anniversary of Celtic Music Fest
By Stephen Cooke, Halifax Herald

Global stars of traditional and progressive folk music, as well as a host of local legends and up-and-coming performers, are on tap for the 10th anniversary of Cape Breton’s Celtic Colours International Festival, taking place Oct. 6 to 14.

Multi-Grammy Award-winning modern banjo whiz Bela Fleck, Scottish guitar prodigy Anna Massie, Spanish bagpipe virtuoso Carlos Nunez, stirring singer-songwriter Karine Polwart, balladeer Archie Fisher and the Danish duos Haugaard & Hoirup and Karen + Helene are just a few of the headlining acts that will draw listeners from across the country and around the world to the rainbow-hued splendour of Cape Breton in the fall.

The festival kicks off on Friday, Oct. 6 with the gala concert Natalie MacMaster: Bringing the World Home at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. Featuring the famed Troy fiddler, the show will also include Fleck, Nunez and New Zealand talent Hayley Westenra. Across the island over the next nine days there will be 40 concerts and over 100 workshops, including a collaboration between artists in residence Glendale’s Mary Jane Lamond and Scottish Gaelic singer Mairi MacInnes, tributes to Cape Breton fiddlers Carl MacKenzie and Dr. Winnie Chafe, and the musical blend of the all-star The Unusual Suspects  project.

Other international visitors include British quartet Flook, Scottish trio Bachué, U.S. string trio Ferintosh, the unique Welsh ensemble Crasdant, the Irish-American duo Liz Carroll and John Doyle, the Irish team of Brian OhEadhra and Nuala Kennedy and the irrepressible Scottish duo of longtime festival friend accordionist Phil Cunningham and fiddler Aly Bain.

As always, Celtic Colours serves as a prime showcase for Cape Breton talent, with a lineup of artists that ranges from familiar faces like Jerry Holland, J.P. Cormier and Hilda Chiasson Cormier, Gordie Sampson, Howie MacDonald, Beolach, Buddy MacMaster and the Barra MacNeils to young acts like Dawn and Margie Beaton, multi-instrumentalist Krysta MacKinnon and fiddler Meagan Burke.

From off the island come performers like P.E.I. singer-songwriter Lennie Gallant, Antigonish pianist/fiddler Troy MacGillivray, Newfoundland’s A Crowd of Bold Sharemen, Vancouver stringmaster Daniel Lapp, and Nova Scotian guitarist extraordinaire Dave MacIsaac.

Tickets for Celtic Colours’ 10th Anniversary season go on sale on July 10. They can be purchased by phone locally at 567-3000 or toll-free at 1-888-355-7744.

For more information, call 562-6700 or toll-free at 1-877-285-321 or visit
www.celtic-colours.com for details about artists and events. For accommodation
information, phone 1-800-565-0000.

May 24, 2006
Route 57, With Natalie MacMaster, at Zankel Hall
By JON PARELES - New York Times

Natalie MacMaster rarely stands still. She's a fiddler from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, carrying on her family's musical tradition with a showmanship that has made her a folk-circuit star. She's light on her feet, kicking up her heels, twirling across the stage and sometimes putting her fiddle down to do some clattering, percussive step dancing. On Monday night she headlined a double bill of Celtic music, along with the Scottish ballad singer Norman Kennedy, in the first of four nights of "Route 57: A Festival of American Roots Music" presented by Carnegie Hall at Zankel Hall.

She knows the old reels and jigs and the techniques that turn dance tunes into accelerating, ever more complex variations. She can make her fiddle sing a gentle air, as she did in an elegiac tune she wrote for a memorial to the newscaster Peter Jennings, or play up the contrast between a smooth and scratchy attack, or surround a melody with more and more ornamentation each time it recurs. Her band includes another traditional virtuoso: Matt MacIsaac on bagpipes, pennywhistles and banjo. It also includes Allan Dewar on piano, playing the bouncing chords that are part of Cape Breton tradition.

But the beat comes from drums (Miche Pouliot) and electric bass (John Chiasson). Ms. MacMaster's survival strategy for traditional music is adaptation: placing her Cape Breton tunes in rock-band arrangements.

Celtic rock is on the way to becoming a tradition itself; bands have been tinkering with it since the 1960's. But each fusion is its own experiment, which can grow as kitschy as Riverdance or as fiercely danceable as the best Fairport Convention. Ms. MacMaster strays into kitsch now and then; a dance-tune medley didn't really need to include Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music (White Boy)." There was some band drama: the guitarist Brad Davidge, who had a fingertip on his right hand severed in a van accident recently, was back onstage for the first time, luckily still able to hold a pick. When Ms. MacMaster added a cellist (Richard Eggleston) to the group, it gave her an untraditional but thoroughly compatible partner to trade string lines with. The music was best when it was least gimmicky, but its Celtic drive always came through.

Where Ms. MacMaster's strategy was adaptation, Mr. Kennedy's was explanation: he's a cheerful, garrulous character who has kept his deep Scottish accent although he has lived in the United States since 1966. He learned songs and stories, he explained, from the old people, who weren't exactly straitlaced. Now that he is in his 70's himself, he must sound more like them than ever. He sang ballads of love and lust, death and transfiguration with a craggy voice, holding on to the old quavers and pauses and turns, and he finished with "mouth music" — fast dance tunes — that weren't too far away from what Ms. MacMaster would play soon afterward.

May 23, 2006
Natalie MacMaster and the Power of Music
By Jim Newsom - Portfolio Weekly, VA

Cape Breton Island sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean just off the east coast of mainland Nova Scotia. At nearly 4,000 square miles in area, it is the 75th largest island in the world. It is also the home of Cape Breton fiddle music.

"There are more fiddle players per capita than anywhere else in the world," Natalie MacMaster told me recently. Though she’s only 34 years old, MacMaster has been taking the music of her home island to the rest of the world since she was a teenager. Wednesday night she will share it with a crowd at the Granby Theater as part of the Virginia Arts Festival’s Port Folio Weekly Music Series.

"Cape Breton fiddle music is largely descended from the Scottish traditions over in Scotland," she said. "But it really is its own style. It’s very energetic music, very danceable. It’s like a train — once you get on, you don’t get off; it just keeps chuggin’ along. It’s stood the test of time, so there’s something in it that appeals to the inner human spirit. It’s very real and it’s very alive. It gives you new life. When you hear it, you just forget your worries. It’s very positive music.

"We’ve played for dancers all our lives, and long before I was born. There’s a certain type of Cape Breton dancing, step dancing and square dancing."

Natalie’s uncle Buddy MacMaster is a legend of the genre, having played at dances across Nova Scotia while working days for the Canadian National Railroad for 45 years. After retiring from the railroad in 1988, his reputation spread across Canada and around the world.

"Buddy was a huge influence," she said. "I heard him more than anyone else, so I reflect his music more than any of the other fiddlers. He’s probably the most well-known Cape Breton fiddler. But I was taught by Stan Chapman, a local that was known for fiddle teaching."

She started playing herself when she was nine, and had released her first self-produced album by age 16. Her career really began to pick up steam across the whole of North America as she added elements of contemporary music to her tradition-infused Celtic blend. Her 2003 recording, Blueprint, pushed the boundaries and expanded her audience even further.

"Here’s the interesting thing about that," she said. "I’m not actually doing anything differently. People say, ‘Oh you play so many styles.’ That’s not true. I’m clever in that I hire other people who play lots of styles, and they taint my music, they color my music. If you got rid of all the accompaniment on Blueprint and just heard me play the fiddle, that’s just the same kind of fiddling that you’d hear on My Roots Are Showing, which is considered a very traditional Cape Breton record. What’s going on around me is what makes it a different style.

"Nothing moves me like the Cape Breton music, nothing hits me deeper. [But] look at what I grew up with — I had two older brothers and they listened to Ozzie Osbourne and Judas Priest, so I got that influence. I remember listening to Abba at a really young age; Anne Murray, Whitney Houston, Bay City Rollers.

"I’ve had so many different musical influences and I love to create, I love to let my imagination go wild. And I’m one of those people who hates missing out. Whether it’s a party or music, I want to be in on it. So, when I hear other kinds of music — be it Latin, classical, jazz, bluegrass, whatever — it just moves me and I want to get in on that, I want to be right in the middle. I can do that by projects such as Blueprint where I’m right in the center of it all, but it’s all these great musicians doing their thing around me."

I asked her how the average listener could distinguish between Scottish, Irish and Cape Breton music.

"It certainly is subtle to a lay person," she admitted. "Scottish music has had classical influence, and that classical influence has made the style a little bit more regimented and formed. Irish music is similar to Cape Breton in that it’s a little bit more of a hand-me-down style where it has become more of a tradition passed on from one generation and less learned. The Scottish are very strong at the technical side of playing the violin and the Irish are really strong at the groove, the feel.

"Cape Breton is very much the hand-me-down style, but it is a relaxed style of music. It’s not as perfected as the Scottish style of today — it’s a little rough around the edges — but you can hear the history in it. You can hear the hard times, the good times; it’s not so polished that it erases those characteristics."

An Ontario resident since her marriage four years ago to fellow fiddler Donnell Leahy, who records and performs with his family’s band, Natalie was in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan with her husband and five-month old daughter when we spoke. The two were performing that night with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. While Donnell changed their baby’s diaper, Natalie explained the appeal of her distinct musical mix of purity, tradition and boundary-expansion.

"That’s the power of music," she said enthusiastically. "Instrumental music, even though it has its disadvantages for working musicians because it’s not like popular music where you have access to radio and that sort of thing, its advantages are it’s so universal: There are no lyrics and people can interpret and take from the music what they want. It has the power to be really flexible.

"It’s a double-edged sword. Maybe people can connect with it better because you’re not dictating to the listener what they are hearing."

May 16, 2006
MacMaster's music a family affair. Motherhood fitting in with touring
Roger Levesque, CanWest News Service

Natalie MacMaster counts herself lucky that neither marriage nor motherhood has significantly slowed down her career in music. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Cape Breton fiddling sensation can take both her husband and five-month-old daughter with her on tour. Fans may recall that MacMaster married Donnell Leahy -- another fine fiddler and a key figure in the musical family act known simply as Leahy -- in 2002. MacMaster took several months off before and two months after the Dec. 3 birth of their first child, Mary Frances. But she's managed to continue her never-ending musical travels with her new family since February.

"I'm so fortunate," offers MacMaster. "I love what I do, but to be able to tour with my husband and our baby makes me feel blessed. It doesn't seem like work at all, just that you're celebrating life together."

The new mom explains that hired help smoothes out the demands of the current tour, but their daughter is also of an age that she's quite adaptable. MacMaster, now 33, adds that it wasn't easy to set aside her musical endeavours.

"I'm always excited by what I do, from playing and recording and arranging to all the different elements of the business. It certainly makes for an exciting life now, but I've managed to make it work so far."

This tour is only the second time she's been on the road with her husband, and the first time they've performed together with a series of symphony orchestras across Canada.
MacMaster's repertoire will be split roughly between traditional Celtic tunes and original numbers composed in a traditional vein. The show will also be paced to feature solo, duo and trio work apart from the orchestra. Playing with or off another fiddler definitely brings a new thrill to MacMaster, who says her husband's approach is quite a contrast.

"It's been a real challenge for us to figure out ways to play together without stepping on each other's toes, figuratively speaking. Donnell's sound is quite varied with several elements that make up his own style. He's got a bit of a French sound, a little Cape Breton twang, a little Irish, and a more worldly kind of Russian or Hungarian sound too. He's very strong, while I'm more relaxed and focused on a Cape Breton style -- which comes from Scotland."

While both musicians enjoy international reputations, she sums up their differences by joking that "I'm the girl next door and he's the globe-trotting fiddler." That's one source of the musical sparks they generate together. Leahy has been unofficially steering his Ontario-based family's renowned chemistry for a decade now, taking their sound beyond Celtic roots music to invoke influences of Gypsy violin, bluegrass, jazz and classical music. MacMaster remains one of the best-known acts in Canadian roots music with her own considerable versatility and a career experience that has seen her on stage alongside The Chieftains, Luciano Pavarotti, Faith Hill and Carlos Santana among many others when she's not busy with her regular band. Since marrying Leahy, she's made Ontario home, but they both stay in touch with her roots in Cape Breton, when time allows.

She's also busy putting the finishing touches on a forthcoming album, Yours Truly, which will actually be the first recording to feature the regular band she's been touring with for most of the past 10 years.

Photograph by : Mike Sturk/Calgary Herald

May 15, 2006
Light-hearted virtuosity ends year
Nick Miliokas, The Leader-Post

It would be a stretch to describe the experience as "unique." But it was certainly a rarity, and that undoubtedly explains the unabashed enthusiasm that fairly gushed from Natalie MacMaster and her husband Donnell Leahy at the Conexus Arts Centre on Saturday night.

They've been earning their livelihoods with the fiddle for years now and they do not often perform with several dozen musicians seated behind them and playing along. Not to mention that when they gazed into the audience in a venue that holds a couple of thousand and change, they saw a packed house.

MacMaster couldn't seem to get over that -- she mentioned it more than once during this concert -- but the happy fact of the matter is conductor Victor Sawa and the Regina Symphony Orchestra have been on a roll all season, particularly with the Shumiatcher Pops Series. The season alas has come to a close, but it couldn't have done so in a more energetic, lively, warm-spirited manner, thanks to MacMaster and Leahy, and their accompanist Erin Leahy, Donnell's sister, who made a huge contribution from the piano and just might have been the unsung hero in this show.

But that's the nature of the folk fiddle genre, and if you left the building afterwards in anything other than an upbeat frame of mind, you were probably an Ottawa Senators fan and had heard Sawa's mid-concert announcement that the Buffalo Sabres had won in overtime, and what a beautiful goal it was, eliminating the sad-sack Sens from the Stanley Cup playoffs -- again.

Another contributing factor to this infectious congeniality was that MacMaster and Leahy became parents a short while ago and not only did their infant daughter accompany them on the road trip from Ontario, she consumed her first solid food right here in Regina. On top of all that, sitting in the concertmaster's chair was a violinist named Ed Minevich, who has been moonlighting so long with another Leahy (Frank, the brother of Donnell and Erin) that he is practically part of the family. Not that the Leahys are desperate for another sibling, you understand. There are 12 of them as it is.

Minevich was featured in several of the selections, and it must have required every last ounce of discipline he possesses to keep from leaping to the front of the stage and turning the MacMaster and Leahy act into a trio. He behaved himself, however, allowing the program to proceed as planned, with numbers such as "Wedding Day Jig," which MacMaster and Leahy co-wrote the night before they were married and presented to their unsuspecting but presumably appreciative guests at the festivities the next day. There was also "Anniversary Waltz," which Leahy in a subtle wisecrack dedicated to "any couple out there celebrating an anniversary this year."

Toss in, among others, "The Skater" (a tune as good as its name, suitable for figure skating), an exotic "Spanish Boy" (blending the sound of Cape Breton with that of Eastern Europe) and two medleys, "Carnival" and "Madness," and you begin to get the idea. It was an evening of joyous music, Celtic fiddling, which, despite the light-heartedness on the surface, could not quite disguise the virtuostic talents beneath.

May 14, 2006
Not Just Fiddling Around. Classical Players Don't Get All The respect Now
By Mike Ross, Edmonton Sun

Fiddlers are reproducing at such a rate that soon there will come the ultimate fiddler - a fiddler so good, so fast and so amazing that he or she will never be the butt of the old joke: "Fiddle played well is violin."

Superlatives have already been thrown in abundance at both Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, performing with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra at the Winspear Centre tomorrow. The champion fiddlers wed and had a daughter, little Mary Frances, born just this last December with rosin in her hair, a bow in her hand and music in her DNA.

Or is fiddling prowess the result of conditioning? Perhaps it is an inseparable mix of both? The studies continue.

"I think it must be genetic," Leahy says. "Mom and Dad both played, so did their parents, so did Natalie's and it goes all the way back on both sides."

Donnell's mom and dad met in Nova Scotia. He had travelled from the family farm in Lakefield, Ont., to buy cattle, but he also brought his fiddle because you never know when you're going to need a fiddle. As it happened, he did. There was a step-dancing contest. He fiddled while she danced. They fell in love, married and had a large brood of fiddlers and step-dancers that came to be known as Leahy, winner of several Juno awards.

The family group recently returned from a hiatus taken in order to increase their ranks. Leahy laughs, "There's a baby born every day in our family now. Mary Frances is the 17th grandchild so far."

And now the new dad plays the same fiddle that was instrumental, so to speak, in his own father winning the love of his mother, the very fiddle, in fact, responsible for his existence. The Leahy family fiddle carries the same magic as the instrument depicted in the excellent feature film The Red Violin.

Donnell hasn't seen When Harry Met Sally, however, which is more like what happened between him and Natalie, a relationship she's described onstage thus: "We dated for two years, broke up for 10 and then got married."

They also first met in Nova Scotia. Leahy recalls, "I heard a tape of hers and went to check her out. I drove to the East Coast and asked for a date. Cold call! I said, 'You may not know me. I'm Donnell Leahy and I'm a fiddle player.' And she said, 'I have your tape.' I had an in. Then she started chasing me around for years, hounding me and finally I got tired and she caught up and I wish she was here listening to this."

He doesn't go into the details of their 10-year breakup, or the circumstances of their reconciliation.

Actually, he can't remember.

"Oh, my gosh. I'm glad she's not here. I'm in trouble," he says. "I think it must've been at a concert. We obviously liked each other. I guess the time was right. I remember how I proposed to her, but I'd prefer to keep that personal."

So we switch topics to the old joke cited above. Like all jokes, there is deeper meaning behind it. Fiddlers are stereotyped as Gypsies, vagabonds, purveyors of music for ruffians and peasants, suitable only for kitchens and gumboot clogeroos. Fiddlers have no formal training. They can't even read music. They learn by ear from a young age, from the womb.

Violinists, on the other hand, are masters of a high art, put at the very top of the already lofty world of classical music. Violinists are studied in advanced musical theory and technique. They appreciate sophisticated culture and the great classical works they perform for the most prominent citizens in the fanciest concert halls - no place for fiddlers. Great fiddlers are called "champions." Great violinists are "concert masters," given applause before the show even begins. Fiddlers must prove their mettle first.

Is there any common ground here? Leahy says yes.

"Things are changing," he says. "The fiddle used to be the butt of that joke. Now what people are starting to appreciate is that playing the fiddle requires the same dedication as playing classical violin. They both play at the same level.

"Both Natalie and myself have played with quite a few symphonies and the classical people are really excited about fiddling - the one's we've met, anyway. It is not an off-the-cuff thing you do. It takes years to do it and there's also hundreds of years of history. Natalie's Cape Breton music, even fiddlers can't play it unless they're born into it, it seems."

It's a two-way street. Leahy has also played classical music since he was young. Growing up in southern Ontario, the Leahy clan wasn't exposed to the concentrated culture of the Irish fiddle like Cape Bretoners are - the Leahys being something of a fiddling anomaly.

"So we played everything," Leahy says.

On the prospect of going whole hog into classical music and transforming the Leahy family fiddle into the Leahy family violin, he says, "I'd love to. I don't read music. I can, but slowly. I don't learn my music from reading. But I'd love to play classical music with a symphony one day."

If not him, then maybe little Mary Frances.

May 03, 2006
Born to play: Five-month-old daughter joins Natalie, husband on tour
Joanne Paulson, The StarPhoenix

Mary Frances Rose Leahy was, figuratively speaking, born with a fiddle in each tiny fist. The five-month-old daughter of Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, fiddlers both, will also be a veteran of touring before the age of one. When MacMaster and Leahy hit Saskatoon for a May 11 show at TCU Place, Mary Frances will be right beside them -- everywhere but on stage.

"She's like the MasterCard. Don't leave home without it," joked MacMaster in an interview.

"I obviously have to take someone to look after her while I'm performing. But generally speaking I'm with her all day. It's quite a job, so to speak, when you can really be with your child for 21 out of 24 hours."

It must be a blessing for MacMaster, who is so frequently on the road.

"It's like a number of tours combined. I basically say I'm on tour all the time, because one tour goes into the next."

MacMaster left April 18 for three weeks in the United States, with the Canadian tour portion following after that. MacMaster, Leahy, Leahy's sister Erin and MacMaster's guitar player come to Saskatoon as part of the Canadian leg to play with the Saskatoon Symphony. The tour will not rely on MacMaster's new CD Yours Truly, which was supposed to come out in early March, but was not yet on the market as she headed out on tour.

"We're getting very close to mastering. The record is done as far as the recording and the mixing goes. There's a chance I suppose it will be out by then."

Most of the concert will feature previously recorded MacMaster and Leahy songs, but one original track from the new CD, Volcanic Jig, will make it onto the songlist. The Cape Breton fiddler, now living in Ontario, is also known for Blueprint, the 2003 CD featuring blue-and-newgrass artists like Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer. Her 1998 album, My Roots Are Showing, is more focused on traditional reels and jigs.

MacMaster also plans to play some of the tunes from her recent recording with uncle Buddy MacMaster, appropriately called Natalie and Buddy MacMaster. They may be previously recorded, but the Saskatoon audience can still look forward to hearing something quite new.

"We're looking forward to it ourselves, because this will be the first time we will have done a symphony show in this configuration," said MacMaster. "Most of the charts are brand new; they have never been played yet, so it's exciting for us. New music is always a thrill."

All music is new for Mary Frances. MacMaster says the CD player at home is on all the time, playing everything from French Canadian and Cape Breton music to classical.

"Mostly she's hearing fiddle and on the road she's hearing it all the time," said MacMaster.

"She's really good on the road. She's better on the road than she is at home. She's held all the time. When you're cooking and cleaning up afterwards, you just can't do these things at the same time.

"It's good when Donnell's home. He'll take her for a spell or do the dishes. But when we're on the road my attention is for her."

News Update: May 2006

Over the last few months, Natalie has been a very busy girl touring with her new baby daughter Mary Frances. Her tour began in the United States with her band and ended with her meeting up with her husband Donnell Leahy in Thunder Bay, Ontario. They are now touring together doing a run of Symphony shows in Western Canada that have sold out at almost all of the venues. From there, she will head to Niagara University in New York where she will receive an honorary doctorate of music.

On May 22nd, Natalie will be performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City with her band. Tickets are nearly sold out for this special concert.

Natalie has also been hard at work on a new CD called “Yours Truly”, which is tentatively scheduled for release late this summer. She has added much of her heart and soul into this project by using many of her own compositions and her own touring band. The album will be available through Natalie’s website at as well as local music stores.

April 27, 2006
A Great Breton. Natalie MacMaster brings a dazzling
fiddle style from Nova Scotia
By Andrew Gilbert - Monterey County Weekly

Cape Breton Island possesses one of the more vital but lesser-known traditions in the far-flung world of Celtic music. With the emergence of the beautiful, virtuosic fiddler Natalie MacMaster, the small Scottish-inflected communities off the coast of Canada’s far eastern province Nova Scotia have found a champion who is turning the Cape Breton sound into a recognized spot on the world music dial.

MacMaster returns to the Sunset Center on Wednesday for a Performance Carmel concert with her longtime band: Brad Davidge on guitar and vocals, John Chiasson on bass and vocals, Allan Dewar on keyboards, Matt MacIsaac on bagpipes and whistles, and percussionist Miche Pouliot. While the sextet is her primary creative vehicle, she has also gained widespread visibility through performances with Santana, Paul Simon and top-shelf symphony orchestras.

With her band, MacMaster commands the stage as a riveting performer who is known for throwing in a dexterous step-dance move. While her players are all steeped in Cape Breton’s jigs, reels, hornpipes and airs, MacMaster has been developing a repertoire of original material, tunes featured on her upcoming album Yours Truly.

“It’s a real expression of my musical taste,” says MacMaster, 33. “I’ve let my creative juices run free and wild, so the new music has a unique sound.”

MacMaster first gained fame for her mastery of the Cape Breton sound, which hearkens back to the music of the Scottish Highlands and Outer Hebrides brought to Canada by immigrants fleeing land enclosures and famine in the 18th and 19th centuries. After collecting a mantle full of East Coast Music Awards for her traditional albums, MacMaster started branching out, incorporating elements of jazz and Latin music.

She appears on two tracks on the first US release by Kiran Ahluwalia, the brilliant Indian-born, Toronto-based interpreter of Indo-Persian love songs known as ghazals. MacMaster’s 2002 album Blueprint was produced by fiddler Darol Anger and features instrumental stars such as Bela Fleck, Sam Bush and Edgar Meyer. For Anger, a pioneer of genre-crunching acoustic music, MacMaster is reaching a profound level of expression.

“When you get to the ultimate level of musicianship, it becomes impossible to separate the musician from the music,” Anger says. “Natalie is one of my favorite people, and in many ways the greatest of all fiddlers. She can make music sound dangerous or mesmerizing, deeply spiritual or like the funniest joke you ever heard.”

While MacMaster grew up in a musical family, she was inspired to pursue a life in music by the role traditional music and dance plays in Cape Breton. When the harsh weather breaks in the summer, the island comes alive.

“Every weekend a different community would be having a celebration, and they would always have a traditional Scottish concert relying on local talent,” MacMaster says.

With her husband, respected fiddler Donnell Leahy, MacMaster is bringing Cape Breton to the world through the Internet with “Cape Breton Live.” The weekly broadcast kicked off last September with a performance by MacMaster and her great uncle, the celebrated fiddler Buddy MacMaster.

“The big thing for me is to try to capture the culture, as opposed to just the music,” MacMaster says. “We want to share the spirit and the vibe, and what we’re about as a people.”

April 24, 2006
Fiddler kicks up her heels with symphony
By Jennifer Barrett - The Salt Lake Tribune

Celtic fiddling virtuoso Natalie MacMaster didn't look like a new mother Friday night when she performed with the Utah Symphony.

There were no obvious signs of exhaustion, spit-up or the baby blues. In fact, MacMaster had enough energy and enthusiasm for the whole stage. Not only did she fiddle and dance, she also fed 4-month-old Mary Frances Rose backstage during intermission.
MacMaster Ð a native of Cape Breton off the coast of Nova Scotia in Canada, and married to a member of another high-energy Canadian folk band, Leahy Ð has become renowned for her renditions of music native to her home.

For Friday's all-Celtic concert, MacMaster showed great versatility. Her playing ranged from haunting and fragile on "The Cukoo," to a controlled frenzy "Tullochgorum."
She kept the evening rolling by occasionally putting down the fiddle and concentrating on her feet. MacMaster added a bit of funk to traditional Celtic dancing, and even made room for some moonwalking.

She charmed the audience when she helped transform Utah Symphony concertmaster Lenny Braus from a dignified violinist into a darn fine fiddler. With a little more time, she could probably have taught him to do a decent jig as well.

The Utah Symphony provided capable support, especially members of the brass and percussion sections, who added excitement to a number of selections. The orchestra was lovely in its performance of Celtic Dance No. 3, by William Matthias.

Conductor Keith Lockhart (wearing a green cummerbund) demonstrated not just versatility, but mobility as well, kicking up his heels Celtic-style a few times.

The best moments of the night, however, came when MacMaster and her five-man band (including Matt MacIssac on bagpipes) cut loose all on their own. The group rocked so invitingly that one wished the stage crew at Abravanel Hall could have pushed back the chairs and brought in a few pints so the crowd could have joined in the high-stepping fun.

Bottom line: Natalie MacMaster and band left a lot of eyes smiling, Irish and otherwise.

April 20, 2006
MacMaster bringing Cape Breton to the world
By Andrew Gilbert, San Diego Union Tribune

Cape Breton Island possesses one of the more vital but lesser-known traditions in the far-flung world of Celtic music. With the emergence of the beautiful, virtuosic fiddler Natalie MacMaster in recent years, the small Scottish-inflected communities off the coast of Canada's far eastern province, Nova Scotia, have found a champion who is turning the Cape Breton sound into a recognized spot on the world music dial.

MacMaster, who performs Wednesday at Price Center Ballroom in a concert presented by UCSD's ArtPower!, is touring with her longtime sextet, though she's gained just as much attention through guest performances with such acts as Santana, the Chieftains, Paul Simon, Alison Krauss and top-shelf symphony orchestras.

With her band, MacMaster commands the stage, a riveting performer who is known for throwing in a dextrous step-dance move or two when the music gets really heated. While her players are all steeped in Cape Breton's jigs, reels, hornpipes and airs, MacMaster has been developing a repertoire of original material, tunes that are featured on her upcoming album “Yours Truly.” It's not only her first release focusing on her own compositions, the album marks her working band's recording debut.

“It's a real expression of my musical taste,” said MacMaster, 33. “The pieces are rooted in Cape Breton fiddling but I would say they're more personalized. There are qualities and characteristics that define Cape Breton fiddling, but for the most part I've let my creative juices run free and wild, so the new music has a unique sound.”

MacMaster first gained fame for her mastery of the Cape Breton sound, which harkens back to the music of the Scottish Highlands and Outer Hebrides brought to Canada by immigrants fleeing famine in the 18th and 19th centuries. After collecting a shelf of East Coast Music Awards for her traditional albums, MacMaster started branching out, incorporating elements of jazz and Latin music.

She appears on two tracks on the first U.S. release by Kiran Ahluwalia, the brilliant Indian-born, Toronto-based interpreter of Indo-Persian love songs known as ghazals. MacMaster's 2002 album “Bl ueprint” was produced in Nashville by fiddler Darol Anger and features instrumental stars such as Bela Fleck, Sam Bush and Edgar Meyer. For Anger, a pioneer of genre-crunching acoustic music, MacMaster is reaching a level of self-expression that transcends style.

“When you get to the ultimate level of musicianship, it becomes impossible to separate the musician from the music,” Anger said. “Natalie is one of my favorite people, and in many ways the greatest of all fiddlers. She can make music sound dangerous or mesmerizing, deeply spiritual or like the funniest joke you ever heard.”

While MacMaster grew up in a musical family, she was inspired to pursue a life in music by the vibrant role traditional music and dance plays in Cape Breton society. When the harsh weather finally breaks in the summer, the island comes alive with an outpouring of community events.

“Every weekend a different community would be having a celebration, and they would always have a traditional Scottish concert relying on local talent,” MacMaster said. “There are also the square dances, which are very popular, so young musicians have an audience to play for, which is very important.”

Along with her husband, respected fiddler Donnell Leahy, MacMaster is bringing Cape Breton to the world through the Internet radio show “Cape Breton Live.” The weekly broadcast kicked off last September with a performance by MacMaster and her great-uncle, the celebrated fiddler Buddy MacMaster.

“The big thing for me is to try to capture the culture, as opposed to just the music,” MacMaster said. “We want to share the spirit and the vibe, and what we're about as a people.”

April 16, 2006
Utah Symphony goes Celtic
By Rebecca C. Howard, Deseret Morning News

The Utah Symphony will be getting in the Celtic spirit of things this weekend with guest artist and Celtic fiddler Natalie MacMaster, who is from Cape Breton, an island off the east coast of Canada in Nova Scotia.

"The music itself that I play is what I would play even at a square-dance hall in Cape Breton," MacMaster said by phone from her home in Cape Breton. "I've got some great arrangers of music, and they take the traditional fiddle tunes and they arrange them for symphony. So basically I'll be doing a lot of what you would hear on my records — but play those tunes with the symphony."

Drawing from previously released albums, a soon-to-be-released CD called "Yours Truly," and never-recorded material, the concert will be a collection of mostly up-tempo material.

"A lot of symphony shows you go to tend to play more mood pieces, beautiful slow pieces. So this is a little more upbeat than a regular symphony performance, and also there are some beautiful old Celtic ballads, as well — plus a bit of step-dancing."

The Utah Symphony will also be featured at the beginning of the program, playing such related orchestral pieces as Malcolm Arnold's "Four Scottish Dances" and Mendelssohn's Scherzo assai vivace from Symphony No. 3 ("Scottish").

MacMaster said she'll be bringing her band — composed of guitarist Brad Davidge, pianist Allan Dewar, drummer/percussionist Miche Pouliot, bassist John Chiasson and Matt MacIsaac on pipes, whistle and banjo) — to perform for the first time on "Yours Truly."

"This is my 10th recording, but this is the first with my band." She added that the album got its name from all of the personal input that MacMaster has had on this album — from start to finish. "The reason it's called 'Yours Truly' is because I feel it's more 'me' than what I've done before — just because I've written so much of it, and helped arrange so much of it, and helped produce it with my husband."

MacMaster said she wrote 70 percent of what's on this album, whereas previous albums had maybe 5 percent original material. She added that she had some help from co-writers, and Davidge, the band's guitarist.

Musicality runs in her genes. From the time MacMaster was born, she's been immersed in music.

"My mother is a step-dancer and she taught me to dance when I was 5. My dad plays a little bit of fiddle, but he's got an incredible ear for music, so he got me started on the fiddle when I was young. And my uncle is probably the most famous Cape Breton fiddler. His name is Buddy MacMaster. And I have other aunts and uncles that play fiddle and play piano and play in bands. Both sides of my family; a long history of music as far back as anybody can remember."

Cape Breton, where MacMaster grew up, is a very musical place, she said, with many functions going on that offer traditional music. "So really, I received from my bloodline, from my immediate family, and from my community."

MacMaster will now keep the music going through the bloodline with the birth of her new daughter, Mary Frances. At 4 months, Mary Frances follows her mother around during her very busy schedule. "She is just a darling, and she travels very well," said MacMaster. "I'm touring with her. She's coming with me to Utah."

As she was asked about the experience of motherhood, MacMaster was stifling a big yawn. Then she laughed. "How's that for an answer? Perfect timing. It's tiring, but it's wonderful."

If you go...

What: Natalie MacMaster, Utah Symphony
Where: Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple
When: Friday and
Saturday, 8 p.m.
How much: $20-$48
Phone: 355-2787 or 888-451-2787
Web: www.arttix.org
Also: Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Val A. Browning Center, Ogden, $16-$32 (801-626-7000)

April 5, 2006
Fiddler to close Webb Center's season
The Wickenburg Sun

International fiddling sensation Natalie MacMaster will deliver her energetic take on traditional and contemporary Celtic melodies in a one time only performance at the Webb Center on Sunday, April 30 at 7:00 p.m. This performance will successfully close the Webb Center's 2005-2006 season.

Natalie MacMaster has been hailed as a fiddling sensation since she broke onto the scene in the early 1990s. Her first recording, Fit as a Fiddle (1993), was certified gold in Canada and showcased traditional music - featuring the fiddle, piano, acoustic guitar and bagpipes - from her native Cape Breton Island. In 1999 MacMaster took Celtic music to new heights with her innovative album In My Hands, which incorporated jazz and Latin sounds and featured a host of guest artists, including Mark O'Connor and Alison Krauss. On 2003's Blueprint, she continued to experiment with new sounds; MacMaster recorded the album in Nashville and enlisted an eclectic set of guests including Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and Edgar Meyer to give it a distinct bluegrass flavor.

“Irish music affects me the same way as Cape Breton music because those are the sounds and instruments I've heard since I was a child,” MacMaster said. “It's the same thing with bluegrass music, which has many of the same sounds and instruments. And, in a way, bluegrass musicians play reels, breakdowns and jigs too, so it's all very similar.”

MacMaster has impressed the music world with both her early recordings and more recent work; 1998's My Roots Are Showing received a Grammy nomination and a Juno Award for Best Instrumental Album, and In My Hands won a second Juno in the same category. She has been honored with four Canadian Country Music Awards for Fiddler of the Year, the Music Industry of Nova Scotia's awards for Female Artist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year, and several East Coast Music Awards in various categories.

As would be the case for someone who describes herself as “wind her up and let her go,” MacMaster delivers performances known for their high energy, leaving audiences in footstomping, hand-clapping delight before an inevitable standing ovation. Not only is she a confident bandleader and brilliant fiddler, but she is an electrifying step dancer. While MacMaster generally leaves vocals to her band, she sings occasionally as well; The Boston Globe wrote that if she continues, she could be the next (fiddler-turned-vocalist) Alison Krauss.

Brad Davidge (guitar and vocals), John Chiasson (bass and vocals), Allan Dewar (piano and keyboards), Matt MacIssac (highland bagpipes and banjo) and Miche Pouliot (percussion) will join MacMaster at the Webb Center.

Tickets are on sale now for Natalie MacMaster's 7:00pm performance on Sunday, April 30 at the Webb Center. Tickets ($24 for adults and $5 for children) are available through the Webb Center Box Office by telephone at (928)684-6624 or online at www.delewebbcenter.org.

March 13, 2006
MacMaster Magic - A First At COMMA - Audience Rocks!
Terri Johnson - Morganton News Herald

There was an exciting first at COMMA Friday night. The crowd actually sprung up in a standing ovation after the last number, and held it for the entire next encore song. Natalie McMaster, the amazing fiddler power house of musical talent and energy with her Cape Breton style traditional fiddle tunes, shouted with humor, "look at you Morganton - all standing up and clapping - will ya dance with me?" An enthusiastic positive answer roared back from the frenzied crowd that proceeded to "rock out" during the whole 10 minute fiddle, bagpipe, drum, guitar, piano and electric bass, foot stomping musical romp through a collection of old world bouncy square dance tunes.

Amazed, I turned to several persons in neighboring chairs and exclaimed - "Morganton just stood up at COMMA and danced a whole song without sitting down!"

Everyone I asked agreed that they had never seen this response before tonight. Many responders had attended nearly all musical performances over the 19 year history at COMMA.

In the past when I attended, I often felt uncomfortable during musical acts there. That's because I'm excited enough to wear out my chair boogying in my seat, while it seems everyone around me sits in solemn detached silence. How can they stay soooo still with this rhythm and energy, I'd wonder? I was faced with either becoming stifled into solemnity myself, or sticking out in the audience by my bouncing in what may have been observed as oddball dancing behavior.

So, it was a surprising, unexpected, wonderfully gratifying event for me at our city auditorium!

McMaster and her band seemed to magically transform the audience into rhythmic action. Since no one died, either from shock over this unusual spontaneous crowd response, or a loosening of the spine from dancing while standing up in the tightly arranged chair aisles; I hope to see more public displays of frenzy when the music calls for it. "Look at you Morganton - all standing up there clapping - will ya dance again?"

I will certainly be more interested in attending musical events due to this possibility - Morganton, rock on!

March 13, 2006
NATALIE & BUDDY MACMASTER - Traditional Music from Cape Breton Island
By Alex Monaghan - Irish Music Magazine & The Living Tradition

13 tracks, 68 minutes.

Catchy title. Uncle and niece are both world class fiddlers, and the combination is something very special. Recorded in a relaxed family atmosphere with a small audience of friends, this CD contains mainly tunes which Buddy has played and recorded over several decades. This is the first studio-quality recording of Buddy and Natalie playing those tunes, and it captures the drive and magic of Cape Breton fiddle music.

King George IV, The Rosewood Jig, MacKenzie Hay, Devil in the Kitchen, The Leg of the Duck: these are all classic reels, jigs and strathspeys from the Auld Country. Several Cape Breton tunes are shared with Ireland too: The Primrose Lasses, The Nine Pint Coggie, Haste to the Wedding and The Sunshine Hornpipe are all powerfully played here.

Natalie and Buddy are joined by Buddy's sister Betty Lou Beaton on piano and Dave MacIsaac on guitar, providing the typical exuberant accompaniment to Cape Breton dance music. The mix is leavened by a solo track from each of the MacMasters, and a couple of slower tunes including the longest title here, Neil Gow's Lamentation for James Moray of Abercairny. Between the tear-jerkers and the toe-tappers, this is a roller-coaster ride from start to finish. The Warlock, The Ten Pound Fiddle, Miss Lyle's, Miss Campbell's, they're all here and all excellent. Thoroughly recommended.

March 10, 2006
Natalie MacMaster fit as fiddle for gig
By Rick De Yampert - Daytona Beach News

Natalie MacMaster may hold the future of Cape Breton fiddling in her hands -- literally.

It was MacMaster's fiddle playing that put the music of her native land on the map in the first place. Thanks to her Grammy-nominated recordings, music fans worldwide now know Cape Breton Island, off Nova Scotia in eastern Canada, is a land of pungent yet warm Celtic/Gaelic folk tunes, with such titles as "The Shakin's o' the Pocky" and "The Bonnie Lass of Head Lake."

Given that Cape Breton is a place that embraces its Scottish and Irish roots, and given that MacMaster's husband is Donnell Leahy, the lead fiddler of the Canadian family band Leahy, it seems a safe bet their 3-month-old daughter, Mary Frances Rose, will be fiddling a "Pocky" tune one day.

But what if a teenage Mary Frances Rose gets rebellious and embraces, say, such rock bands as Nine Inch Nails or U2?

"That's fine," MacMaster says during a phone interview as she visits Prince Edward Island in Nova Scotia. "Obviously we'd want her to play the fiddle, but we'd be glad that some form of music moves her. I like U2 anyway. I'd say, 'You've got good taste, little one.'

"My prediction is that she will be playing Cape Breton fiddling just because she is going to get zapped with it so much," MacMaster adds, with her accent as songbird pert as her fiddling. "She'll travel with me on the road and hear it live. I'm practicing at home (which these days is near Ontario). And I play a lot of it on the CD player. And visiting in Cape Breton, she's going to hear it a lot."

Mary Frances Rose will hear the music of her roots next week when she accompanies her mom and her band to Daytona Beach for a Thursday concert at the News-Journal Center. But the little one will hear more than the music of the cape. Since learning the fiddle at age 9, MacMaster has never been hesitant to tweak tradition.

"Blueprint," her 2003 CD, features such bluegrass and "newgrass" artists as Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and Edgar Meyer. Her 1998 album, the aptly titled "My Roots Are Showing," features decades-old, traditional reels and jigs and strathspeys (slowed-down reels), while its cover boasts photos of her musically minded family and relatives, including her well-known uncle, fiddler Buddy MacMaster.

Last August, Natalie suggested to her soft-spoken uncle that they record some of his favorite folk tunes for a CD.

"He just said, 'Oh yeah, that might be a good idea,' very calmly," Natalie says. "And that is typical Buddy. We practiced one night, which isn't very much. I chose all the tunes that he made popular. Everything he knew already, so it was more I had to practice on my own. We went into the studio and recorded the whole thing in seven hours."

That album, "Natalie and Buddy MacMaster," is an all-traditional affair that is quite different from her new album, "Yours Truly," due in April.

"How can I describe it?" she says. "There's one really rocky kind of tune on there. . . . It's got electric guitar -- lots of electric guitar actually, big drums, a big rock sound. There's another piece with cello. It's traditional at first and then halfway through it explodes and the band kicks in and the cello. It sounds very worldly.

"I wrote about 70 percent of the record. I tell people this record is more me than anything I've ever done. So that's why it's called 'Yours Truly.' "

For her Daytona Beach concert, MacMaster will be backed by a band that includes bagpipes, guitar, bass, drums and piano. They will perform "straight, hardcore traditional stuff, no question about it," she says, while "some of it will be a little rockier." Such a mix of the traditional and the modern is "the stuff I thrive off of."

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
WHERE: News-Journal Center, 221 N. Beach St., Daytona Beach.

TICKETS: $34-$40, available at Central Florida Cultural Endeavors, 212 S. Beach St., Daytona Beach; and at the door on the night of the performance.

INFORMATION: (386) 257-7790

March 10, 2006
Natalie MacMaster Concert Review
Washington Post

After her first three rousing, fiddle-driven tunes Wednesday night at the Birchmere, Natalie MacMaster confessed to the audience that she hadn't heard a note that she had just played, due to a faulty ear monitor.

She laughed off this potentially debilitating setback, beaming with confidence as if she were excited to face the additional challenge.

That eager energy saturated MacMaster's entire performance, which consisted of mostly traditional instrumental Celtic and bluegrass songs from her home of Cape Breton Island, Canada. She bounced and danced as she played, as if performing the Riverdance without missing a note on her fiddle.

MacMaster's athleticism continued with a drum-accompanied tap dance that she incorporated into several other numbers as well.

Her two hour-long sets weren't always so showy, though. She often stepped back to showcase her band mates, as on the jazzy "Autumn Leaves" (sung by bassist John Chiasson). The typically tiresome "Danny Boy" received a fresh treatment from guitarist Brad Davidge, and a super-speedy bagpipe solo performed by Matt MacIsaac showed the instrument's versatility beyond the hackneyed dirge. Although two hours of such instrumental music could potentially grow tedious, MacMaster's boundless enthusiasm made the evening fly by. -- Catherine P. Lewis

March 7, 2006
Fiddler gives masterful performance
By Rick de Yampert - Daytona Beach News

DAYTONA BEACH - Fiddler Natalie MacMaster was burning Thursday night -- literally.
Early in her concert at News-Journal Center, the native of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, pulled aside her top to reveal her apple-red neck. "I got zapped by the sun today," she said.

And the packed house got zapped by MacMaster, her fiery fiddling and her crackerjack five-piece band. Playing the traditional Scottish and Irish folk tunes of her native land, with an occasional stroll through pop and even rock 'n' roll turf, MacMaster was on fire figuratively, too.

If the appropriately titled "Jig Party" summed up one part of the concert, then "Appropriate Dipstick" encapsulated the other side. The latter sported Matt MacIssac on electric bagpipes (no kidding), an airy solo on electric piano by Allan Dewar, and guitarist Brad Davidge accompanying himself with some scat singing during his solo.

Oh -- and, of course, the song showcased MacMaster's spirited mastery of the "Cape Breton style" of fiddling that she and others from her homeland have put on the musical map.

While bluegrass fiddle queen Alison Krauss was as animated as a fire hydrant during her Daytona Beach concert two months ago, MacMaster perpetually bucked and kicked and twitched like a rodeo bronco while playing "The Ten Pound Fiddle" and other jigs.

During a dance solo backed only by drummer Miche Pouliot, MacMaster stomped through Irish, Scottish, clogging and tap steps, then threw some seductive shimmy-shakes into the mix.

MacMaster has claimed piper MacIsaac is the best in the world, and the devil wouldn't argue with her after he pumped up traditional highland pipes and ripped through a solo set of manic jigs.

On the other side of the coin, Davidge breathed new life into "Danny Boy," that classic Irish ballad, with some tastefully jazzy guitar, a beautiful baritone, and a sad and lovely solo by MacMaster.

By the time the band put a rock 'n' roll hammer lock on some jigs and reels for the finale, the boundaries of traditional Cape Breton music were stretched to include a giddy slab of "Play That Funky Music" -- and yes, that moonwalk MacMaster backed across the stage would have made Michael Jackson envious.

Somebody needs to pen a new paean to honor MacMaster's world-class talents -- perhaps "Play That Funky Cape Breton Music, White Girl."

February 2, 2006
Natalie MacMaster: Baby on board
By STEPHANIE BOUCHARD - Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

This might be cut short," Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster says on the phone from her home in Canada. "There's a bomb ready to go off here."

That "bomb" is MacMaster's newborn, 10-week-old Mary Frances Rose. Mary Frances is the first child for MacMaster and her husband, Donnell Leahy, the lead fiddler of the Canadian family band Leahy.

Both Leahy and MacMaster are seasoned touring musicians, so it comes as no surprise that Mary Frances is going to get an early jump on traveling. She'll be with her mother when MacMaster travels to Portland to perform a sold-out concert at Merrill Auditorium on Friday.

While this is Mary Frances' first trip to Portland, it's not her mother's. MacMaster was here courtesy of PCA Great Performances nearly two years ago. She's here this week again as part of PCA Great Performances' season.

With the example of some of her husband's 11 siblings who tour with their children, MacMaster has a blueprint to follow as she tries the touring-with-her-daughter experiment. Having someone you trust on tour with you to help take care of your child is a boon, MacMaster says. Her mother will be with them as MacMaster goes back on tour for the first time since her daughter's birth.

With Mary Frances in tow, unlike past years, MacMaster's focus won't solely be on the music, even though music is certainly still a driving force in her life. During her pregnancy, she released an album with her uncle, Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster. She also worked on her new album, set to be released in March.

She began recording her new album two years ago, she says. She released two other albums in the interim. "I got to it when I could," she explains. "I was trying to finish it up before she was born, but I didn't."

MacMaster is a multi-award-winning musician, has toured the world and performed with renowned musicians. Even though she's tackled the world and been around lots of children, she's still a first-time mother who is clearly in love with her daughter.

Interrupted by a burst of crying, MacMaster coos to her daughter, saying "Say hi, Mary Frances," but Mary Frances has other things of more concern, as her cries become more insistent. "Every time she wakes up, she's ravenously hungry," explains MacMaster. "She's a little angel living in my house. Even when she's fussing, I love her to death."

February 28, 2006
East Coast Music Awards
CBC TV (8:00pm all time zones / 8:30 NT)

The ECMA 2006 GALA AWARDS SHOW music extravaganza will broadcast live on CBC Television from the Charlottetown Civic Centre. THE 2006 ECMA GALA AWARDS SHOW celebrates the diversity and richness of musical talent from Atlantic Canada and pays tribute to the great successes of the artists, composers, writers and technicians of the region.

The Trailer Park Boys host an evening of great entertainment starring George Canyon, Matt Mays & El Torpedo, Lennie Gallant, Mary Jane Lamond, The Novaks, Wintersleep, The Chucky Danger Band, Christian “Kit” Goguen, J.P. Cormier, Matt Andersen and Sko-Shun Tiez.

Fiddling sensation Natalie MacMaster pays tribute to her beloved uncle, legendary Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster, who is the recipient of the East Coast Music Award (ECMA) 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award. The Gala also features highlights of a presentation to Sarah McLachlan who receives a special achievement award.

Visit www.ecma.ca

JANUARY 23, 2006
Mary Frances with cousin Joe MacMaster

July 27, 2006
Leahy PBS Special, New Live DVD & CD
Press Release, Leahy Music

We are excited to announce the airing dates of the Leahy PBS TV Special, and the release of both a new “Leahy Live DVD” and “Live CD”!

The Television Special will see its first airing on August 3rd in Tacoma, Washington, on KBTC and then on August 5th, in New York City on WLIW.

Additional PBS stations will be airing the Special over the next several months so you can check local listings, call your local PBS station, or visit the Leahy website for more information. If you don’t know what your local PBS station is, visit the PBS Station Finder and plug in your zip code to find it.

Feel free share this information with your family and friends as you have done so many times in the past! Leahy’s success is due in large part to YOU, the fans, telling your friends and family about their music. This is not just for American fans, by the way. Many Canadians have access to PBS stations because they live along the boarder or they have satellite. You’re as valuable a viewer to PBS as an American viewer so please support us if you’re able!

The DVD will contain the entire TV special as seen on PBS and will also include: all of Leahy’s music videos, interviews with members of the band, historical footage of the group including excerpts from the 1999 Shania Twain world tour, and never-before seen footage of a Leahy party in their home.

At this early stage, the only way to get a sneak peak of the DVD is to watch it on your local PBS station. The DVD and CD will be released world-wide in the months to come. Keep watching the Leahy website for broadcast, up-dates, and information about how to purchase your own copy.

Thank you once again for all of your support and we hope you enjoy the program!

The LEAHY Street Team
For more information, visit

July 25, 2006
MacMaster named to Order of Canada
Halifax Herald / Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Fiddler Natalie MacMaster, retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, former newspaper columnist Michele Landsberg and sociologist Reginald Bibby are among 77 people named to the Order of Canada.

Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean named 25 officers and 52 members to the order Monday. Recipients will accept their insignia at a later ceremony, Jean said in a statement.

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 and has three different levels of membership: Companion, Officer and Member.

Three Nova Scotians were named officers to the Order of Canada. They include Constance R. Glube, Halifax, law; Norman Horrocks, Dartmouth, heritage; and Denis Stairs, Halifax, education.

Among the Nova Scotians named as members of the Order are MacMaster, Lakefield, Ont., and Troy, arts-music; Walter Ostrom, Indian Harbour, arts-visual; and Elizabeth Pacey, Halifax, heritage.

June 5, 2006
Live compilation CD to be released June 20, 2006

A compilation CD featuring 13 tracks from various Cape Breton Live shows is set to be released on June 20th. The recording includes tracks recorded live at square dances, concerts, pubs and house parties and showcases some of the finest players in the Cape Breton traditional style.

Featured on the recording are: Natalie MacMaster, Kinnon & Betty Beaton, Andrea Beaton,  John Pellerin, Kenneth MacKenzie, Troy MacGillivray, Shelly Campbell, Wendy MacIsaac, Jackie Dunn MacIsaac, Kimberley Fraser, Brenda Stubbert, Dave MacIsaac, Mary Jessie MacDonald, Theresa MacLellan, Glenn Graham, Rodney MacDonald, Joel Chiasson, Kevin Dugas, Boyd MacNeil, Cheryl Smith, Anita MacDonald and Paul MacDonald.

"It was quite difficult to choose just 13 groups from all the wonderful material we collected." says producer Cheryl Smith. "We wish we could have featured everyone we have had the pleasure of recording but we do hope to release future albums with more material from the shows."

Cape Breton Live is a joint venture of husband and wife team Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy and Cheryl Smith. The program began on August 28, 2005 with the intent of broadcasting 5 trial shows of live traditional music showcasing the talents of Cape Breton musicians. The shows were so well received worldwide that the program has now been online for close to a year and has broadcast 37 shows to date.

The internet radio program showcases artists both new and familiar, exposing the traditional music of Cape Breton to audiences around the globe. Recorded at popular music venues around Nova Scotia – from halls, to pubs, to kitchens – the shows capture the sights and sounds of the traditional Cape Breton music scene.

"We are aware of the strong attraction of Cape Breton music and culture to people, as we are constantly being told by the fans who frequent our shows,” says Natalie MacMaster. "It excites people and stays with them long after they leave. So, we thought, if you can’t get here in person... join us on the Web."

And now, you can experience Cape Breton Live with the upcoming CD.

The CD is available online now at: www.capebretonlive.com  and will be made available in local stores shortly. Visit the website for sound clips and complete track listing.