» 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 19, 2009
Natalie has some little elves looking after the merchandise tables on the Christmas tour...


December 17, 2009
Natalie MacMaster brings a Cape Breton Christmas to Morristown

We've never been to Cape Breton. But after watching Natalie McMaster's Christmas show at the Community Theatre in Morristown, we're ready to book the first sled dog team heading north.

It's hard to decide what was more fun tonight: Watching sparks fly off Natalie's fiddle strings, seeing her do a Celtic moonwalk, or hearing her talk.

This bouncy, bubbly lady speaks Canadian. Her peppy, doncha-know, stream-of-consciousness banter was almost as entertaining as her high-kicking fiddle playing. This was complemented by audio clips of her dear mum reminiscing about young Natalie's first fiddle, at age 9.

"Nine-and-a-half," Natalie's father is heard to say, in what may be the only words he's ever gotten in edgewise.

It's too bad that Natalie's cellist, 15-year-old Nathaniel Smith, never got a chance to speak. He's from Mississippi. That could be an interesting conversation.

In the end, though, it was the music that lifted fans to their feet. Three young kids have not sapped the energy of the 36-year-old Natalie, at least not by the looks of this two-hour concert.

December 2009
Hear Natalie in concert with Symphony Nova Scotia on CBC Radio's Concerts on Demand.
Listen Online]

December 10, 2009
Click here to read a personal holiday message from Natalie...

December 2009
Grammy Nomination for "Yo-Yo Ma & Friends: Songs of Joy & Peace"

Yo-Yo Ma & Friends: Songs Of Joy And Peace [Sony Classical] has been nominated for a Grammy award in the "Best Classical Crossover Album" category. The album features a track with Natalie MacMaster as well as Diana Krall, Alison Krauss, Edgar Meyer, James Taylor, Odair Assad, Sergio Assad, Chris Botti, Dave Brubeck, Matt Brubeck, John Clayton, Paquito d'Rivera, Renée Fleming, D, Cristina Pato, Joshua Redman, Jake Shimabukuro, Silk Road Ensemble, Chris Thile, Wu Tong, Alon Yavnai & Amelia Zirin-Brown.

For more information visit www.grammy.com or www.yo-yoma.com

December 17, 2009
No Fiddling Around. Natalie MacMaster promises surprises, tradition and spirit of family in 'Christmas in Cape Breton' shows
By Rosemary Ford, The Eagle Tribune

You want to know what famed fiddler Natalie MacMaster is playing at her upcoming "Christmas in Cape Breton" shows?

Too bad. She's not telling.

"I normally don't like to talk about it," said MacMaster in an interview in advance of two shows at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, N.H.

"I like it to be a surprise."

MacMaster is a bit beyond laying out her playlist to entice people to come to her show. The performer with gold albums and a recent Grammy nomination to her credit sells out shows on her name alone.

MacMaster's professional career began at age 16, nearly about 20 years ago. She grew up in a musical household, where Celtic music was always on the record player.

"I started to fiddle because I grew up in a fiddle-friendly household," she said. "My mother always had fiddles playing on the record player. The community I grew up in had a lot of fiddle concerts. It was all around. I loved it."

She got her first instrument from a relative as a gift. And in the years that follow, MacMaster didn't exactly have trouble figuring out how to make a living as a musician. She had a blueprint for success from her uncle, acclaimed fiddler Buddy MacMaster.

"I have never been hungry, so to speak, for stardom or fame," she said. "I am very much a believer of work hard, practice hard but let life unfold as it will naturally. That is not to say that I am one to say that I am completely carefree and don't give a thought to the next day. It has unfolded very naturally."

While her main focus has been the traditional Celtic music she grew up with in Cape Breton, a community with roots in Scotland and Ireland in Nova Scotia, MacMaster also has wowed with her ability to bring different flavors and influences into Celtic music.

"I love all kinds of music, any kind of music," she said. "As long as it is well played, I enjoyed it. I grew up with pop, rock, heavy metal."

From her collaborations with a flamenco guitarist to classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma, MacMaster has become known as an innovator. She has created interesting spins on traditional Celtic music, with the likes of banjo prodigy Béla Fleck, fellow fiddling marvel Alison Krauss, and electrifying superstar guitarist Carlos Santana.

While her list of cohorts reads like a who's who of serious musicians, MacMaster isn't wound up in the ins and outs of the music industry. When the Grammy nominations were announced earlier this month, she didn't even know it was that time of year, let alone that she was part of a Grammy-nominated project (Ma's holiday CD, "Songs of Joy and Peace").

"I didn't expect it," she said. "I don't think like that."

Still, it's the Celtic classics that are her favorite and she plans to pepper those in along with holiday favorites at her concerts in Portsmouth.

"It's more of a Christmas show than I have ever done in the past," she said. "Lots of dancing, lots of Christmas music, there's a local choir guesting, a couple of real tender moments where my mother speaks to the audience."

She said her holiday shows help get her in the Christmas spirit and ready to celebrate with her family back home. She's been traveling with her two young daughters — ages 4 and 10 months. Her husband, fiddler Donnell Leahy, has been performing and traveling with her 2-year-old son.

"I am a Christmas girl," she said. "I think it is the best time of year. I will be baking and loving up my family."

When the holidays are over, MacMaster will get back to work on her latest album which will feature traditional Celtic music — her first in eight years. The album should be available by March or April.

"It's such pure, honest music. It doesn't come from wealth and popularity," she said. "It comes from tradition and family. Therefore it has longevity. I don't think it will ever stop being appealing to people of all walks of life."

About the artist

Born June 13, 1972 to parents Alex and Minnie MacMaster in Troy, Inverness County, Nova Scotia, Showed her fiddling prowess at age 9 at concert in Glendale, Cape Breton.

Delivered her first album, "Four On The Floor," at 16.
Grammy-nominated for "My Roots Are Showing," "Blueprint" and "Yours Truly."
Holds a Bachelor of Education degree from Nova Scotia Teacher's College.
Performed with The Chieftains, Paul Simon, Faith Hill and Luciano Pavarotti, among others.

If you go

What: Natalie MacMaster, "Christmas in Cape Breton."
When: Sunday, Dec. 20, at 2 and 7 p.m.
Where: The Music Hall, 104 Congress St., Portsmouth, N.H.
How: Tickets are $34 and $43, available at The Music Hall box office, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth, by calling 603-436-2400, or visiting www.themusichall.org.

December 16, 2009
MacMaster's show blends Christmas with Celtic
Fiddler brings award-winning sound to Clemens Center

Natalie MacMaster, a fiddler who specializes in the sounds of her native Cape Breton, will perform a Christmas show Monday at the Clemens Center in Elmira.

MacMaster's "Christmas in Cape Breton" program begins at 7:30 p.m.

In 10 albums over 27 years, MacMaster has shared the reels and jigs of Nova Scotia with the world, earning her multiple Juno Awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy Award). For her Christmas show, she combines Cape Breton's traditional Celtic fiddle sound with well-known holiday carols and melodies.

MacMaster grew up in a family of fiddlers and folk musicians. Her uncle is the fiddler Buddy MacMaster, with whom she recorded an album of traditional Cape Breton songs, and her cousin is the fiddler Andrea Beaton. Canadian folk artist Travis MacRae was a neighbor. Her husband is fiddler Donnell Leahy of the Celtic band Leahy.

MacMaster began playing the fiddle at age 9 and released her first album at age 16. Along with the Celtic music of the Nova Scotia coast, she has experimented with Scottish and Irish roots music and American bluegrass.

She has performed and recorded with musicians such as Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss, Carlos Antana and Mark O'Connor, and was a guest musician on cellist Yo-Yo Ma's 2008 holiday album, "Songs of Joy & Peace."

In 2006, MacMaster was made a member of the Order of Canada. She has received numerous Canadian Country Music Awards as Artist of the Year, Fiddler of the Year and Instrumental Artist of the Year.

* Tickets cost $30 and $18 (additional fees may apply) and are available from the Clemens Center box office, online at www.clemenscenter.com or by calling (607) 734-8191 or (800) 724-0159. Videos of MacMaster performing are available at the Clemens Center site.

December 11, 2009
Natalie MacMaster performs 'Christmas in Cape Breton'
By WILLIAM WESTHOVEN , Daily Record.com

Except for a big Christmas curling tournament, the holiday season for Nova Scotia native Natalie MacMaster is much the same as it is for her thousands of fans in the United States.

But her holiday preparations this year will be rushed, as Canada's fiddling queen is on a three-week tour of the U.S. that ends Dec. 21. She'll bring her "Christmas in Cape Breton" concert to Morristown on Thursday, Dec. 17, marking her third performance at the Community Theatre at Mayo Center for the Performing Arts.

"We've done holiday songs and holiday shows, but this was our first more serious attempt at putting together a Christmas show," MacMaster said during a recent phone interview that found her in Iowa City. "I have three children now and I don't tour quite as much (she's still doing 100 or more shows a year), but I thought this would be a good time to tour, before the snow starts falling."

MacMaster and her husband, Donnell Leahy, leader of the family band, Leahy, are Canadian musical royalty. Long before their marriage in 2002, both had established themselves as fiddle virtuosos, leading bands with international followings that combined traditional Canadian, Celtic, folk and country-bluegrass styles with contemporary instruments and rhythms.

Her travels have led to dozens of recordings and performances with a who's who of music, ranging from Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma to Bela Fleck and Carlos Santana.

MacMaster, though, has altered her band lineup for this tour, which will emphasize her roots in the Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, musical style that she grew up on and has spread around the globe.

"We've switched it up a bit," she said. "The show is 'Christmas in Cape Breton,' so we brought in mostly Canadians."

Pianist and fellow Cape Breton native Mac Morin is back in the band, but the electric guitar and electric bagpipes have been replaced by accordion and cello.

"Cathy Porter (accordion, percussion) is from Halifax, and she is the first girl in the band," MacMaster said proudly. "John Chiasson (bass, vocals) is from Nova Scotia. The one exception is Nathaniel Smith, who is from Mississippi and is only 15. I was looking for a cello player, and Marc O'Connor (the Grammy-winning American fiddler who co-headlined here with MacMaster a few years ago) said you have to check this boy out. If you have not heard him, you're in for a real treat."

December 10, 2009
Fiddler joins Saginaw Choral Society for holiday show
By Sue White, The Saginaw News

With family a top priority these days for Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster and her husband, Donnell Leahy, the couple had a new motor home delivered to their Ontario residence, a way, she said, for them to stay connected with their extended relatives.

“But, of course, neither one of us were there to get it,” MacMaster said from the road, on her way to perform with the Saginaw Choral Society in its annual Christmas concert at the Temple Theatre.

Leahy, a fiddler with the group that bears the family name, is touring, too, with 2-year-old son Michael in tow. MacMaster, who will perform her holiday show and a shared number with the Choral Society after its set, is traveling with 4-year-old Mary Frances and 9-month-old Claire.

Ironically, MacMaster’s balancing act comes as the demand for the fiddlers grows, with audiences entranced with the traditional style of their music.

And it’s not just music fans but fellow musicians as well, including the conductor-candidate directing the show in Saginaw.

“She’s so terrific,” said Kevin Simons, director of music and organist at St. John Episcopal Church in Saginaw, adjunct instructor of voice at Saginaw Valley State University and artistic director and conductor of The Steiner Chorale in Lansing.

“The Choral Society gave me an option, and I jumped at the chance to work with Natalie. She’s been great to work with and we’ve taken our cue from her on developing the program.”

Playing on the folk theme, the Saginaw Choral Society will anchor its performance on the Appalachian-flavored “Star in the East” and fill out the bill with holiday favorites, including “I Saw Three Ships,” “Deck the Halls” and “Joy to the World.”

The ensemble also will perform Morten Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Misterium,” a work Simons calls “a 20th-century quiet piece.”

Rounding out the Saginaw shows are sets by the Saginaw Youth Chorale and the Valley Gals.

“This has been really fun,” said Simons, who holds a master’s degree in choral conducting from Central Michigan University and is studying for a doctorate in music education from Boston University. “I sang with the Choral Society four or five years ago, when Brian d’Arcy James and Kevin Cole performed at the Christmas show, and again with Kathy Mattea.

“I know a lot of the people so it’s been like a bunch of friends getting together.”

MacMaster brings the same sense of community in her Christmas show.

“The Cape Breton style is almost like a genealogy, the music of our ancestors,” said the Nova Scotia native and niece of the famed fiddler Buddy MacMaster. “I play, sing and dance to music that carries on a bloodline, and that’s very powerful.”

That same connection to her heritage, nurtured through visits home, “where just listening to the music again makes me a better player,” she said, means she takes her commitment to her own family very seriously. She will play 50 shows this year, a number she calls “comfortable.” And later in 2010, she and Leahy will tour together, perhaps in the new motor home they haven’t seen yet.

“I haven’t been parenting very long, and it’s been only nine months that I’ve had experience raising three children,” MacMaster said. “I’m always struggling; I do believe that there are great benefits that will come with including them in our travel and music, but I also want them to have a sense of home.”

Also, she said, she and her husband want a large family, “and as circumstances change, we’ll have to adapt. We’re living a fairy tale that takes you away from where you are, and it’s getting harder all the time.”

Simons and his wife will remain in Saginaw, he said, “because we can see the possibilities, that this is a very exciting time for our arts groups.

“Great things are possible when you’re moving up.”

And he sees the Choral Society’s strength — and its challenge as well — as weathering the ups and downs and continuing to meet the artistic needs of the community as well as its own members.

“It’s remarkable that they are celebrating their 75th anniversary next year, and that they’ve probably seen it all in that time,” he said. “But how relevant will they be in the next 75 years? That’s something they are already addressing; they’re very aware of the issues facing many arts groups today.”

If chosen as its conductor, “I would hope to encourage their love of choral singing, and balance that love with a sense of fun. When I lived in Oklahoma City, at a church about three or four blocks from the bombing site, I’d walk down to the memorial to eat lunch. It’s a remarkable place, and it causes you to think.

“That to me is the role of the arts as well, to create moments of beauty like that, spaces of quiet that bring us back to what’s important.”

December 9, 2009
Fiddler MacMaster back at Lebanon Opera House

Whether performing with her full band — featuring guitar, piano, bass, drums and percussion — or with a classical orchestra such as the Edinburgh Symphony, MacMaster has thrilled audiences with her exciting fiddling and dynamic stage persona.

MacMaster has been able to create a signature sound that resonates through world audiences, 10 albums, multiple gold record sales and 27 years of experience. MacMaster has contributed her numerous talents to other great artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss and Carlos Santana.

MacMaster has preformed at many music festivals worldwide, including the Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton, Celtic Connections in Scotland, and MerleFest in the United States. With so much talent under her belt, it’s no wonder this toe-tapping fiddler is making waves with her new festive tour, Christmas in Cape Brenton.

Inspired by the musical members of her family, MacMaster began playing fiddle at the age of 9 on an instrument given to her by a great-uncle. Soon MacMaster was taking formal lessons along with her cousin, Ashley MacIsaac, with whom she played often as a youngster.

MacMaster did not wait for a record deal to release her first album. In 1989, when she was only 16, she released “Four on the Floor’’ and a second album, “Road to the Isle,’’ in 1991. Both of these self-produced albums were initially released only on cassette, but Rounder Records combined and re-released most of these tracks as a compilation in 1998.

MacMaster expanded her following with her first release in the United States, “Fit as a Fiddle,’’ which received a East Coast Music Award as Best Roots/Traditional Album of 1992.

MacMaster continued to expand upon her talents with the 1996 release of “No Boundaries.’’ Hits from this album, such as “Drunken Piper,” solidified MacMaster as one of the top musicians in Canada.

After many more successful albums MacMaster put out the progressive Celtic album “Blueprint,’’ which featured a full drum kit, numerous co-arrangers and session musicians. This album highlighted the versatility of MacMaster and the skill in which she combines traditional Cape Breton sound with other genes of music such as, jazz, bluegrass and folk.

While extremely successful in the recording studios, it is really the stage presence that MacMaster brings to her live performances that sets her apart from other artists.

She plays foot-tapping ballads and soulful waltzes while performing a bit of step dancing as well as storytelling during her energetic live shows. MacMaster plays with her own five-piece band on a rigorous headlining schedule that includes between 100 and 150 shows yearly across Canada, the United States and Europe. When not on tour, however, MacMaster can be found playing her fiddle at local Cape Breton square dances and “little concerts here and there.” In her Christmas show, MacMaster invokes the holiday traditions of her native Cape Breton.

Reserved seats are $45, $35 and $25, with additional discounted tickets for seniors and children. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or by phone at 448-0400. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.lebanonoperahouse.org.

December 7, 2009
REVIEW: Spirited concert from MacMaster revs up Christmas
By Diana Nollen, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Natalie MacMaster is the master of her realm. Everything she does onstage is masterful, from her flawless fiddle playing to her fancy footwork and her fun dialogue with her bandmates and audience. Nearly all 1,100 seats were filled for her "Christmas in Cape Breton" concert presented by Hancher on Saturday night at the Riverside Casino Event Center.

Genetically blessed by generations of musicians, she grew up steeped in the Scottish traditions of Cape Breton Island in northern Nova Scotia.

Her mother taught her step-dancing at age 5, her father started her on violin at age 9 and now she's known internationally as a fiddling phenom.

Smoke practically rises from her instrument as her fiery fingerwork and bowing erupt from deep within her soul.

And yet her concert began quietly, with the angelic voice of her 4-yearold daughter speaking the lyrics to "What Child is This?" MacMaster then picked up the mournful melody with solo violin, joined seamlessly by cello and acoustic guitar. The mood changed instantly as piano and percussion helped them crank up the heat with a Celtic kick that got my side of the room clapping and stomping as MacMaster skipped across the festive stage.

She plays music that moves you, literally and figuratively. She's a perpetual motion machine who throws her whole body into the action of the song and lets out a whoop or two along the way. At her invitation, a few audience members got up and danced to her jigs. She decks familiar Christmas tunes with ornaments and flourishes, giving a light and lively feel to "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," spinning "Christmas in Killarney" into a jig and turning "Winter Wonderland" over to her cellist, who gave it a bluesy feel. All of her band members are accomplished musicians, but a special nod must go to her cellist, 15-year-old prodigy Nathaniel Smith of Brandon, Miss. He matches her in style, fury and finesse and has a resume older performers would die for.

So many moments were worthy of mention, including a playful stepdance twist on "Dancing Cheek to Cheek," featuring MacMaster and her Cape Breton pianist, Mac Morin.

The sweetest moment of the two-hour show, however, came when little Mary Frances Leahy, who just turned 4, danced to her mother's music onstage. All smiles in her red taffeta dress with a black velvet bodice, she gingerly grabbed her mother's hem at first, then let loose with her step-dance flair. When she realized everyone was looking at her, she covered her eyes while her feet and her curls kept flying. And everyone's hearts melted in a peppermint puddle.

The audience got the chance to dance and clap on the encore of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," leaving us all with tidings of comfort and joy, Cape Breton style.

Smoke practically rises from her instrument as her fiery fingerwork and bowing erupt from deep within her soul.

November 22, 2009
Dolly had a dream
Nova Scotians appear in The Book Lady, a documentary about how Parton is sharing her love of books with kids across North America
By ANDREA NEMETZ, Halifax Herald

WHILE SOME may call her the Smoky Mountain Songbird or the Iron Butterfly, Dolly Parton likes to call herself the Little Engine That Did.

Growing up dirt poor in the impoverished East Tennessee hills, the country superstar was the fourth of 12 children of tobacco farmer Robert Lee and Avie Lee Parton.

A lot of her relatives didn’t have a chance to go to school and her own father had problems reading and writing, but the seven-time Grammy Award-winner, now 63, says she read anything she could get her hands on.

"My mother read the Bible and I always loved fairy tales," says Parton, calling from Los Angeles, her honeyed Southern accent warming up a cold Nova Scotia morning.

"I don’t remember learning to read so I must have learned to read early. I didn’t love school, but I love my books. That’s why I’m so happy to teach kids to read. If you can read, you can self-educate."

Many know the Country Music Hall of Famer for her sky-high platinum wigs, flamboyant outfits and outsized cleavage as well as her distinctive soprano. But to a new generation of children in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, she is known as the Book Lady. Since 1996, her Imagination Library has been sending free, age-appropriate hardcover books to children in participating communities from the time they’re born until they’re five years old.

The Book Lady, a short documentary airing at midnight tonight on CBC, chronicles the launch of the Imagination Library in Canada and talks to families in Waycobah about the program. In Nova Scotia, all 13 First Nations communities participate.

Co-written by Halifax’s Brad Horvath and Natasha Ryan, the film that’s as sweet, upbeat and heartfelt as Parton herself premiered at the 2008 Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax.

It features interviews with teen queen Miley Cyrus, country superstar Keith Urban, Canadian singer-songwriters Sarah Harmer and Justin Rutledge, Troy-raised fiddling sensation Natalie MacMaster and beloved children’s author Robert Munsch, as well as interviews with Parton and some of her most beloved music including Jolene and Backwoods Barbie.

The Book Lady, with cinematography by Tom Harting, was produced by Horvath, directed by Ryan and executive produced by Thom Fitzgerald and Doug Pettigrew.

Parton, who received an honorary doctorate from the University of Tennessee earlier this year, says she thinks the film is very well done.

"It’s so sweet to be called the Book Lady. The project started 13 years ago in my home town. . . . The governor of Tennessee liked it and took over the program and then it spread all over Tennessee, all over the U.S., in Canada and now here we are."

More than five million hardcover books were delivered in 2008.

The first book all children receive is The Little Engine That Could.

"It’s such a builder of self-confidence, something all children can relate to — the positive thinking, the idea that faith can move mountains. That book, and my spiritual background, is the source of the confidence instilled in me and it must have worked. I am the little engine that did.

"Kids are most impressionable from the time they’re born to five years old. They learn so many things then. It’s like giving them a head start getting them interested in books, with their siblings and parents. They learn to love books and the books come to them with their own little name on them. I remember the first mail I got with my name on it," she says enthusiastically.

Parton cites fellow southerners John Grisham and Lee Smith as among her favourite authors.

"I’m reading his short stories now. I love everything (Grisham’s) done, A Time to Kill, The Client. . . . Lee Smith is one of my favourites. She writes great Southern tales, though not as many as I’d like. I also read religious books and bestsellers."

Golden Globe-nominated for her acting debut in 1980’s Nine to Five, which spawned the song of the same name and is among her best-known tunes, Parton says she prefers books to movies and TV.

"Mostly I catch things accidentally before I go to bed, things like Forensic Files and Cold Case Files."

But she did make an appearance on American Idol in 2008 in which the nine remaining contestants sang Parton songs.

"It was quite an honour and I enjoyed working with Simon Cowell," she says of her stint as guest mentor.

"The kids are coming up with their dreams and I felt guilty when people did songs that didn’t go over so well. It was a great honour that they learned the words to my songs."

While she’d been asked to be on the show before, she didn’t go.

"I had a new record so it gave me a reason to be on the show rather than just showing up," says the woman who has 41 career Top 10 country albums. She released Backwoods Barbie that year and performed the single Jesus and Gravity on the show.

While she’d consider another American Idol appearance, she wouldn’t want to star on her own reality TV show.

"Oh my Lord, I couldn’t let anyone know that much about me," she says with palpable horror.

"It would scare me to death. Everything you do is recorded. I’m very outgoing as far as talking to people but when I go home, I don’t want people following me. I’m a very private person."

But people will soon be able to see her story on both stage and screen. Parton is writing her life story as a Broadway musical and separately as a movie.

"I may get to do a cameo in the movie or I may narrate it, but I won’t be playing myself in either, I know that much."

Last year she wrote the score to 9 to 5: The Musical, staged in California and on Broadway.

"It was a new adventure. I really enjoyed it, though I was scared at first. It was very different than writing songs. But there was freedom without having to structure something for radio. You could take more time . . . (and) write what the characters would want to say without worrying about time restrictions. I found great freedom. I was writing for their personalities."

She says being thrown into the middle of a stage musical taught her a lot.

"I’d talked about it before 9 to 5 and now I think I’ve learned enough to go ahead."

In the meantime, fans can pick up Dolly: Live from London, a CD and DVD set released this month on Dolly Records, which was filmed during her sold-out 2008 concerts at London’s O2 Arena. It includes some of her biggest hits like Here You Come Again, I Will Always Love You and the heart-rending Coat of Many Colours.

"We were on tour in Europe for five weeks and did the last two shows in London. It was a wonderful show. With the DVD-CD, you feel you’re right there... You can watch from behind the scenes, get insight into how we do the show."

Parton has no plans for a tour in support of the release, so catch her Sunday on CBC.

November 12, 2009
True Patriot Love Foundation raises over $2 million in support of military families
CNW Group

Prime Minister and Premiers Unite in Support of Largest Fundraiser for
Military Families

TORONTO -- Chair Shaun Francis tonight announced at the True Patriot Love Foundation inaugural gala that the Foundation has raised over $2 million in support of Canadian military families.

"Tonight, we have most of our country's leaders assembled, but we are not here as Conservative, Liberal, NDP or Green. We are here as fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and friends, and most importantly as citizens of this great country," said Francis.

This is the largest fundraiser for military families in Canadian history and the money raised will be donated to the Military Families Fund. The purpose of the Fund is to quickly step in to assist military families faced with unforeseen and often urgent needs that have resulted from conditions of service, including rehabilitation after an injury, educational support for children with special needs on remote bases, financial assistance in the case of injury or death, and urgent and extraordinary financial demands where the ability to provide family necessities is at risk.

"I am in awe by the overwhelming support to the Canadian Forces and their families shown here tonight," said Master Corporal Jody Mitic, who was recognized by Prime Minister Harper. "Such outward visible support is a huge morale boost to the troops."

Over 1,700 guests attended the dinner at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, including military families (including Captain Trevor Green, and Master Corporal Jody Mitic), The Right Honourable Prime Minister Harper, The Honourable David C. Onley, Premier McGuinty, Right Honourable Paul Martin, M.P. Michael Ignatieff, M.P. Jack Layton, Elizabeth May, Chief William Blair, Chief Sharon Stinson Henry, Don Cherry and Sam Reid.

General Natynczyk delivered the keynote address, General (Ret'd) Rick Hillier was the Honourary Chair, and CTV's Lisa LaFlamme and the Honourable Bill Davis were the Masters of Ceremony. Entertainment for the evening included the Canadian Tenors, Leahy and Natalie MacMaster, Dennis Leclair, Beverley Mahood and The Fern Hill School Choir. Telus was the lead sponsor for the evening.

"Tonight we recognize the outstanding service to Canada by our men and women in uniform. We appreciate the love, care and support by their families," said General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff. "And especially in this week of remembrance, we celebrate our Veterans - those who trained us, who showed us the way, who showed us what right looks like. Those who went overseas and made the supreme sacrifice so that we could live in peace."

"Canadians do a tremendous job of recognizing the sacrifices made by our parents, grandparents and greatgrandparents," said Francis. "But it's equally important that Veterans Week includes recognizing the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform and their families are making today. That is the mission of the True Patriot Love Foundation."

The True Patriot Love Foundation, founded by corporate and community leaders, is dedicated to raising funds for programs to improve the wellbeing of members of the Canadian military and their families, and to celebrate their selfless service. The Foundation strives to help meet the needs of Canadian heroes serving at home and abroad, as well as the needs of the families who support them.

For further information: Ms. Bronwen Evans, Director, True Patriot Love Foundation, bronwenevans@truepatriotlovefoundation.com, (416) 350-8374, (647) 448-8374 - cell

October 4, 2009
Hardly Strictly Festival packs in a crowd for music fest
Aidin Vaziri, Chronicle Pop Music Critic

The few hundred people that made the effort to show up early Saturday to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 9 festival in Golden Gate Park were rewarded lavishly.

Breaking in the new Towers of Gold Stage at the far end of Lindley Meadow just before noon, Nashville guitarist Buddy Miller brought out a couple of special guests - Emmylou Harris to sing devastating harmonies on his song "Wide River to Cross" and Robert Plant to unleash his leather lung wail on the Hank Snow standard "I'm Movin' On."

The free festival, which closes its three-day run tonight with a headlining set by Harris, drew record crowds for its ninth year despite fierce winds and heavy traffic.

Organizers didn't have an exact number but enough people showed up to force the closure of 19th Avenue, knock out AT&T cell phone service and fill just about every available patch of grass, dirt and asphalt from Speedway Meadow on west.

"There's more people than the park can hold," said one onsite police officer.

Hardly Strictly booker Dawn Holliday, general manager of Slim's and the Great American Music Hall, said they expected about 750,000 to attend over the weekend. With more than 80 acts spread across six stages, there was certainly more than enough going on to keep them all entertained.

Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder offered traditional bluegrass on the Banjo Stage. Okkervil River did indie rock back at the Towers of Gold Stage. Old school country outlaw Billy Joe Shaver impressed himself on the Arrow Stage audience by declaring, "If you don't love Jesus, go to hell."

But it felt like most of the attendees turned out to see comic actor Steve Martin perform songs from his instrumental banjo album, "The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo," along with the Steep Canyon Rangers.

After his set he was greeted by fellow amateur banjoist Warren Hellman, the billionaire investment banker who finances Hardly Strictly as a gift to the city.

Even though Hellman's right arm was wrapped in a sling after a recent bout of shingles, he still managed to make it through his bluegrass group the Wronglers' traditional morning set and sit in with the Dry Branch Fire Squad later in the day.

After saying hello to Martin, he jumped into a waiting golf cart to be transported to the next act on his personal schedule. "Have you seen Natalie MacMaster?" Hellman said. "She can play that fast and dance while she's doing it."

"He's having the time of his life," Holliday said after Hellman sped off.

Watching the families basking in the sun, music fans racing from stage to stage, and dogs lying on the grass, it was clear he wasn't the only one.

July 28, 2009
NAC/NCC Orchestras in the Park: the weather did not stop the music!
Ottawa Start

The National Capital Commission (NCC) and the National Arts Centre (NAC) thank the 18,700 concert-goers who made the third edition of Orchestras in the Park a resounding success. The program of four free outdoor concerts in LeBreton Flats Park, from July 23 to 26, came to a close yesterday evening.

In spite of weather forecasts that threatened rain all four nights, concert-goers were rewarded with concerts that went ahead on time and in their entirety under almost entirely rainfree skies.

This excerpt from an unsolicited e-mail received this morning summarized what a lot of concert-goers were saying about these four perfect concerts:

“My family appreciated the concerts at LeBreton Flats Park. I can't imagine a better way to give the general public an opportunity to hear music that some might not be familiar with. It also provided an opportunity for people who cannot afford to attend concerts at the NAC to hear good music performed by world-class musicians. My wife and I enjoyed Thursday, Friday and Sunday the most. My two granddaughters, however, thought that Natalie MacMaster was wonderful (and she was). The setting and ease of access to the site could not have been better.”

Indeed, the National Capital Commission and the National Arts Centre are proud of the strong line-up of performers featured this year with the NAC Orchestra and the Orchestre de la francophonie canadienne: Anton Kuerti, Julian Kuerti, Amy Horvey, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, Erin Wall, Antonio Figueroa, James Westman, Laurence Ewashko, Jean-Philippe Tremblay, Hong Xu and of course, Natalie MacMaster.

Orchestras in the Park is a collaboration between the NAC and the NCC to present a series of free outdoor orchestral concerts at LeBreton Flats Park, the biggest gathering site for cultural events in the Capital.

July 24, 2009
Rollo Bay: rooted as strongly as ever
By TODD MACLEAN, The Guardian, Charlottetown, PEI

There was a strong sense of spirit soaring about this year's Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival. Like a tree that's tapped into a newfound water source, all limbs of the festival were just teeming with life, especially as compared to recent years, where this tree has seemed not as flourishing as it once was in its early years.

Many would say that this had only to do with the presence of this year's star headliner, Natalie MacMaster. But, taking in the festival last Sunday afternoon, it was clear that there was some other magic stirring about in the air.

As many a tribute was played to the legendary Cape Breton fiddler, Jerry Holland, who passed away just last week, and as so many were cognizant of the fact that this is the first festival without the presence of the great Bennett Campbell, festival orchestrator and adored emcee) who died just last fall, there was certainly a good deal of praise and spiritual recognition going on.

And one can't help but think that somehow the spirit of Campbell, in particular, may have been shining through it all. Amid the incredible success of this year's show, the amazing music and the happy times shared, it is certain that Rollo Bay's main enthusiast through the years was smiling down upon it all last weekend with pride. Sunday's afternoon of music began in appropriate Chaisson style at 2 p.m. with a set by Tim, Kevin and Peter Chaisson, as the sun poured down bright and hot on the festival grounds, not a cloud in sight.

Cape Breton fiddler Mike Hall then got up and performed a moving tribute to colleague Jerry Holland, followed by sets by Courtney Hogan, the Queens County Fiddlers, Fiddlers' Sons, Anastasia DesRoches, J.J. and Tim Chaisson and Kimberley
Fraser and The Judy MacLean Dancers (with Madison Birt and Vanessa Bernard).

The sun-glassed crowd spread across the grounds squinted on in anticipation, as the moment many were waiting for was then at hand: master of ceremonies Marlene MacDonald introduced festival headliner, Natalie MacMaster. An immediate standing ovation welcomed her, as she entered with a grin.

"You guys are pretty sweet gettin' up like that. Thanks very much," she said as she sat down to begin. "It truly is a privilege to be back here. I'm gonna' start off with a couple of jigs."

With that signature smoothness and control that's recognizable right from her first phrase, MacMaster paraded through those first jigs with ease, and the audience savoured it all ­ many of them crowding around to the front of the stage to be as close as possible. MacMaster's performance only lasted five sets and 20 minutes, but in that time she left as powerful of an impression as one could expect, right to her finale, as The Reel of Tulloch's jaw dropping precision, speed and soul ignited everyone to their feet. An encore then brought with it more awesomeness, as she and Island guitarist Elmer Deagle (who really must be cited as the man behind bringing MacMaster to the festival) and pianist Mac Morin just rocked the place one last time. After Natalie escaped from the stage with a smiling wave as her second standing ovation was erupting before her, she was then flocked by a herd of supporters and fans at the stairs.

Notably among these was 11-year-old fiddling sensation from Stratford, Fiona MacCorquodale, who shook the place on Friday night during her solo at the youth concert ­ so much that famed Cape Breton fiddler Chrissy Crowley coined her as "the next Natalie MacMaster."

It was all too fitting: the up and coming youth fiddler, posing with her idol, the star fiddler who played on this same stage at that same age.

Couple that with the fact that MacCorquodale is at the Gaelic College in St. Ann's, Cape Breton, this week, a trip awarded to her with this year's Queens County Fiddlers Youth Scholarship, and is learning from the man who taught MacMaster, Stan Chapman ­ and it becomes even more fitting.

The afternoon rounded out with The Cape Breton Fiddlers' tribute to Jerry Holland (that also featured MacMaster, before she had to literally run across the grounds to catch her flight back to Ontario) and great performances by Richard
Wood, Colette Cheverie and a host of others, enjoyed by the huge turnout of an audience.

"Doreen (Chaisson) said this crowd is maybe a little better than the crowds they used to have in the old days," said Island fiddler Ward MacDonald that afternoon. "And you gotta' remember, that's 33 years ago before there were ceilidhs dotting the Island all the time. When they started this, it was the first thing of its type."

So to get this kind of crowd in this day, when there are virtually hundreds of fiddle concerts that go on every summer, is certainly a feat.

Let's hope that the good fortune MacMaster brought with her this summer continues from here on for the Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival ­ and we'll see this tree still flourishing strongly in another three decades.

June 29, 2009
Natalie MacMaster to perform at Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival, July 19
By Carolyn Drake , The Guardian

Cape Breton fiddling sensation Natalie MacMaster will be performing at the 33rd annual Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival, set for July 17-19.

“I was so overwhelmed by the news. I’m still reeling from it,” said Peter Chaisson, a well-known Island fiddler and one of the organizers of the event. “She is a world-renowned performer. It certainly is going to be a big boost to Eastern Kings.”

MacMaster has played a couple of times in Rollo Bay over the years, including one of her first public performances when she was about 10 years old. That early musical promise has been more than fulfilled as she went on to develop a signature Celtic sound that has resonated with audiences around the world through 10 albums, multiple gold sales and numerous Juno and East Coast Music Awards.

Her decision to return to Rollo Bay this year came about thanks to a talented Prince Edward Island Celtic musician who has been performing on tour with MacMaster this spring.

“Elmer Deagle mentioned to me that he should ask Natalie if she wanted to come to play at the fiddle festival,” said Chaisson. “I never really thought it would happen, but he got talking to her about it the last time they played in Santa Monica, California.”

MacMaster, who is scheduled to perform at the afternoon concert on Sunday, July 19, was more than happy to oblige once she realized she was available on that weekend.
“Elmer is such a sweet guy,” she said earlier this week in a phone interview from her home in Ontario. “And (my family) has always had a lot respect for the Chaisson family. They were ‘it’ for us on P.E.I. as far as the fiddle music goes and they still are.”
Returning to the Island also brings back some wonderful memories of family summer vacations to MacMaster, who is now the mother of three young children.

“For us, going to P.E.I. was always a big deal. We went every year — that was our vacation spot. We’d do Rainbow Valley and go to the beaches. I can almost smell it right now, that’s the impact P.E.I. has on me. It is such a good, good memory. It was always excitement in itself.”

MacMaster, who enjoys the atmosphere of a big outdoor fiddle festival, said the Rollo Bay event is the real thing.

“What I like about the festival is that it is structured so locally with so many talented local musicians. It is very authentic. And now that I’m older and can analyze things, I do recognize that the festival has a longevity and authenticity, and that is so important in this day and age.”

MacMaster also likes the idea of performing for people who truly appreciate Celtic music.
“It always excites me when I’m playing in front of true blue fans who know the music.
“In Rollo Bay, it will be people listening to their own music, and they get it, they understand it. So, though I haven’t quite decided exactly what I will be playing, there will be a lot of old stuff for sure.

“I do want it to be really traditional and back to the roots,” says MacMaster, who expects to play for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, accompanied by Deagle and piano player Mac Morin from Cape Breton.

MacMaster joins a Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival lineup of talented fiddlers, accompanists and singers throughout the weekend, said Chaisson, adding they come from across Prince Edward Island and various parts of the Maritimes.

Already confirmed for a great weekend of music are Kimberley Fraser, Andrea Beaton, the Queens County Fiddlers, the Cape Breton Fiddlers, Richard Wood, Chrissy Crowley, Ward MacDonald, Peter, Kenny and Kevin Chaisson, Cynthia MacLeod, Timothy Chaisson, J.J. Chaisson, Elmer Deagle, Alan MacDonald, Francis MacCormack, Lemmy Chaisson, Urban MacAdam, Donna Marie Peters, Chad Mooney and Mike Hall.
“Natalie’s a celebrity in Celtic music, and I think she is admired throughout North America,” said Chaisson. “She brings all kinds of beautiful sound to the stage, and there’s nothing more beautiful than the sound of the fiddle as far as I’m concerned.”

May 17, 2009
McMaster brings Cape Breton to Albany
Michael Hochanadel - Daily Gazette, Schenectady, NY

ALBANY — You didn’t have to know a jig from a reel or a strathspey from a waltz to enjoy Natalie McMaster’s music at The Egg on Saturday. Shielding her eyes to survey the near-capacity crowd and ask about hometowns, she found “enough [fellow Cape Breton Islanders] for a square [dance] set.”

Armed with world-class talent and small-town charm, McMaster has long mastered the intimate art of invitation, of taking audiences to the traditional music of mind and heart she carries with her. She fiddles up a big blur of notes while also dancing, with microphones on the stage surface to capture the music of her flying feet. She and her three players (a “more trad” band, she said, than in past local shows, featuring bagpipes, drums and bass) medleyed jigs and reels to start, sketching the blueprint for their nearly two-hour show.

Cape Breton Island may be a small place, but McMaster’s music, based in its Scotch-Irish traditions, felt big because of the energy she gave it. She also reached beyond tradition without compromising her cozy feel. Her (15-year-old!) cellist, Nathaniel Smith, led the band into McMaster’s own “Christmas Jig,” ably filling in for Yo-Yo Ma, who played on the recording, but it was McMaster herself, as usual, who flowed the song into a venerable and similarly happy Irish tune. No one sang in the show, but many songs told tales. The Norwegian “Josephine’s Waltz” that followed the “Christmas Jig” medley evoked a lover’s loss and then a survivor’s pride. And in her short string solo in the second set, McMaster told how a Scottish tune so ancient that it has lost its name echoed for her the melancholy of Scottish settlers arriving with hopes and fears in Nova Scotia.

Somber songs were few as the band rejoined McMaster for the lively “Jean’s Reel.” For all her charisma and energy, she shared the spotlight well. Pianist Mac Morin, phrasing like George Winston in a Celtic mood, revved from a folkish style into something like Irish Harlem stride. McMaster said Cape Breton fiddlers use piano accompaniment, and to demonstrate and explode traditional duet technique, McMaster sat alongside Morin to improvise from tradition to spontaneous inspiration.

The second set started closer to home but wandered both into ensemble surprises — a polka among the reels — and solos. Smith bebopped through “What a Wonderful World,” and self-effacing guitarist-banjoist-mandola player Elmer Deagle led the band through swift-flowing reels.

McMaster enjoyed and made good use of her band, but she could probably have held the audience on her own. . The mother of three (the youngest was born in February), wife of a fiddler and proprietor of a cattle ranch, she displayed enough energy for about five people and looked utterly glamorous and musically commanding.

April 17, 2009
Home-Cooked Symphony Concert
Live music Archive

A hand shot up out of the audience and waved emphatically, attempting to catch the celebrity’s attention. The spotlit fiddler peered out into the darkness and candidly asked, “Do I know you? Am I related to you?”

The whole room burst into laughter and I felt like I was right there with Natalie MacMaster in her kitchen enjoying a homespun “ceilidh,” (pronounced “kay-lee”) Celtic dance. This “kitchen” had a world-famous celebrity, a top-notch symphony orchestra and over 450 paying guests at $40 each, but that’s beside the point. It was still Natalie’s kitchen.

She went on to tune her violin patiently, though hundreds of eyes watched anxiously. Perhaps she sensed the urgency when she joked that her tuning was, “Close enough for Celtic,” and the room chuckled again. Then this sweet, down-to-earth gal from

Cape Breton Island picked up her fiddle and the “kitchen” went up in flames! There wasn’t a foot within earshot that could resist tapping to her phenomenal playing and dancing. Earshot, but not eyeshot. Unfortunately, most of the audience could only see the virtuoso from the waist-up due to the level seating arrangement of the hall. Natalie’s legendary clicks and clacks of tap shoes on the hollow stage stirred me to leave my seat and watch the entire concert from the side aisle. Soon after standing, I ran back to my aisle to fetch my young violin students, who were too short to catch the fancy footwork from their seats.

In true Celtic tradition, our quiet observation from the sidelines grew into louder foot stomping, which rapidly escalated into energetic circle dancing and jigs. Natalie’s own dancing featured high kicks, quick spins and rhythmic tap dancing. As the show progressed, her traditional Scottish step dancing morphed into groovy modern hip-hop and disco moves, including the notorious and difficult “Moonwalk!”

Much to my surprise and delight, the music also went through a breathtaking metamorphosis. The concert started with traditional Celtic melodies played by the silky string sections of the symphony. Next was a Cape Breton fiddle tune in A major, what Natalie called the “Canadian key.”

After such traditional pieces, we learned that she was more multifaceted than imaginable. From a Latin mix to the gorgeous jazz ballad, “Autumn Leaves,” we were all captivated by her versatility. Concertmaster of the Okanagan Symphony, Denis Letourneau, was as mesmerized as the audience was! The classical virtuoso beamed from ear to ear and repeatedly shook his head in awe and admiration of Natalie’s fiddling fireworks. Then he contributed to the pyrotechnics when he joined Natalie for a musical goulash where “fiddling met violining.” Their duet blended the popular fiddle tune “Devil’s Dream” with the intricate Bach Violin Partida in E! “Denis, we have an expression back in Cape Breton,” said Natalie afterwards, “When we really dig in, we say we were ‘driving ‘er.’ Now you can go home and say last night you were really ‘driving ‘er!” Denis blushed. Natalie smiled. We all felt two worlds converge and it felt wonderful.

As our cultures blend, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more “Traditional fusion” in music. Diverse forms of music, polar as they may seem now, will soon merge and create new genres that people of all ages and walks of life can appreciate. Put a symphony orchestra, a fiddler, a funk band and a bagpiper playing on stage at the same time and everyone from Grandma to the teenager with the spiked hair will approve.

There will be growing pains, naturally. As in Natalie’s concert, there will be an obvious polarity in the audience in deciding proper concert protocol. Some people at the concert didn’t know whether get up and dance in the aisles, or to be content in sitting in quiet appreciation. Like any pioneers, we’ll find a middle ground that works for everyone. Heck, a friend of mine once created “seated dancing” in such an awkward situation.

Natalie’s charm and talent, coupled with her obvious love of music, were enough to inspire me and several other violinists present to explore new avenues of expression and technique. I couldn’t wait to get home to try some of the things she showed us so flawlessly that night.

Natalie provided further inspiration when she agreed to sign fiddles my students had brought with them. Then she stood, weary and tired, but smiling enthusiastically for group photographs with me and my fiddle students. My students, young and old, talked about Natalie’s concert for weeks and have found a role model who will guide them into wonderful new directions.

Thank you, Natalie. You are one amazing Canadian pioneer and we love you for it!

** Rhiannon Schmitt (nee Nachbaur) is a professional violinist and music teacher who has enjoyed creative writing for years. She currently writes columns for two Canadian publications and has been featured in Australia’s “Music Teacher Magazine.” Writing allows her to teach people that the world of music is as fun as you spin it to be! Rhiannon, age 29, has worn the hats of businesswoman, performer, events promoter, classical music radio host and school orchestra music arranger in rural British Columbia, Canada.

April 7, 2009

Natalie MacMaster and her musical partner Donnell Leahy talk to TED and play several tunes from the Cape Breton tradition -- a sprightly, soulful style of folk fiddling. It's an inspired collaboration that will have you clapping (and maybe dancing) along.

(Click image below to watch video. Will open in a new window)

Click to watch video

March 31, 2009

A few photos of the new MacMaster/Leahy addition... Clare Marie!
(Click photos for larger views)


March 20, 2009
Four weeks after giving birth, Canadian fiddler performs with Grand Rapids Symphony
by Jeff Kaczmarczyk, The Grand Rapids Press

Fiddler Natalie MacMaster delivered an evening of reels, jigs and strathspeys with associate conductor John Varineau and the Grand Rapids Symphony.

GRAND RAPIDS -- You wouldn't know if someone didn't tell you. Just four weeks ago, fiddler Natalie MacMaster gave birth to her third child, Clare.

You wouldn't know to see her step out on stage on Friday, looking svelte in a close-fitting outfit. You certainly wouldn't know it to watch her kick up her heels with a little -- all right, more than a little -- Irish step dancing.

When MacMaster told the audience Friday night in DeVos Performance Hall that she had to nurse her newborn during intermission, well, that gave that away. An audience of 1,355 gave her a generous round of applause for that alone when MacMaster joined the Grand Rapids Symphony for its Pops Series in DeVos Hall.

The evening of Celtic-flavor music comes just days after St. Patrick's Day. With a Scots musician named MacMaster on stage, we really should be celebrating St. Andrew's Day. But the feast day of Scotland's patron saint falls on Nov. 30, and we really don't want to go through all that again.

MacMaster's fiddling was just what the doctor ordered for the first day of spring. Sunny, snappy music all around, with more fiddle tunes than you could count on all your fingers and toes.

MacMaster entertained in a relaxed, let's-have-a-house-party style, both with the orchestra or alone with only her pianist, Mac Morin, who she referred to as her "neighbor from Troy," a community in Nova Scotia.

Together, they tore up the stage with a set of tunes they call their "Tullochgorum Set," Morin accompanying with a Celtic, boogie-woogie stride piano style and MacMaster sawing up a storm, seated in a chair, and tap dancing with both feet. Toward the end, Grand Rapids Symphony's principal percussionist Bill Vits stepped up to play his wooden sticks, known as rhythm bones. With a full orchestra behind her, MacMaster played a lovely version of "O'Carolan's Concerto," a piece by the legendary Irish composer Turlough O'Carolan.

Naturally, she played her most requested tune, the enchanting, "If Ever You Were Mine," from her 1993 album, "Fit as a Fiddle."

The other star of the show was Grand Rapids Symphony concertmaster James Crawford, who joined MacMaster for fiddle and violin duets. Think of a comedian working with a straight man, a little like Gracie Allen and George Burns, and you get the idea of them trading licks with J.S. Bach's Violin Partita No. 5 and the traditional tune "Devil's Dream."

Varineau and the orchestra did not coast through the evening. They opened the first half with Sean O' Boyle's "Baile Chruiach," an extravaganza of Celtic-flavored music with antiphonal brass and unusual percussion. Varineau worked in a little more traditional fare with Percy Grainger's deep-voiced arrangement of "Irish Tune from County Derry" -- better known as "Danny Boy."

Victor Herbert's "Irish Rhapsody," with tunes such as "Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms," had a lush, post-romantic flavor to it.

Early on, MacMaster asked if anyone in the audience was from Cape Breton. When no one replied, she said, "You never know."

But, really, for a couple of hours, everyone was a visitor, at least, to the lovely island in Atlantic Canada.

March 20, 2009
Natalie MacMaster’s artistry continues to captivate
By Garaud MacTaggart

The joy of performing is readily apparent in Natalie MacMaster’s face as she delights the crowd Wednesday night at the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts.
Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News

Roughly three weeks ago, Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster gave birth to her third child, a new baby girl.

On Wednesday night, she was step dancing, complete with flashing heels, tapping toes and pumping arms, up on the Center for the Arts stage on the North Campus of the University at Buffalo.

If MacMaster hadn’t announced it early on in her performance, most folks in the audience probably wouldn’t have known of her recent delivery. People would have just chalked up her energetic show as perfectly normal for her, especially if they had seen MacMaster on earlier concert tours. But then again, some may remember how demonstrably pregnant she was while hoofing it on-stage when performing in Buffalo a few years ago and not been surprised at her current antics.

All that aside, MacMaster’s fan base is loyal because she is a consummate musician and entertainer. Her fiddle artistry has all the traditional hallmarks of the Cape Breton style of playing, a genre with deep roots in the island’s overwhelming Scottish heritage, but MacMaster has always ridden on the edge of that tradition, adapting it to play to a larger audience.

Wednesday night was a little different. For one thing, she was traveling with a slightly smaller ensemble than what she has used in the past. Eschewing her usual touring drummer and bass player, the fiddler embraced a more traditional stance.

Joined by cellist Nathaniel Smith, her longtime keyboard player Mac Morin and multi-instrumentalist Matt MacIsaacs, MacMaster sought to bring to the stage the feeling of a Cape Breton dance hall, a place where the community gathers to hear music and move to time-honored rhythms. There was even a screen serving as a backdrop to the musicians and upon which video clips of Cape Breton life were shown.

As MacMaster played and danced, bow and feet moving in tandem, the jigs, reels and waltzes flowed from the ensemble with deceptive ease. All of the musicians were top-notch. You could point to Morin’s spotlight moment where Mc- Master dropped out and the pianist was supported by cello and flute.

Then there was the sterling duet between Smith’s energetic, almost rock-and-roll, cello playing and MacMaster’s dual artistry of fiddle and feet and Mac-Isaacs’ fluid movement between guitar, flute, and banjo and, most impressively, the highland pipes.

The end result was a concert where the musicians took the audience to a different place.
And when you get right down to it, isn’t that why folks go to concerts in the first place?

March 18, 2009
Celtic fiddler Natalie MacMaster to perform with Grand Rapids Symphony
by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk | The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS -- Celtic fiddler Natalie MacMaster, who will perform with the Grand Rapids Symphony in Grand Rapids, has garnered a Grammy Award nomination, a Juno Award, a couple of Top 20 albums on Billboard's World Music Charts and four gold-selling CDs in her native Canada.

Natalie MacMaster will perform with the Grand Rapids Symphony in Grand Rapids.

But her biggest project of 2009 was giving birth to her third child. Daughter Clare Marie came into the world on Feb. 18, and little more than a month later, mom Natalie MacMaster will be step dancing across the stage of DeVos Performance Hall.

Her three-concert appearance this weekend with the Grand Rapids Symphony's Pops Series isn't even her first outing since giving birth.

"These shows were booked before anyone knew I was pregnant," MacMaster said.

MacMaster, 36, will join associate conductor John Varineau and the orchestra for an evening of jigs, ballads and contemporary tunes in the Cape Breton-style fiddling, which Scottish immigrants brought with them to Atlantic Canada.

"No doubt evolution has occurred and will continue to occur," she said. "But I'm told that the music of Cape Breton is the most authentic of Scottish music today."

The native of Nova Scotia grew up in a family of musicians, including her uncle, Buddy MacMaster, a legend among fiddlers.

Natalie MacMaster began fiddling before her 10th birthday.

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

Her musical career, now entering its third decade, rode the wave of a Celtic fad that spawned such shows as "RiverDance."

MacMaster recorded her first album, "Four On The Floor" at age 16.

"That was a great time to be establishing your fan base and your sound and your brand," she said. "People were hungry for it back then. It was fresh and new, even though it's a very old music."

MacMaster has worked with musicians ranging from operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti to guitarist Carlos Santana as well as fellow fiddlers Alison Krauss and Mark O'Connor.

At one point, she was doing 250 shows a year, but she's cut back to 50 shows in 2009.

"I did 80 last year, and a hundred before that," she said. "But then the kids came along."

MacMaster married fiddler Donnell Leahy of the band Leahy in 2002. Their careers often take them in different directions, so MacMaster will have kids in tow when she's in Grand Rapids this weekend.

Two weeks ago, she was playing with her elder daughter and did a little step dancing.

"I jumped for the first time," she recalled. "Oooh, that didn't feel good."

But she's going to give it a shot when she joins the orchestra this weekend.

"I can't not move, that's for sure," she said. "I'll dance. I say that confidently, now."

March 18, 2009
VisionTV Streams Faith Broadcast Online Featuring performance by Natalie MacMaster
The Broaddcaster

Canadian faith network VisionTV will stream its annual National Catholic Mission broadcast online. The National Catholic Mission 2009 broadcast on VisionTV is a two-part faith special that will offer reflections for the Lenten season, programmers describe.

The marks the first time VisionTV is streaming the event, although the specialty service did launch a video streaming service VisionTV on Demand in 2007. VisionTV on Demand offers hours of program previews, exclusive clips and original content, all available for streaming free of charge. VisionTV's audience can also follow the station's activities on Twitter.

Presented by the National Catholic Broadcasting Council, the annual National Catholic Mission invites Catholic Church members across Canada to rekindle their faith and seek new direction for their lives.

The broadcast will include presentations by prominent Catholic clergy and educators, along with musical performances by fiddler Natalie MacMaster, singer Michael Burgess and singer/actress Arlene Duncan (Little Mosque on the Prairie).

"We are proud to continue our longstanding partnership with the National Catholic Broadcasting Council -- and most especially pleased to introduce online streaming of the National Catholic Mission, giving more Canadians than ever the opportunity to experience this annual event," Mark Prasuhn, Chief Content Officer for VisionTV, said in a release.

March 3, 2009
Natalie MacMaster in Portland
Sun Journal, Portland

PORTLAND - Over the last decade, fiddler extraordinaire Natalie MacMaster has gone from the dance halls and traditional Scots-Irish music ceilidhs of her Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to critical acclaim on folk, world and pop music stages around the globe.

Tuesday, March 17, MacMaster and her band will return to Merrill Auditorium for a rollicking Saint Patrick's Day celebration featuring high-energy Celtic music and step dancing. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m.

A longtime Maine and PCA Great Performances favorite, MacMaster has taken the traditional sounds of her homeland in new directions while always staying true to the music's deep-seated Celtic roots.

A MacMaster concert is part kitchen party, part traditional music and storytelling session (ceilidh) and part high-stepping dance hall charm. She and her band explore her cultural roots, tinged with bluegrass, pop and jazz. MacMaster's bandmates are Mac Morin, piano and step dance; Matt MacIsaac, pipes, whistles and banjo; J.D. Blair, drums; and Nathaniel Smith, cello.

The niece of legendary Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster, Natalie first picked up the fiddle at age 9. She quickly became a lauded talent in her own right, earning numerous awards for her early traditional recordings. Branching out from her roots to embrace country, pop, and global influences, she quickly won kudos on the Celtic and world music circuits, picking up honors for Best Female Artist and Best Roots/Traditional Recording from Canada's East Coast Music Awards along the way. In July 2006, MacMaster became one of the youngest people ever named a member of the prestigious Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honor.

MacMaster's live performances are renowned for their energy and rhythmic intensity. She has shared stages with Santana, The Chieftains, Paul Simon, Faith Hill, Don Henley, Luciano Pavarotti and numerous symphony orchestras.

PCA Offstage, the education and community outreach arm of PCA Great Performances, will present a free preperformance lecture prior to the concert featuring Lewis MacKinnon, head of Nova Scotia's Office of Gaelic Affairs. An informal talk, he will discuss the origins and extent of Gaelic culture in Nova Scotia and share insights into Gaelic music, stories, humor and song. The lecture will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Merrill Auditorium rehearsal hall.

MacMaster's concert is part of PCA Great Performances' 2008-09 Traverser La Frontière series featuring performances focused on Canadian artists in children's theater, dance and music and their connections with Maine.

February 23, 2009:  It's a Girl!

Congratulations to Natalie and Donnell on the birth of their new baby girl,
Clare Marie, born on February 18th!

February 9, 2009
14 Leahys, 14 fiddles: Leahy family benefit shows at Showplace
raise $50,000 for Lakefield clinic project

An "amazing and tremendous show" will bring in roughly $50,000 for the Lakefield Primary Health Care campaign, the campaign chairman said yesterday. Bruce Gibson said the two sold-out shows Thursday and last night by Leahy at Showplace have made a big impact on the campaign's goals.

"It certainly maintains the momentum of our campaign," Gibson said.

As part of the fundraising drive for the Lakefield Primary Healthcare Centre, Gibson said members of the Lakefield-based Leahy family and band were approached about participating.

"Once they were made aware of what we were doing, they were very eager," he said. "We're building a medical centre for a family health team and we couldn't do better than a family like Leahy to support us."

All the proceeds from the concerts go to the campaign, which Gibson said will be about $50,000.

"It was an amazing, tremendous show," Gibson said of Thursday night's performance. "It's hard to believe one family has that much talent," Gibson said. "They had three generations on stage at one point last night."

The campaign also received a $25,000 donation from Scotiabank at Thursday's show. After last night's concert, Gibson said the fundraising total will be roughly $4.1 million. The goal is $4.4 million.

"It certainly shows the support all across the community," he said.

Donnell Leahy told The Examiner the family wanted to contribute to their hometown.

"We all have ways we can help and this is one way we can," he said. "So many people in this community step up and support their own. And we wanted to be a part of that."

Health care is one thing Leahy said always makes the family happy to be home and proud to be Canadian.

"We're having a little one every day in this family," he laughed. There are eight siblings in the group, several with children.

Leahy's wife, fiddler Natalie MacMaster, is pregnant with their third child and due Feb. 10. Helping support the campaign is another way the Leahys want to stay connected to the community, he said.

"We plan on living here forever."

As much as the family tours and performs, Leahy said it's always different playing at home.

For one thing, he said, it's very different to look over the crowd and recognize a lot of faces. The other thing is you definitely want the hometown show to be special. To add that special touch, the Leahys brought more of the family on stage. Some of the siblings' children and their parents as well as MacMaster became part of the performance.

"There were 15 fiddles on stage (Thursday night)," Leahy said. "We've never had that many before."

Another 14 fiddles were on stage last night. The impact of the fiddle-packed stage wasn't lost on Leahy.

"To have our parents there ... it all started with them. It certainly makes this one to remember. It completed the whole show."