» 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 23, 2011
Natalie MacMaster’s Christmas baby news
Brent Hallenbeck, Burlington Free Press

Natalie MacMaster in the Christmas spirit

I spent Monday night in a packed hall at St. Johnsbury Academy hearing Natalie MacMaster’s“Christmas in Cape Breton” concert, the last stop on her holiday tour. I was there for a piece on the St. Johnsbury arts scene, which you should be able to find in the Burlington Free Press in early January.

The renowned Canadian fiddler put us all in the Christmas spirit with her music and also dropped a mini-bombshell at the end of the night: She and her husband, Donnell Leahy of the Celtic family band that goes by his surname, are expecting their fifth (!) child. She couldn’t wait to tell us, but she swore the crowd to secrecy, because she was announcing the impending birth to her mother via Christmas card that hadn’t arrived yet in Cape Breton, in which she signed the card with her name, Donnell’s, the four children and “baby #5.” Because her mother voraciously reads everything about Natalie online, she asked the crowd not to post anything about her news until Wednesday at the earliest, when the card might be due to arrive (and here I am waiting until Friday, in case the Canadian post office is especially slow at this time of year). Knowing her reputation for bouncing right back (literally, given her impressive step-dancing abilities) post-childbirth, the traditional-music dynamo will no doubt be back on stage in a few short weeks after having child #5.

December 15, 2011
Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster plays up a storm at holiday concert
Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer - Cleveland, OH

Spending the holidays with family and friends is not only a domestic pleasure for Natalie MacMaster, the ebullient and (mac)masterful Cape Breton fiddler. It's also a professional joy, as she revealed in concert Wednesday at the Cleveland Museum of Art on the Viva! & Gala Performing Arts series.

During her program, "Christmas in Cape Breton," MacMaster shared the stage with an exceptional quartet of instrumental colleagues, who helped her whoop things up in all sorts of tunes with roots Scottish and otherwise.

But MacMaster, as congenial, funny and irresistible a host as you're likely to find on a concert stage, had much more in her artistic arsenal. Along with recordings of her eldest daughter reciting lyrics and her mother telling holiday tales, she wore her Proud Mom badge gleefully when three of her four children showed up to fiddle or step dance.

Six-year-old Mary Frances Rose Leahy played a piece (very nicely) before tripping the light fantastic. She was followed in the dance sphere by four-year-old Michael Joseph Alexander and two-year-old Clare Marie. Only 11-month-old Julia Elizabeth didn't make an appearance (she was backstage, possibly taking a nap).

The program would have driven W.C. Fields even crazier after intermission, when the responsive charges of the Cleveland School of the Arts Choir, led by Dianna White-Gould, arrived to sing three holiday tunes and give MacMaster big hugs. The choristers sang beautifully and sizzled in a hip version of "Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

Natalie MacMaster

These youthful interludes made up a fraction of the program, a generous helping of jigs, reels, carols, waltzes and ensemble explosions that largely centered on MacMaster's virtuosic fiddling and exuberant step dancing. She didn't appear to take a breath during the opening medley, a succession of affecting and earthy pieces she played in perpetual motion.

With MacMaster at the helm, a dizzying number of notes – as well as her curly blond hair – flew through the air. She has the rare ability to take a tune, tweak the melody with ornaments and send the music soaring. Even when the mood turns reflective, as in a lovely Norwegian selection, "Josephine's Waltz," MacMaster applies shimmering expressivity to the material.

She's touring with a sterling group of peers. Throughout Wednesday's concert, MacMaster teamed closely with pianist Mac Morin (also a winning step dancer), cellist Nathaniel Smith, electric bass player Shane Hendrickson and drummer JD Blair, while also giving them their own moments to shine.

November 25, 2011
MacMaster Returns to her Cape Breton roots
Jim Barber, Whig Standard (Kingston, ON)

With titles such as Jimmy MacKinnon of Smelt Brook, Butcher's Jig Set and Stumpie, you can tell Canadian fiddle sensation Natalie MacMaster's latest CD isn't going to have a lot of covers of Jay-Z or interpretations of ABBA songs.

Arguably the most traditional recording of her nearly two-decade career, Cape Breton Girl, pretty much says it all — it's an exploration of the music that inspired and shaped the life of the talented violin player and step-dancer, and countless generations of residents of the remote Nova Scotia region.

Released, Nov. 1, it contains 12 songs — more compilations of like-sounding tunes — and encapsulates the unique variety of Cape Breton stylings, as interpreted through traditional Celtic jigs and reels.

In a sense, it's sort of a thank-you card to the musical influences of her youth, including her own uncle, the legendary 87-year-old Cape Breton fiddle master, Buddy MacMaster.

"It's definitely made for the hardcore Cape Breton fiddle fan," MacMaster said. "I think of the people who go to the square dances and they just love the music the way it is, without any bells and whistles, just straight-ahead traditional stuff.

"And that's what moved me the most at home listening to music growing up. There's a real deep meaning, and a genuine love for that music for me. I love listening to it, and I love playing it, and because of this music, I have met so many great musicians along the way.

"But there's depth beyond that when I go to play the traditional stuff. I just want to satisfy those people who just love the Cape Breton music. And in doing that, you have to stay within the confines of the traditions. Not that it is difficult, but it is an obvious choice. In one way it's easier to do that because it's all spelled out for you. But in another way, it's more refined, and you have to be really specific. On this album, there are medleys of tunes that I want to be carefully crafted. I don't just go with the flow, it's all very deliberate."

The process to create the album began about three years ago, two years after her previous album, the more contemporary Yours Truly, was released.

And most of the recording was done two years ago, but MacMaster said she didn't feel rushed to put out a new record.

Yours Truly came on the heels of the birth of the first child to MacMaster and her husband, the equally talented fiddler Donnell Leahy, from the Lakefield, Ont.-based family band, simply called Leahy.

Mary Frances was born in 2005, and three more kids have followed for the prodigious couple (Leahy is one of 11 siblings): Michael was born in 2007, Clare in Feb. 2009, and Julia in January of this year.

"Yes, it's been a busy time," MacMaster said. "Someone just the other day mentioned that it had been five years since I put out a record, and I went, 'no, you're kidding.' But I guess it's true. There's no rush. Life has been busy, and family is of the utmost importance to me. It's my priority, so I fit this in when I can.

"I have maintained my career, but I am certainly not making any great efforts to expand and grow and move beyond where I am, at this point.

"I don't like to be gone, or preoccupied too much. I am always looking for the right balance, and sometimes it's overwhelming, and sometimes it's totally manageable and it's like, 'hey, bring it on!' It just depends, because with four kids, things change minute to minute."

MacMaster and her husband do play some shows together, but both realize they have to focus on their primary acts: Leahy and Natalie MacMaster.

"I have had people who have been to 10 or 15 of my concerts and see the Donnell and Natalie show and say it's the best one. My parents, who have seen so many versions of Natalie MacMaster, they see the show and they say it's the best version of me," she said.

"But it's not the focus. Donnell plays with Leahy, and they are awesome, and they tour and perform and record, and when Donnell is with me, they don't play, and that is a priority. We want Leahy to thrive. With minimal, special gigs, it really can only help Leahy and Natalie MacMaster. They are the bread winners in that we've spent our lives crafting these careers."

MacMaster immersed herself in Cape Breton music and spent countless hours, meticulously choosing tunes to include on Cape Breton Girl.

"I just literally go through song books, and mostly the old cassettes that we have of house parties back home. And then I have a library of tunes that I have notated myself, based on listening to those cassettes. So I just flip through those and see, 'oh, I never did record that. It's a great tune,' " she explained.

"For the most part, I just spent my time listening and jotting down notes. And then you're piecing together five, six, 10 tunes, and they all have to have a point, and they all have to flow together."

She said she also relies on her piano player, Mac Morin, to help fit tunes together.

Morin often travels back to Cape Breton and returns with all sorts of ideas after going to a few house parties or square dances.

This past fall, MacMaster toured throughout Texas and other southern U.S. states, and is still amazed at how well traditional Canadian East Coast fiddle music is received.

"It's interesting to me always. I just freaks me out, actually, seeing how much they love it in the southern U.S. I don't know why or how, but there is something that is delivered to them through the music, and they get it, and they receive it in the way it's meant to be received somehow. I don't know how that is, but I don't argue with it."

As for Cape Breton itself, MacMaster said that she misses her home more and more, as she is less able to get out east, because of her ever-expanding family.

"I find myself needing to go home, to be among the people, and stay connected with who I am and where I come from, and my family, and what it means to be a Cape Bretoner."

With Cape Breton Girl, MacMaster shows no sign of ever forgetting her roots.

November 24, 2011

If you missed Natalie and pianist Mac Morin on CTV's 'Canada AM' yesterday,
you can watch the segment on
CTV's website.

November 24, 2011
PRESS RELEASE: Natalie MacMaster To Receive The 2011 Arts
and Letters Award From The Canadian Association of New York

Celebrated Cape Breton fiddler and one of Canada’s most dynamic musical ambassadors, Natalie MacMaster, will be presented with the Canadian Association of New York’s 2011 Arts and Letters Award at a ceremony during the Maple Leaf Ball at Cipriani’s 42nd Street in Manhattan on November 18.

Past winners have made contributions through the stage, screen, television, music, photography and writing. Previous recipients of the Canadian Association of New York Arts and Letters Award include Margaret Atwood, Burton Cummings, Peter Jennings, Norman Jewison, Karen Kain, Eugene Levy, Maureen Forrester, Christopher Plummer, Oscar Peterson, Peter Mansbridge and Lloyd Robertson.

“Natalie MacMaster is one of Canada’s most distinguished musicians and we are pleased to pay tribute to her many accomplishments with our Arts and Letters Award,” says Dean Keyworth, President of the Canadian Association of New York. “MacMaster has thrilled audiences worldwide with her feverish fiddling and step-dancing. It’s impossible to stay in your seat when she’s at work.”
A two-time Juno winner, MacMaster has also been named Arts of the Year by the East Coast Music Association and nominated for a Grammy. She is also a Member of the Order of Canada.

The Maple Leaf Ball is the gala event of the year for the Canadian community in New York and is organized jointly by the Canadian Association of New York. Proceeds from the Ball will be donated to children’s charities in New York.

November 24, 2011
Music Review: Natalie MacMaster - Cape Breton Girl
Bob Mercereau, CBC News, New Brunswick

Roots music is often no such thing. With modern elements and interpretations, let alone the sophistication of the recording techniques, sometimes the only thing "rootsy" is an acoustic guitar. But when Natalie MacMaster says she's getting back to her roots, you know exactly what she means. This is a Cape Breton fiddle album, exactly as we'd expect.

The only thing fancy about the disc is where it was recorded, in Toronto's Glenn Gould studio, no doubt because it's closer to her fast-growing family (four kids now) and rural Ontario home. But no tricks were added, there's no hip-hop mixes, or guest singers (well, one, but it's a traditional version of the Lord's Prayer at the end, hardly something to attract the kids). Synthesizers and syndrums were kept locked up. This is how it's been done for centuries now in Cape Breton, with fiddle and piano the main instruments, some pipes and acoustic guitar and percussion when acceptable. Mostly though, we have jigs, reels, strathspeys, and repeat.

The beautiful thing about MacMaster is that she can introduce you to the subtleties of the traditional form, and teach you how to appreciate the differences of each piece. Her medleys are key, how she takes several pieces, whether old, newer, or self-composed, and moves one into the next to build a charming piece. Whether it's a bunch of numbers all in F, or several linked by a style of bowing, the final mix is itself a whole new composition. And such is her way with melody that the listener can float along, knowing each turn will bring you something uplifting or inspiring.

November 2, 2011



Toronto, ON (November 1st, 2011) – Multi-platinum Canadian musician NATALIE MACMASTER has announced a November 1st release for her highly anticipated new album CAPE BRETON GIRL. Produced by NATALIE herself, CAPE BRETON GIRL is the seminal artists’ first studio release in 5 years and the first to be released through an exclusive partnership with eOne Music Canada.

Recorded at Glenn Gould Studios in Toronto, 'Cape Breton Girl' sees NATALIE return to her roots with a traditionally based album which embodies the true Cape Breton sound.

NATALIE explains: "While there are other instruments on the recording, it's the piano and fiddle, the core instruments of Cape Breton music, that make up the bulk of the sound on this recording".

Wholly true to herself, NATALIE MACMASTER plays winningly unpretentious music. And by recording an album as a tribute to her home-grown roots, CAPE BRETON GIRL shows the real soul of NATALIE.

NATALIE MACMASTER: wife, mother of four and virtuoso Cape Breton fiddler. You know her more as the latter than the former; an electrifying performer whose passionate proficiency on the beloved four-string amplifies the traditional East Coast sound for contemporary times and has earned the reputation as one of Canada's most captivating performers.

It’s a signature sound that has resonated with world audiences through 10 albums, multiple gold sales figures and 27 years; numerous Juno and East Coast Music Awards; two honorary degrees (from Niagara University, NY, and Trent University) and an honorary doctorate (St. Thomas University); the Order Of Canada – and a reputation as one of Canada’s most captivating performers.

NATALIE MACMASTER maintains an active touring schedule performing 100 shows a year, sharing the stage with The Chieftains, Paul Simon, Faith Hill, Luciano Pavarotti and in front of millions on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, the ABC 2002 New Year’s Eve Special and Good Morning America. She has thrilled audiences throughout Europe and North America, especially in her native Canada, enabling MacMaster to passionately perform and promote the universal language of her Cape Breton sound.
NATALIE is also an author of a book, Natalie MacMaster's Cape Breton Aire - In the works for several years, this book is the story of a musical life and place. It is filled with Natalie’s story of the music that she has known since before she was born and takes the reader on a musical history journey. It features beautiful photos of Natalie’s beloved Cape Breton Island; its landscape and its people, taken by well respected photographer Eric Roth.

About Entertainment One
Entertainment One Ltd. (LSE:ETO) is a leading international entertainment company that specializes in the acquisition, production and distribution of film and television content. The company’s comprehensive network extends around the globe including Canada, the U.S., the UK, Ireland, Benelux, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Through established Entertainment and Distribution divisions, the company provides extensive expertise in film distribution, television and music production, family programming and merchandising and licensing. Its current rights library is exploited across all media formats and includes more than 20,000 film and television titles, 2,500 hours of television programming and 45,000 music tracks.

For more information regarding NATALIE MACMASTER, please contact:

Eric Alper, Director of Media Relations and Label Acquisitions
eOne Music Canada
2 Pardee Avenue, Suite 300
Toronto, ON M6K3H5
P: 416-913-0998 ext 240
C: 647-280-3345

November 2, 2011
Natalie MacMaster releases first studio recording in five years
Returning to traditional roots with Cape Breton Girl
By WERNER BERGEN, The Peterborough Examiner

Lakefield's Natalie MacMaster has released her first studio recording in five years, called Cape Breton Girl.

MacMaster has produced the new CD herself and it is released through a partnership with eOne Music Canada, states a press release.

MacMaster, married to Donnell Leahy, she is the mother of four.

Recorded at Glenn Gould Studios in Toronto, Cape Breton Girl sees MacMaster return to her roots with a traditionally based album of the Cape Breton sound.

The music has been around for a long time, MacMaster said, in a telephone interview. She said it has been eight or 10 years since she has done a solo traditional Cape Breton CD. While other music she has recorded can be difficult to label, the CD is definitely Cape Breton traditional.

Some of the songs have been around for centuries and aficionados will recognize them. MacMaster said some will be new … "new to their ears." They are still traditional but somewhat obscure. For example, there is a slow aire that MacMaster says she hadn't heard before.

"We're not like pop where you can (singing notes) can sing along," MacMaster said. The CD has 12 tracks but has probably 40 tunes grouped together, she said.

MacMaster is travelling Wednesday to Maine and then to Boston to wrap up the current tour. MacMaster said they just had a five-day break from touring, explaining why she was home in Lakefield.

"We are always on tour," said MacMaster, having just completed a couple of weeks in Texas. "It was awesome," she said and they even had time to go to the beach. MacMaster said a Christmas tour is planned and then a tour in Canada in the springtime in support of the new CD.

MacMaster has recorded 10 albums, received numerous Juno and East Coast Music Awards; two honorary degrees (from Niagara University, N.Y., and Trent University) and an honorary doctorate (St. Thomas University) and the Order Of Canada.

MacMaster performs 100 shows a year, sharing the stage with The Chieftains, Paul Simon, Faith Hill, Luciano Pavarotti and has been in front of millions on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, the ABC 2002 New Year's Eve Special and Good Morning America.

She is the author of Natalie MacMaster's Cape Breton Aire.

MacMaster said her four children — five, four, two and 10 months — all go on the road with the tour.

"We have home school on the road," she said.

The CD was released Tuesday and is available now.

September 12, 2011
Natalie on CBC's "Leaders in Their Field" Series

Natalie was interviewed by CBC Radio for their series "Leaders in Their Field". The interview will air on Thursday, September 15 at 7:40am. It will also be available after the broadcast on CBC's Information Morning website.

September 12, 2011
Natalie stars in CBC's "Life is a Highway" - Airing Sept. 15 & 22 at 8:00pm EST

Natalie stars in "Life is a Highway", a new two-hour CBC documentary on Canadian music in the '90s. The show airs in two parts on Thurs. Sept. 15 and Thurs. Sept. 22 at 8 pm EST.  The show features an interview with Natalie (and with others about her) as well as an archival performance of "Reel Rumba," her award-winning collaboration with Jesse Cook.

It was the decade marked by hit songs from Canadian performers as diverse as Tom Cochrane, Sloan, Loreena McKennitt, The Tragically Hip, Shania Twain, Blue Rodeo, Céline Dion, Moxy Früvous, Barenaked Ladies, Great Big Sea, Jann Arden… The list of great performers and their classic songs goes on and on! It was the 1990s, and it’s celebrated in the new, two-part documentary LIFE IS A HIGHWAY: Canadian Pop Music in the ’90s.


September 6, 2011
Natalie MacMaster – A Cape Breton Girl
By Jason Enlow, LifeInQuebec.com

When I was first asked to write an article about Natalie MacMaster, I was somewhat anxious. I wasn’t completely convinced that my meeting the Village People at Ontario Place, where I worked as a stagehand, had sufficiently prepared me for this assignment. So I did what any budding Rolling Stone reporter would do, I looked on You Tube. Yes, Natalie MacMaster can certainly play a fiddle, but I already knew that. She can also step dance, and that was something I didn’t know. Next, I headed over to her website. It was very informative. I suggest checking it out for all things Natalie MacMaster including: news, photos, road stories and 89 recipes! Some of them are family recipes, while others have been sent in from other musicians and fans. After making a mental note to try my hand at making a batch of Industrial Strength Brownies (perhaps with a Celtic Cousins Cocktail to wash them down) I decided it was time to give her a call.

With my laptop open at the ready and my black terry cloth headband embroidered with the word “SPORTS” securely holding my earpiece in place; I was ready to make contact. It was ringing! Unbelievably my phone started to conk out on me as soon as I had Natalie on the line. That’s okay when I’m talking to the folks on a Saturday morning, but I had Juno winning, Order of Canada receiving, Natalie MacMaster on the line.“Oh, sorry, Hello? I just have to change phones. Battery is dead. Are you still there?” I must have sounded like a train wreck. No matter, I had a killer list of questions lying right under the dog. “What was the first song you ever remember hearing?” (Classic query…answer at the end) As it turns out, Ms. MacMaster was very patient with me and we had a very interesting conversation, which couldn’t have been easy for her with the number of interviews she must have to give.

As mentioned previously on the Life in Quebec website, Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster will be appearing at Palais Montcalm on September 17 as part of the 2011 Quebec City Celtic Festival. I wanted to find out what she thought of our little walled city. Turns out she loves it! Well, all musicians say that, but she backed it up with proof. “I love the foreign appearance and the romantic character of Quebec City. It’s like something out of a movie.” I wonder if she was referring to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1953 film, I Confess starring Montgomery Clift…?

Architecture aside, Natalie finds the passion of Quebecers appealing. “They really get into the music,” she says. Natalie and her husband, fiddler Donnell Leahy, both agree that Quebec concert goers are among the best. “There’s a real connection between Quebec accordion music and Cape Breton fiddle playing; they’re both light, joyful and have great rhythm.” says MacMaster. Although she doesn’t speak French she points out, “My music is instrumental and music is a universal language.” I thought I would try to impress her with my knowledge of local cuisine, but there was no doing. Turns out that Natalie lived on poutine while she attended teacher’s college in Truro, Nova Scotia. I’m guessing it was at the Prince of Pizza because it’s right around the corner from the Institute for Human Services Education and 94 people like them on facebook. Basil Knockwood writes “One of the Best Donair Poutines i’ve had!! Good Job!” Donair poutine…?

MacMaster’s teaching degree in early education is serving her well as she homeschools her four children, ages 5, 4, 2 and 7 months. And to think that I was impressed with the fact that she’s played with Yo-Yo Ma and Carlos Santana. But who impresses Natalie MacMaster? She’s inspired by some of the great moms that live around her. She says “You have to put kids in the environment you want them to become. They’re not going to want to play a fiddle, or do anything, if their friends aren’t doing it.” I guess there’s a lesson to be learned if a world famous musician finds raising her children to be one of life’s great rewards. She admits that leaving home to tour is one of the most difficult things that her and her family have to deal with, even though they often travel together. MacMaster says “It’s a necessary part of the job.” When asked what she enjoys about her profession Natalie doesn’t hesitate, “I love music. I need to play. I need to entertain.”

She credits her parents with teaching her this maxim: “Work and work hard to hone your craft while you’re young and you have the energy, drive, time and opportunity to learn. Save what money you can.” She confides that if she hadn’t followed their advice, she wouldn’t be enjoying the life she has today. That’s good consel. I decided to get some pointers on inspiring my 11 year old to practice his trombone. Natalie practices an hour a day, that’s when she’s not on tour. According to MacMaster “It depends on the person if music is important, everyone has different gifts. Learning an instrument helps with one’s personal discipline. It would be good if schools could try to teach kids to play an instrument. If we were all musicians in this world, there would be no war.” Natalie’s not totally sold on computers. She muses that “The world might be a better place if they were never invented. Sure I use them, but people weren’t meant to spend so much time in front of a screen or socializing exclusively electronically. We need to see each other face to face, to be within each other’s physical presence.”

Traditional, that’s the word that comes to mind when describing Natalie MacMaster. It’s also the inspiration behind her upcoming CD, Cape Breton Girl, recorded at the Glen Gould studios in Toronto and due out in October. According to Natalie, “While my other albums have included traditional music they have also been more exploratory, more arranged.” On Cape Breton Girl, MacMaster plays a selection of good old tunes, keepers, as she calls them that she has picked up over the years. “While there are other instruments on the recording, it’s the piano and fiddle, the core instruments of Cape Breton music that make up the bulk of the sound.”

Preventing Cape Breton traditions from being lost is something that MacMaster aspires to in her recent book, Cape Breton Aire. In the works for several years, this 161-page hardcover coffee table book is the story of a musical life and place. It takes the reader on a journey through the musical history of Natalie’s beloved Cape Breton Island and features 6,000 beautiful photos of its landscape and its people.

Oh yes, that first song Natalie remembers hearing? 'Rhinestone cowboy' by Glen Campbell.

August 28, 2011
Canadian musicians honour American tragedy
Toronto Star

It’s not likely that anyone will ever forget the events of 9/11, but a team of stellar Canadian musical talents are coming together in Manhattan a few days before the 10th anniversary of the event, to salute the city’s resiliency and honour the 26 Canadian families who lost loved ones a decade ago.

Natalie McMaster, Ben Heppner, Tom Cochrane, Paul Shaffer and Tyley Ross are just a few of the many luminaries who will be appearing at Symphony Space at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre on Sept. 7 for a concert being called Canada Sings the American Songbook: A Canadian Tribute to New York.

Dean Keyworth, president of the Canadian Association of New York, felt the need to have a 10th anniversary commemorative musical event in which Canadians could offer a tribute to the city and mourn the passing of fellow citizens who had perished that day.

He approached the Canadian Consulate and began working with Sault Ste. Marie-born Jeff Breithaupt, head of culture and communications at the consulate. Breithaupt is also known not only as a successful songwriter in his own right, but one of the primary advocates for Canuck artists in New York and the producer of the popular “Canadian Songbook” series, which has been a highlight of Canada Day in Manhattan for the past eight years.

He agreed to serve as producer and emcee for this event and decided to provide a mirror image of his normal songbook series, by having Canadian artists sing American songs to acknowledge the endurance of the people of New York.

The association also wanted the event to be charitable in nature and it was determined that all net proceeds from the concert would go to the 9/11 Tribute Centre and the 9/11 Memorial.

Once all this was in place, Breithaupt proceeded to work his considerable contact list of Canadian artists, all of whom needed little persuading to participate in the event.

I spoke to Cape Breton fiddling star Natalie McMaster about her memories of 9/11 and her reasons for participating in the concert.

“It was just after the Country Music Awards in 2001,” recalls McMaster. “I woke up the next morning and turned on the TV after the first plane had crashed. I saw the second plane crash. And I remember thinking, ‘This can’t be for real,’ and then you keep watching and watching. Complete shock. We play in the States all the time and I’ve been in New York so many times, this was so close to home. It touched me greatly.

“It’s always an honour when people ask you to do something like this. I’m grateful that they thought of me. I thought sure, why wouldn’t I? Life’s busy, yeah, so what? It’s one of those things that no matter who you are or where you come from, or where you’re going, you just have this inner gravitational pull and you want to help out.”

McMaster will be performing solo on Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and will be joining Tyley Ross on Stephen Sondheim’s “No One is Alone.”

Ross began his career in Canada starring in shows like Tommy and West Side Story, but for the past decade, he’s been enjoying great success in America as a member of the East Village Opera Company.

He was living in Soho, not far from the World Trade Center on that September morning 10 years ago, and shared his recollections with me.

“I was woken up by the loud squeals of airplane engines flying over my apartment, followed moments later not by an explosion, but by the boxy crunch of aluminum on aluminum. It sounded exactly like what it was, but I refused to believe it and stayed in bed for a long time listening to the sirens, trying to arrive at a more likely explanation for the sounds than exactly what it sounded like.”

Ross spent the rest of that day walking around lower Manhattan and his memories are a collage of images.

“Terrified pedestrians diving to the ground when the first National Guard jets started flying low over the city . . . seeing hundreds of people covered in dust and debris with expressions of pure shock and disbelief . . . thinking how it was so quiet that afternoon that you could hear birdsong in New York.

“And more strange than anything, in a city famous for avoiding eye contact on the street, everyone looked each other in the eyes as if to ask, ‘Are you seeing this? Is this really happening?’”

For Ross, participating in this event required no real decision. “Given the opportunity to remember and honour the anniversary of the tragedy 10 years ago, I could think of no better way to do it than in song alongside fellow Canadians who are connected to this town.”

And the Sondheim song he and MacMaster will be performing has the perfect message.

“Hard to see the light now,
Just don’t let it go.
Things will turn out right now,
We can make it so.
Someone is on your side,
No one is alone.”

August 23, 2011
ON GOLDEN POND - Ernest Thompson, writer and director
Songs in play accompanied by renowned Canadian fiddler Natalie MacMaster

HOLDERNESS, N.H. - Every artist holds a special affection for the first piece of his work that wins recognition.

For Ernest Thompson, that recognition came when his play “On Golden Pond’’ was first produced on Broadway, in 1979. The work has become an American theatrical classic, translated into 28 languages and produced in more than 40 countries.

“It’s been 33 years since I wrote it, and it keeps coming back on a semi-regular basis,’’ he said. “There was the play, then of course the movie, then the TV play, then the musical version, then it was back on Broadway again …

“After a while, on balance it seemed ridiculous for me not to do my own production.’’

So this summer, Thompson is staging what he calls “the definitive production’’ of “On Golden Pond’’ at the tiny Little Church Theater (an actual former community church) not far from his current home base by Squam Lake.

For the first time, Thompson is directing his own play with professional actors in a theatrical setting.

Thompson said he has not been displeased with other presentations of it, but every playwright longs to “put your own spin on your own play.’’

It’s been 30 years since the movie “On Golden Pond’’ - set in Maine but filmed near Squam Lake, and featuring Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, and Jane Fonda - won three Academy Awards, including one for Thompson’s screenplay. Since that time, the writer-actor has worked on many projects, including several different productions of his play. (“Another Summer,’’ a musical version directed by Thompson, was staged by the Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, N.H., in 1997.)

The script for the latest show, which Thompson admits to tinkering with over the years, is cleared of some of the more visual movie scenes. For instance, the boating accident involving the lead character, college professor Norman Thayer (played by Frank T. Wells) is gone. So is the incident when Thayer’s adult daughter Chelsea (Lori Gigliotti Murphy) attempts to win her father’s approval with a tricky dive into the lake water. (The Fondas played those roles in the film; Henry Fonda and Hepburn won best actor and best actress Oscars.)

Even the line spoken to her husband by Ethel Thayer (played by Vinette Cotter), and named one of the most memorable movie quips of all time, is gone: “Listen to me, mister. You’re my knight in shining armor.’’ It wasn’t in the original play; Thompson says he added it after Hepburn asked for some more dialogue to help her with the scene.

“[This production] is in the sprit of sharing the play as, I, a young writer, envisioned, unplugged,’’ Thompson said.

What’s at the core is a great and wonderful story, as observed at a performance earlier this summer. The production is a warm, funny show about a family’s efforts to overcome inherent relationship difficulties with their best understandings of intimate simple love.

One new aspect of this production is the inclusion of two original songs: “On Golden Pond’’ was co-written by Thompson with longtime music collaborator Joe Deleault; “The Father Daughter Dance’’ was written by him and legendary singer-songwriter Carly Simon. The songs appear in the play in recordings of Simon singing, accompanied by renowned Canadian fiddler Natalie MacMaster.

August 2, 2011

An electrifying performance by Natalie and Donnell Leahy with Mac Morin & Erin Leahy
on Piano at the Prescott Park Arts Festival's Folk Festival.
(Video courtesy the Portsmouth Patch)

July 27, 2011

Tonight's show from the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, NH
will be streamed live online at 8:00pm ET ...
Click here to listen!


June 19, 2011
Clogging Fever Sweeps Green
by Paul Bass, New Haven Independent

Whenever the music started on the main stage of the New Haven Green, Natalie MacMaster stopped talking.

The lyrical notes of the fiddle tunes of her native Cape Breton, Canada, did the talking for MacMaster as she fired up a crowd at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas Saturday night.

Without the need for a microphone to sing into, and with the help of two mic pick-ups for her fiddle strapped to the back of a superhero-style belt, MacMaster was free to jam face-to-face with her back-up musicians, keyboardist Mac Morin, cellist Nathaniel Smith, and drummer J.D. Blair.

And she clogged, step-danced, even moonwalked across the stage throughout over an hour of high-energy playing.

At one point, between songs, MacMaster did instruct the crowd in some traditional folk steps. She expected the crowd to dance along with her.



 [View More Photos]

June 9, 2011
N.S. film on Dolly Parton airs Tuesday on Bravo!

"The Book Lady" has its Bravo! premiere on Tuesday at 10 p.m.

Written by Nova Scotia natives Brad Horvath and Natasha Ryan and directed by Ryan, the half-hour documentary focuses on Dolly Parton.

The superstar who is known around the world as a Grammy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated country singer, songwriter and actress is also known as The Book Lady. Since 1996, Dolly’s Imagination Library has been sending free, age-appropriate, hardcover books to children in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. from the time they’re born until they’re five years old.

Filmed in Nova Scotia, Tenessee and Toronto, it includes interviews with Miley Cyrus, Keith Urban, Sarah Harmer, Justin Rutledge, Natalie MacMaster, Robert Munsch, Dolly herself, and more.

It debuted at the 2008 Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax and screened at the 2009 Nashville Film Festival. It has also screened on CBC TV.

May 10, 2011
Married to a farmer and loving it
By John P. McLaughlin, The Province, B.C

See her perform once and when you hear the music again you’ll always picture Natalie MacMaster bouncing on the balls of her feet, blond tresses flying as she wildly fiddles the jigs and reels she learned as a girl back home in Cape Breton. She is, by any measure, a virtuoso, noted and lauded worldwide for promoting a music style from a tiny corner of North America that may well have been washed out with the tide but for her.

That said, her life has changed dramatically since she married fellow fiddler Donnell Leahy of Lakefield, Ont.’s musical Leahy Family in 2002. MacMaster, just shy of 40, is now the mother of four kids under the age of five and lives in a large, newly built farmhouse in sleepy Douro, Ont. where the postmaster’s position at the local convenience store has been held by the same family since the late 1800s.

Her youngest is a baby, born last January, and she’s home-schooling the rest. She just oversaw the design and construction of the new house — that’s enough picking out of materials, surfaces and colours to drive you nuts — recorded a new album, maintains a regular concert schedule and has just self-published a memoir. What drug, I asked, is she on.

“Love”, she replied. “The love drug”.

The book is titled Natalie MacMaster: A Cape Breton Aire: The Story of a Musical Life and Place and is only available on her web page, at her concerts or at a few little shops around Douro or on Cape Breton. In it she writes about her extended fiddling family and grand-uncle Charlie MacMaster who sent over a three-quarter sized fiddle he’d bought in Boston and instructed it go to whoever wanted it. Little Natalie did. She was nine.

“And I always get a kick out of the fact that my mother and father never thought to get me a small fiddle before that,” says MacMaster. “We had fiddles in our house and people would stop in and play them. Dad always kinda scratched a tune. But my brothers weren’t serious players, my dad was never serious at all. But we had fiddle music on the record player and the tape recorder all the time.”

No doubt much of it from Natalie’s famed uncle Buddy MacMaster. And the tapes came from cassette recordings of house parties where friends and family would gather, knock back some beer or a little Captain Morgan (“not much wine, we weren’t that refined”) and play the night away. Those cassettes were copied and passed hand to hand and are the chief source of her initial repertoire and technique. She has them still and they are treasured.

All the years of tours and record releases later here she is, maintaining a schedule of about 100 concerts a year, but otherwise amazed she wound up married to a farmer. They tend beef cattle but MacMaster concedes she doesn’t do much of the heavy lifting, content to “... sit in my nice house, have a glass of beer and watch my husband on his tractor.”

Tonight MacMaster will be appearing with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the sort of show she only mounts about a half dozen times a year. But she does love doing them.

“What I really like about it is it’s such a change from what I normally do,” says MacMaster. “I really enjoy change, it keeps music fresh. The symphonies create a really lush, big, beautiful sound. It’s lovely. There are tunes we do from our show with my band that we do with the symphonies and when I get away from the symphony and play them with my band I can hear all the different string parts and horn sections and things ringing in my ears. The arrangements are really great.”

March 16, 2011
Two fiddles, two pianos - Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy set to play Stockey
Cottage Country Now (Article provided by the Charles W. Stockey Centre)

The Stockey Centre is ecstatic to be presenting the return of two highly noted Canadian musicians—Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy—to Parry Sound for an unforgettable Celtic performance.

“To call Natalie MacMaster the most dynamic performer in Celtic music today is high praise, but it still doesn't get at just how remarkable a concert artist this Cape Breton Island fiddler has become,” notes the The Boston Herald, in January of 2004.

Equally at home on the concert stage or at a folk festival, Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster is one of the most versatile and exciting young musicians on both the Folk music and Celtic music scenes. Natalie's live performances are a testament to her incandescent musicianship and boundless energy, featuring foot-tapping rave-ups, heart-rending ballads, and world-class step dancing. Natalie's fiddling fireworks on traditional and contemporary Celtic melodies generate a kind of “traditional fusion” delivered with uplifting energy felt by the musicians and audiences of all ages. It’s a signature sound that has resonated with world audiences through 10 albums, multiple gold sales figures and 27 years; numerous Juno and East Coast Music Awards; two honorary degrees (from Niagara University, NY, and Trent University) and an honorary doctorate (St. Thomas University); the Order Of Canada – and a reputation as one of Canada’s most captivating performers. She is an electrifying performer whose passionate proficiency on the beloved four-string amplifies the traditional East Coast sound for contemporary times.

Donnell Leahy is the eldest member of the awe-inspiring eight-member brother and sister act from Canada who produce a whirlwind triple threat of fiddle-driven music, dance and song. The band’s three acclaimed CDs— Leahy, Lakefield, and In All Things—have world-wide sales of over half a million copies.

The family continues to move forward as musicians and performers. Winter 2007 saw them release their first ever live DVD and CD. PBS audiences are currently watching Leahy’s third television special.

All that audiences need to do to understand the style that has come to be known as “Leahy” is look at their awards—Junos for Best New Group, Best Country Group, and Best Instrumental Album, the most played folk/roots song in Canada in 2004 and the Socan award for Folk/Jazz instrumentalist the following year. Their self-titled album rose to number four on the Billboard world music charts and found its way onto the soundtrack of the award-winning movie The Hanging Garden. On stage Leahy brought 175 audiences to their feet when they opened for pop-star Shania Twain on her inaugural world tour.

Leahy brings their whole being to each and every performance. Their life story reads like a Hollywood movie; a large family raised without a television on a farm in the small town of Lakefield, Ontario. In fact, their life story was so compelling that it became the subject of an Oscar winning documentary.
They hit the Stockey stage on Thursday, Sept. 29.

February 21, 2011

Natalie has sent in a short letter with her latest news. Click here to view it...

January 11, 2011

Tune in to CBC Radio's "Atlantic Airwaves" on Saturday, January 15th to hear a concert by Natalie recorded live in Whycocomagh, Cape Breton, at the 2010 Celtic Colours International Festival.

CBC Radio Atlantic Airwaves Website

January 5, 2011

Congratulations to Natalie & Donnell on the birth of their fourth child,
Julia Elizabeth Leahy, born on Tuesday, January 4th!