Acclaimed Canadian fiddling sensation Natalie MacMaster is bringing her fiddling mastery to Red Deer next month as part of a spring tour in support of Johnny Reid.
She performs at the Centrium on March 5th as part of Reid’s ‘What Love is All About’ tour.
The tour will feature her traditional Cape Breton fiddling style, foot-stomping jigs as well as new favourites from her latest CD One which she recorded along with husband Donnell Leahy last year.
Leahy is the musical leader of the acclaimed Celtic family group Leahy.
He and MacMaster met as teenagers, found individual massive career success, and eventually reconnected and were married, becoming the first couple of Celtic music.
Today they have six kids, and perform together to sold-out crowds in theatres across North America and the UK.
“Donnell and I, we think the same on everything,” she explains during a break on the tour from the west coast. “So there is an ease there – after 13 years of marriage, we know each other pretty darn well,” she adds of collaborating with her husband on last year’s project One.
“It’s very easy for him to encourage and to direct me, and I for him,” she said of how the duo helps each other along their individual creative paths. “It’s exciting to share that with your spouse.”
A completely instrumental album with creative medleys in the Celtic-style mixed with originals, with the exception of one track, a deeply emotional vocal lament Cagaran Gaolach sung by MacMaster – marking her first ever lead feature vocal to appear on an album.
Some of the unconventional approaches used in the studio for this fiddle-centric album included distorted electric guitars on the driving up tempo Fiddler’s Despair, and two players on one piano on Pastiche for Anne and a drum kit made of paint cans and a cardboard box on Joyous Waltz.
It was a chance meeting of MacMaster with legendary producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple) at a session he was producing for Reid that led to the musical match between the star producer and the Celtic couple.
Ezrin recruited Justin Cortelyou (Taylor Swift, Ke$ha, Alan Jackson), to co-produce and the two headed to Cape Breton to record the Celtic couple with ace session musicians Mark Kelso, Mac Morin, Tim Edey, Jamie Gatti, Rachel Aucoin and Sabin Jacques.
MacMaster said the couple had about 17 cuts going into the project, which they left to Ezrin to cut down to the correct number to record. “When you have someone with an outsider ear hearing it fresh for the first time, you can have confidence in their decision.”
Looking back to her musical roots, MacMaster grew up in Nova Scotia where communities hold countless events where music is simply woven into the mix. That goes for home life as well. Kitchen parties are a fixture, with relatives bringing out the instruments for lively times of playing all kinds of traditional melodies.
“Those events are all around you. Every time there was any family function – and there were a lot of them – there was always music.” Her uncle, Buddy MacMaster, is also a well-known east coast fiddling genius. “My mother always had music playing – she had cassette tapes in those days,” she adds with a chuckle.
House parties that of course included a heavy emphasis on music were scheduled events, often around special occasions like Christmas or baptisms. “There would be two or three days of preparation for these parties,” she recalls. “We would usually host one once a year, but we would go to other people’s homes for these parties as well.”
Having been performing herself from such a young age, Natalie of course knew music would always be a major part of her life. But the career she enjoys today has unfolded in the most natural way. She didn’t set out to be a musical celebrity.
“I didn’t know it was possible to have a career in it – I wasn’t that analytical at the age of nine. I just started playing because I loved it, and I always knew I’d be playing.”
Over the years, she has indeed established herself as an electrifying performer all over the world, thrilling Carnegie Hall audiences and Massey Hall crowds; captivated radio audiences with appearances on the CBC and Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, and warmed TV viewers with spots on Christmas specials like Rita MacNeil’s Christmas and Holiday Festival On Ice.
“It’s just reaffirmed to me how much I am meant to do this because it brings such a thrill,” she says of her life as a musician. “I’m going to play the fiddle until they put me in the grave.”
Meanwhile, she and Leahy are recording a Christmas CD and are planning a tour this coming winter – along with the kids.
“We’re doing a family Christmas tour.”
Natalie said teaching her kids how to play a number of instruments has also been a joy. Their already a talented lot – dancing, piano-playing and fiddling are already flourishing skills amongst her brood.
“We spend our whole lives, really, crafting how we are going to inspire them musically. We do fiddle lessons everyday, and piano, and dancing,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but to watch them play it’s a true blessing and joy. It’s so worth the energy you put into it.”
Tickets for the Red Deer show are available by vising www.ticketmaster.ca.