SEASONAL SOUNDS- Singer/songwriter Rita MacNeil joins the Von Trapp Children for a Christmas concert in Red Deer Nov. 20.

Rita MacNeil joined by Von Trapps for Christmas show

One of Canada’s best-loved songstresses Rita MacNeil is teaming up with the Von Trapp Children for a special Christmas tour.

They perform Nov. 20 at the Memorial Centre, with showtime set for 7 p.m.

The Von Trapp Children are the great-grandchildren of Maria and Captain Von Trapp – made famous of course by the 1964 classic film The Sound of Music.

“I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to do this tour with so many wonderful groups and artists like the Men of the Deeps, the Barra MacNeils and Frank Mills,” says MacNeil during a recent interview. A traditional, annual Christmas tour across Canada has been something she’s embarked on for years, and this year she’s delighted to be teaming up with the Von Trapps.

“They’re highly professional and very, very talented,” she says. “Their singing is crystal-clear and so enjoyable. They also bring lots of humour and have much to captivate an audience.”

The Von Trapps have toured the world, sharing the songs and history of their famous family. They were guests on Oprah and that marked the first time they met actors Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer who played their great-grandparents in the movie.

The troupe, which includes Justin, Amanda, Melanie and Sofia, launched their singing career more than a decade ago and have since toured the globe with stops in England, Australia, Japan, Ireland, Austria and Africa.

“They bring a lot of joy to the stage, and it’s fun to be on the road with people who love music so much,” adds MacNeil, who hails from Big Pond, Cape Breton.

Her musical career took off following her shows at Vancouver’s Expo ’86. Her first big hit, Flying On Your Own, sparked a career that has seen all kind of awards and accolades not to mention best-selling CDs. But her passion for music surfaced much earlier. As a teen, MacNeil loved music – Celtic, country, folk, rhythm and blues and rock.

She then tried her hand at songwriting — in 1971 she wrote about women having a voice and called it Need For Restoration. The next year she penned a song protesting a beauty pageant called Born A Woman which became the title of her first record in 1974.

Over the next few years, the songs came fast and furious – Black Rock, Troubadours, My Island, Brown Grass and Old Man (for her father) and Working Man (about the coal miners of Cape Breton). Suddenly, people paid attention to her work. She even got an invitation to sing Working Man with The Men of the Deeps. That was the start of a tremendous partnership that people across the country grew to cherish.

Meanwhile, her career was about to seriously take off – more exposure came with shows at the aforementioned Expo ‘86. Her Flying on Her Own CD was then released in 1987 and promptly went gold, helping earn MacNeil her first Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist. Reason to Believe went platinum in 1988, the same year it was produced. She then turned to the small screen and her popularity flourished.

In 1991, television appearances broke records – her 1993 Christmas special One Upon A Christmas drew two million viewers and her musical variety show Rita & Friends attracted one million viewers each week over a three-year span.

The years have continued to see a steady stream of releases including Blue Roses (2004), Songs My Mother Loved (2006), Pocket Full of Dreams (2008) and last year’s splendid The Spirit of Christmas with pianist Frank Mills.

Meanwhile, MacNeil, 67, says the annual Christmas tour is the ideal means of getting into the holiday spirit. By the time she returns home, she may be a bit weary of the travel but in other ways she’s invigorated and ready to celebrate Christmas with her family. She’s now a grandmother of four which makes it that much more special.

“It warms the heart, and really takes you out of yourself,” she explains of the season. She’s also one to start marking the occasion early, decorating her home long before she heads out on tour. “I absolutely love it.”

Tickets are available at Ticket Centre (4922-49 St.) Call 403-347-0800 or email ticketcentral@centralalbertatheatre.ca for more information.

Visit www.centralalbertatheatre.ca.

editor@reddeerexpress.com

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