Bringing The Beauty Of Nova Scotia To Harwich Through Music

By: Kat Szmit

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy. COURTESY PHOTO

HARWICH Fans of Celtic music, rejoice, for Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are coming back to Cape Cod.

On March 6, the talented twosome will take to the stage at Monomoy Regional High School for their Visions of Cape Breton and Beyond: A Celtic Family Celebration, and family is at the heart of the show.

“Our children will be coming along, and will inevitably make their way to the stage at some point,” said MacMaster. “We never had the intention of having our kids join us onstage, but with four of them taking fiddle and piano and singing…It’s special for us and I think it’s special for the crowd, too.”

The fiddle-centric show will feature the soulful music of both MacMaster and Leahy, her husband of 14 years. While MacMaster's music is described as Cape Breton style, lilting and sanguine, Leahy, who hails from Ontario, plays music that is Celtic-based and worldly.

Along with their six children, the duo will be joined onstage by some new friends.

“We’re taking a different group of people,” MacMaster said. “Steve Halloway, he’s incredible. This is our first time working with him. He’s just a wonderful multi-talented percussionist. Guitarist Tim Edey is from England, but resides in Scotland and grew up in Ireland, and is absolutely a world-class delight on the guitar and the accordion.”

MacMaster said there's just something special about their music that resonates with audiences.

“I think it’s one of those things,” she said. “I was practicing the other day. It was hectic, with taking kids to hockey and running here and there. I sat down finally with my fiddle and it was just such a comfort playing the Cape Breton music. It’s truly something imprinted on my soul and nourishes me.”

She said those on the Cape also find delight in the music.

“It’s such a beautiful area, and I find that people appreciate the music very much,” MacMaster said. “I think there are a lot of people there with Scottish and Irish roots, and even Cape Breton. I think somewhere in their history there is a migration for certain people. We’ve been playing that area for years and it’s a natural fit for sure.”

MacMaster especially enjoys the blend of modern sounds with songs that originated generations ago, becoming an integral aspect of the culture. That the music has such a rich history simply makes performing it that much sweeter for Leahy and MacMaster.

“It’s been 30 years of performing for me, 40 for Donell,” MacMaster said. “I would love for people to know that Donell and I take on some contemporary sounds because we live in this era, this day and age, but this history we come from and the longevity of our playing, it comes from such an honest place for us. We are so grateful to our parents for giving us that ancestry, those strong roots and giving us such a love for the music, a vision of what has come before us and a vision of what’s to come after us. It’s more than playing music on a stage, it’s a culture. It’s love, it’s tradition, it’s modern in one sense and ancient in another.”

Tickets for Visions of Cape Breton and Beyond: A Celtic Family Celebration may be purchased by calling 800-838-3006 or via brownpapertickets.com/event/2587537. The event is sponsored by the Harwich Cranberry Arts and Music Festival, Inc.