Natalie MacMaster and husband Donnell Leahy perform together with four of their children during a previous holiday concert. They’re back with A Celtic Family Christmas, Nov. 23 at the Alix Goolden Hall. Photo contributed

Christmas is all about family for Canada’s fiddling clan

Natalie McMaster and Donnell Leahy bring their Celtic musical traditions to Victoria

Travelling and performing together is not a new thing for the Natalie McMaster-Donnell Leahy clan.

Fans of McMaster will remember seeing her perform while pregnant some years ago on stage at the Royal Theatre, and more recently, at least four of the couple’s children have taken fiddle in hand and performed songs with mom and dad.

This fall’s tour of A Celtic Family Christmas, which touches down Nov. 23 at the Alix Goolden Hall, is no different, other than the fact the family now numbers nine members.

“We’ve been travelling with the entire family for 12 years,” says McMaster, thinking quickly of the age of their oldest child, daughter Mary Frances. The award-winning Cape Breton fiddler calls the opportunity to do so “an incredible gift,” a dream and a nightmare, all rolled into one.

Watching and performing with her children, most of whom have experienced the joy of getting a fiddle for Christmas, is another dimension of the fruits of she and Leahy’s musical labours, McMaster adds.

“I feel so special and lucky to be able to have my cake and eat it too; to be able to get married and continue on my music path, be a mother and continue on that path, and literally watch our love grow through our children and through the music with them.”

While playing music as a family has become part of their touring routine, McMaster is also excited about sharing with audiences their love for the Christmas season. She and Leahy – whose family musical history is significant – have done their best to bring the traditions of their own formative years to their own children. That includes everything from baking together, celebrating with friends, being charitable and above all, celebrating the birth of Christ.

And of course, music is always a big part of the mix through the holidays.

“Even though our world is forever changing, it’s OK to be traditional and it’s OK to believe in what your ancestors and your parents believe in. And it’s OK to pass along those traditions to your children,” McMaster says.

This year’s show not only features the family performing a variety of traditional Celtic compositions and step-dancing the addition of actor William Colgate as a storyteller will lend a theatrical element to the show.

“It’s a way to keep it exciting and fresh and new, and supporting the history of where our music comes from. It’s very entertaining,” McMaster notes.

Tickets for A Celtic Family Christmas are $45 and are available online by visiting vcm.bc.ca/events, by phone at 250-386-5311 or by stopping in to the Victoria Conservatory of Music office at 900 Johnson St.

editor@mondaymag.com

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