A Celtic Family Christmas: Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy Return

A Celtic Family Christmas: Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy Return

By David DeRocco

Here’s a little production note for the stage manager at the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre (FOPAC): don’t polish the stage floor in Partridge Hall December 11th and 12th.

You see, the last time Natalie MacMaster was spotted in socks step-dancing and fiddling her way across that stage, the Canadian Celtic fiddle virtuoso wiped out midway through the performance of A Celtic Family Christmas, smashing her most cherished fiddle in the process.

“The venue had only been open for two weeks, and the floor was so shiny, squeaky brand new,” remembers MacMaster, who’s heading back to FOPAC with husband Donnell Leahy and five of their seven children for two more Celtic Family Christmas performances December 11 and 12. “I started dancing and I slipped and landed on my fiddle, and it was very badly broken. It was sent away to Paris and took a year to repair. I can laugh now but it was not so funny when it happened because it was the first half of the first of two shows we had to perform that day.”

Thankfully, performing this intimate and unique Christmas concert series brings enough joy to MacMaster and her family to erase any memories of Christmas fiddle catastrophes past, and so it should. While some families might not survive being cooped up in vans and hotel rooms for a month prior to Christmas, the MacMaster/Leahy clan – she a Juno-winning, Grammy nominated Order of Canada recipient and he, the oldest brother of the acclaimed family group Leahy – relish this time away together to escape the responsibilities of home.

“If you think about it, we just removed a whole bunch of activities out of our life by being on the road,” laughs MacMaster, a fiddle-playing musical chameleon who has collaborated with artists as diverse as Yo-Yo Ma to Alison Krauss during her 25 year career. “There’s no hockey, there’s no gymnastics, there’s no making beds, there’s no cooking meals. Those daily duties where the family’s pulled apart and rushing, those things are gotten rid of. We’re calm, we’re all together, we’re all moving together in the same direction, we’re playing music together, we’re eating all our meals together, we’re confined to four walls together. For some people that might be a bad scenario, but as far as families go I think everyone would appreciate the joys of being all together for a certain period of time. For us, this period is very special and very important to us.”

With their five kids age six to 12 and an incredible array of talented session musicians joining them on stage, the celebrated reigning couple of Canadian Celtic music deliver a rollicking, high-energy holiday hootenanny complete with festive favourites and traditional East Coast Christmas staples. While the set is marked by virtuoso performances from both MacMaster and Leahy, the evening is also designed to take audiences on an intimate journey, telling the story of the night before Christmas in the Leahy/MacMaster household. Connecting with the audience in such an intimate way is really the primary motivation behind A Celtic Family Christmas according to MacMaster.

“I do enjoy this time of year, it’s the music but it’s also the environment,” she explained . “Most people make the time to go to things like this. They have time to invest in each other. They’re in a different frame of mind. People are gearing up for this time of year so they may feel like they’re in a better place. They’re taking a well-deserved rest. To get to play music in that environment, to be a part of that, I’m glad to get to do something in life that brings joy to people.”

For tickets and information, visit: www.firstontariopac.ca.


Coming to television this December, A Celtic Family Christmas, a new one-hour holiday special starring Canada’s favourite Celtic music family! Join Natalie MacMaster, Donnell Leahy and the MacMaster Leahy Kids as they take to the stage to share their favourite holiday music and traditions with audiences everywhere. Special musical guests include Jackie Evancho, Shawn Hook and a host of dancers, pipers, drummers, fiddlers, as well as the MacMaster Leahy Band and special visits from family, bringing three generations together for a must-see show that’s sure to be a holiday favourite for years to come!" 

 YES TV (Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia) Saturday, December 8, 2018 at 9:00pm EST

Vision TV (National): Thursday, December 13 at 11pm EST; Monday, December 24 at 8pm EST; and Tuesday, December 25 at 11 pm EST.