Center for the Arts Presents Natalie MacMaster’s ‘Christmas in Cape Breton’

Posted: December 14, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: December 15, 2009 at 11:39 am

Natalie MacMaster

Natalie MacMaster

A Grammy nominee who first picked up a violin at age 9, Natalie MacMaster combines Celtic, bluegrass and contemporary acoustic sounds with jazz, rock and even classical music.

This holiday season, MacMaster returns to Mason’s Center for the Arts on Friday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m., demonstrating her fiddling fireworks and ferocious step dancing in a program titled “Christmas in Cape Breton.” The performance promises to evoke the holiday traditions of her native Cape Breton, mingling Celtic melodies with classic Christmas carols.

MacMaster was first noticed for her mastery of the Cape Breton sound, which was brought to Canada by 18th- and 19th-century immigrants from the Scottish Highlands and Outer Hebrides. Celebrating this sound and culture is MacMaster’s mission, and she does so through enthusiastic performances and her Internet radio show, “Cape Breton Live.”

Her goal, she says, is to try to “capture the culture, as opposed to just the music … we want to share the spirit and the vibe, and what we’re about as a people.”

The niece of famed fiddler Buddy MacMaster, Natalie quickly became a talent in her own right, collaborating with Alison Krauss, Carlos Santana, Bela Fleck, Faith Hill, Paul Simon, the Chieftains and even Luciano Pavarotti.

After winning numerous awards for her traditional recordings, she began taking Celtic music to new heights with albums such as “In My Hands,” which infused traditional fiddling with elements of jazz and Latin music. She has recorded nine albums, and received a Grammy nomination and two Juno Awards for “My Roots Are Showing” and “In My Hands.” She also recently recorded an album called “Yours Truly” with a song called “Farewell to Peter,” in which MacMaster pays respects to her friend, fan and fellow Canadian, ABC News Anchor Peter Jennings.

Though she recently gave birth to her third child, MacMaster says her music has not changed, but that having a family and being a mother has reinvigorated her commitment to the stage and her audience. She is married to fiddler Donnell Leahy, who performs with the Leahys – a group that includes seven of his brothers and sisters.

“I like being onstage even more,” MacMaster said. “When I appear onstage, that’s my departure from momhood – and I transform into Natalie MacMaster: the entertainer, the fiddler, the performer. I relish that now more.”

A discussion, free to ticket holders, begins 45 minutes prior to the performance on the Center’s Grand Tier III.

Tickets are $46, $38 and $23. Tickets for youth through grade 12 are half price when the child is accompanied by an adult. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit www.gmu.edu/cfa.

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