Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with Natalie MacMaster

Dates and Venue 11 May 2011 @ 8pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor Pierre Simard Featured performer Natalie MacMaster, violin

Reviewer Melanie Ewan

On May 11th, Natalie MacMaster joined the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at the Orpheum theatre, treating an eager audience to an energetic and memorable evening of Cape Breton tradition and charm.

Macmaster and the accompanying symphony orchestra began the evening with a couple of lively pieces, followed up by Macmaster’s most requested piece, If You Were Mine. I found this piece to have a touching dreamlike quality with veins of yearning coursing through it; effectively stirring up images of longing and love. Next was O’ Carolan’s Concerto; although not my favourite tune, it did exemplify the interesting and symbiotic nature of classical and Celtic fiddle music.

During the rousing Strathspey & Reel MacMaster’s talented piano accompanist, Mac Morin, treated the audience to a round of traditional Cape Breton step dancing.

The always amazing Concertmaster Dale Barltrop joined MacMaster in duet for Bach’s Devil’s Dream, which the latter pointed out demonstrates well how the fiddle and the violin really are close cousins in sound. The first half of the evening was rounded off with Stars on the Hill Medley, which began with a beautiful Scottish aire; gradually quickening in tempo, and leading the audience in to bouts of clapping and stomping in time with the infectious beat.

Following intermission, the song that stood out for me was The Anniversary Waltz. Not only was it the most beautiful rendition of the song that I have heard, but it was also my grandmother’s favourite song, so it holds a soft place in my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Following this famous Russian waltz, MacMaster opted for a short nameless Cape Breton tribute, which, performing unaccompanied was hauntingly beautiful.

MacMaster and the VSO ended the evening with Carnival Medley, which got everyone dancing, including MacMaster herself, who demonstrated once more her energy and spirit and love of this music as she kicked off her shoes and danced around the stage.

MacMaster comes across as an energetic and down to earth proud mother of four who loves her family, her home, and her fiddle. Her music, which is rooted in Cape Breton traditions, shows off this personality and draws the audience in effortlessly. The orchestra was a perfect addition to her style and music, and the concert was an absolute delight for all ages.

© 2011 Melanie Ewan