A Celtic Celebration:
Natalie MacMaster and The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Drugs Symphony Pops Series
15 February at 20.00
Rosemary Thomson Featured
Performer: Natalie MacMaster, Fiddle Musicians: Matt
McIsaac, Bagpipes ; Brad Davidge, Guitar; John Chaisson,
Bass; Allan Dewar, Keyboards; Miche Pouliet, Drums
The audience at this
sold-out concert at The Orpheum on Saturday evening were treated to a
toe-tapping, knee-slapping musical synergism when Natalie MacMaster and
her five-piece band, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra joined forces
to celebrate traditional Celtic music. Ms MacMaster and her cousin Ashley
McIsaac are the latest exponents from a long line of brilliant fiddle
players from the Isle of Cape Breton.
Guest conductor Rosemary
Thomson and the VSO started the evening in appropriate fashion with Aaron
Copeland's dance episode "Hoe-Down" from the Rodeo Suite.
The auburn-haired Ms Thomson, looked like she might have been just as
at ease in MacMaster's band as on the podium. She certainly seemed to
enjoy her turn later as back-up singer in the band's ‘honky-tonk’
version of Eric Clapton's classic "Lay Down Sally."
From the moment Natalie
MacMaster arrived on stage wearing a black top and tailored charcoal trousers,
she held the audience spellbound with her dazzling fiddle playing and
flashing feet. Jigs and reels were interspersed with pipe marches, country
songs, and jazz standards. The petite Ms MacMaster made full use of stage
floor left available in performing every dance from the hornpipe to the
There were many talented
musicians on stage during the evening, but at times they seemed almost
transparent playing behind MacMaster's band. This really was a pity! Miche
Pouliet's drums were especially overbearing. The drum kit was set up mid-stage,
screened with a clumsy perspex acoustic barrier. In many of the selections
I would have preferred the VSO's percussion section over Pouliet's amped-up
The virtuoso fiddler
was generous in sharing centre stage with other musicians. Matt McIsaac,
Brad Davidge and John Chaisson all recording artists in their own right
offered interesting solo performances. Chaisson was given the opportunity
to indulge his own arrangement of "Autumn Leaves," which turned
out to be quite pleasant with an obvious influence of Sting in his vocal
style. Perhaps the most piquant display of musicianship was from first
violinist Akira Nagai, who amused the audience with some musical "morphosis"
starting with Vivaldi, then transposing it into a lively reel.
doesn't just play the music. She connects it with the audience. It was
impossible to say just how many transplanted Nova Scotians came to The
Orpheum on Saturday night to hear one of their own play the music from
their roots. There were many of us who for just a couple of hours were
happily affiliated with them.
© 2003, John