Dates and Venue 17-18 May, Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer Heidi Hoff

What do you get when you combine Canada’s reigning king and queen of fiddle music with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra? Why, a night of magic of course! Vancouverites were treated to not one, but two performances by the multi-talented Natalie MacMaster and her husband Donnell Leahy with the VSO. The result was a toe-tapping, Cape Breton tinged time with a classical twist.

Though their music is rooted in traditional Celtic style, MacMaster and Leahy seemed right at home with the orchestra and it with them. The pairing made for a pleasingly unpredictable musical evening. MacMaster and Leahy rolled out many of their self-penned hits, like Wedding Day Jig, written as a gift to their wedding guests when they tied the knot in October of 2002 and Madness Medley, a tune designed to challenge each other’s top-notch fiddling skills. The VSO especially shone as accompaniment to MacMaster and Leahy’s version of Anniversary Waltz. Fans of Donnell’s family band, Leahy, were especially pleased to see Erin Leahy, Donnell’s sister, on piano.

MacMaster, who gave birth to daughter Mary Frances a mere five months ago looked stunning for a new mom and even treated the audience to a sample of her step-dancing skills. Not to be outdone, Leahy and his sister also put a few scuffs on the Orpheum stage, encouraged by the fun-loving crowd.

Dancing aside, it’s easy to see why the couple is so highly regarded in the music world. With broken bow strings and fingers flying, MacMaster and Leahy are a wonderful match as musicians and in life. Their easy between song banter filled with compliments for each other endeared them to the crowd. They felt so comfortable, in fact, that when MacMaster prompted Leahy to check on the baby, he spontaneously sprinted off stage right and returned a moment later with their daughter in his arms, introducing her to the audience. Mary Frances eagerly grabbed at her daddy’s fiddle, no doubt ready to follow in her parents’ footsteps.

Accomplished musicians aside, MacMaster and Leahy are two people who take their roots seriously and manage to leave a little part of themselves and their music with their audiences. MacMaster returns to B.C. to play with the Victoria Symphony on August 26th at the UVic Centennial Stadium.


© 2006 Heidi Hoff