The Tidemark Theatre was alive with the sound of music last Wednesday. Christmas music, that is.
It was hard not to find yourself wrapped up in the joy of the season as acclaimed fiddlers Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy got toes a-tappin’ and hands a-clappin’ during their Celtic Family Christmas tour stop in Campbell River.
MacMaster and Leahy’s energy was infectious and got the audience dancing in their seats and bopping along to the sounds from the East Coast.
MacMaster, a Cape Breton native, shared stories of house parties hosted by her parents that attracted fiddling legends such as her uncle, Buddy MacMaster.
Running two hours in length, last Wednesday’s show was definitely no 12-hour affair like the get-togethers MacMaster warmly described, but it was a party in its own right and, with a four-piece band backing MacMaster and Leahy on stage, it truly felt like a group of friends gathering to make beautiful, toe tapping, good-for-the-soul music together.
Never mind a sold-out Tidemark Theatre full of people who were getting swept up in the holiday spirit and gave not one, but two standing ovations.
The first came as the show went into the intermission. Living up to its Celtic Family Christmas name, MacMaster and Leahy shared the stage with five of their six young children, ranging in age between four and 10.
Each child took a turn at centre stage, with their fiddles about as big as they were. The children also took turns singing, tap dancing and playing an endearing version of Up On the Housetop, while the two middle children shared the spotlight on Silent Night.
MacMaster, an Order of Canada recipient and winner of two Juno and 11 East Coast Music Awards, and Leahy, the oldest brother of the internationally acclaimed family musical group, Leahy, each also took a solo turn.
MacMaster performed a run of seven traditional Celtic songs, with her bow flying over the violin at such speed that by the end she was plucking two broken strings off her bow, while Leahy matched his wife with some speedy violin playing of his own.
The group’s talent was truly on display during a Celtic, feel-good version of the Little Drummer Boy which, as MacMaster called it, turned into the Little Piper Boy as Matt MacIsaac took a turn on the bagpipes that added a warm richness to the song.
Even the audience got to be a part of the show, belting out the ‘five golden rings’ in the 12 Days of Christmas, which MacMaster and Leahy turned on its head and became the 12 instruments of Christmas which was just as the name implies, with Leahy’s steady fiddle playing holding up the song.
Nearly two hours after the set began, MacMaster and Leahy left the stage but the audience was left wanting more. Not ones to disappoint, the pair returned for an encore and brought their five children back onto the stage for one last hurrah.
The show was truly an early Christmas gift for those fortunate enough to get a seat in the theatre.
The Celtic Family Christmas tour – which sold out across the Island – now heads eastbound across Canada.