Thursday, October 20, 2011

Masters of the Fiddle (Review)

Last night I had the privelege of seeing Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy in concert.  Canadian fiddlers, both from professional music families, they are truly an inspiration as they dazzled with their talents.

Natalie from Cape Breton plays original and traditional Cape Breton fiddle, as well as other styles, superbly.  Donnell (whose father was a fiddler and his mother was a pianist, step dancer and singer), is also from Canada, and was inspired by Irish and French fiddlers, as well as his parents and siblings growing up.  Each has their band they travel with, and now they they are touring together as a family with their own kids.  Amazing.  They even had three of their little ones perform (ages 5, 4, and 2!) dancing, and the oldest, Frances Marie, also played a fiddle tune.

They don't just play.  Natalie also does a form of tap dancing that resembles Irish hardshoe but the foot movements are distinctly different.  The music of Cape Breton is from Scotland, as the Scotts settled there.  It follows that the dance they practice grew into a kind of hybrid between Canadian, perhaps a little Irish, and some Appalachian clogging.  She can even dance while playing (though not as elaborately as Kelly Trottier, or Jon Pilatzki, American Irish fiddlers).  Donnell's sister Erin and Natalie's bandmate Max accompanied them on piano, and both of them are also wonderful Canadian dancers.

I'm very eager to hear the music from their respective bands, but this group, the four we heard last night, prove an incredible blend of traditional, original, and emotional music, truly a wonder to behold.

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