December 9, 2018

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Celtic-infused Christmas show is a family affair

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy share stage with their seven children 

The last time Natalie MacMaster found herself in Winnipeg, it was this past July at the Winnipeg Folk Festival; she was wearing leather pants and melting in the 30 C heat as she blasted through a barn-burning mainstage set.

It was one of the highlights of the festival; her East Coast charm and oodles of fiddling skill had hordes of dancing folkies working up a sweat as they jigged ferociously.

“It was super hot! I remember doing the mainstage and it did take me, that heat, oh my gosh I was just shocked. So I had to pull it back a bit, but other than that, it was awesome,” MacMaster says.

As for the decision to wear those leather pants?

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The last time Natalie MacMaster found herself in Winnipeg, it was this past July at the Winnipeg Folk Festival; she was wearing leather pants and melting in the 30 C heat as she blasted through a barn-burning mainstage set.

It was one of the highlights of the festival; her East Coast charm and oodles of fiddling skill had hordes of dancing folkies working up a sweat as they jigged ferociously.

"It was super hot! I remember doing the mainstage and it did take me, that heat, oh my gosh I was just shocked. So I had to pull it back a bit, but other than that, it was awesome," MacMaster says.

As for the decision to wear those leather pants?

"Not a smart move," she says, laughing.

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are touring the country with their children on the Celtic Family Christmas tour. (Supplied)</p>

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are touring the country with their children on the Celtic Family Christmas tour. (Supplied)

MacMaster is back in town tonight with her whole family — husband and fellow musician Donnell Leahy, and their seven children — at the Centennial Concert Hall with their A Celtic Family Christmas tour. This is the third time they’ve done the Celtic Family Christmas tour across Canada, the most recent run being 2016.

During the show, the MacMaster/Leahy family shares their favourite holiday traditions and songs, all with a Celtic twist, and this year, the performance also features theatrical elements.

"We have a world-class band and, for Donnell and I, No. 1, we focus on the quality of music, but it’s gotta be a show, as well. So, and this is a first for us, but we wanted to add a bit of theatrical element to the show, so we have an actor coming out with us, his name is William Colgate. Through a couple characters he’s invented, he’s going to share a little bit about the deeper meaning behind what we come from and our roots and our traditions, sometimes in a very intellectual way, and sometimes in a lighthearted, easy, humorous way," MacMaster says.

"And of course, our children will be on tour with us, and they play fiddles and dance now, so we’re packing in a lot."

The MacMaster/Leahy family shares their favourite holiday traditions and songs with a Celtic twist. (Supplied)</p>

The MacMaster/Leahy family shares their favourite holiday traditions and songs with a Celtic twist. (Supplied)

MacMaster and Leahy’s children range in age from six months to 13 years old, and most of them are adept fiddle players in their own right (seven-year-old Julia Leahy tore it up on the mainstage with her mom at Folk Fest). The kids have the same passion for music as their parents and spend a lot of time honing their chops, and MacMaster says she rarely faces protests when it comes time to pick up their instruments to perform.

Christmas Carols

A Celtic Family Christmas is just one of many festive shows scheduled during the next few weeks. Here’s a few more upcoming concerts to add to your holiday calendar.

Dec. 6

Cirque Musica presents Wonderland 

Burton Cummings Theatre, 7 p.m.

Tickets: $67-$111 at Ticketmaster.

Dec. 7

Tom Jackson — The Huron Carole 

All Saints’ Anglican Church (175 Colony St.), 7:30 p.m.

Tickets $35 at eventbrite.ca.

Dec. 8:

At Last, I’m Ready For Christmas! — A Duo-over Stan Rogers Christmas 

West End Cultural Centre, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $25, $30 for mezzanine seating, at the WECC, Into the Music (both locations) and ticketfly.com.

Funk the Halls with the Funk Hunters 

The Pyramid Cabaret, 9 p.m.

Tickets: $43.40 at Ticketmaster.

Messiah — Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra 

Centennial Concert Hall, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets $20-$105 at tickets.wso.ca.

Dec. 9

Manny Tuba’s Kooky Christmas Carol 

Centennial Concert Hall, 2 p.m.

Tickets: $15-$23 at tickets.wso.ca.

Dec. 10

United Way Winnipeg presents RCAF Band holiday concert with Doc Walker 

Centennial Concert Hall, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $38 at centennialconcerthall.com.

Dec. 11

The Tenors — Home for the Holidays 

Centennial Concert Hall, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $75.25-$135.75 at centennialconcerthall.com.

Dec. 13

Heather Rankin’s Picture Perfect Christmas 

West End Cultural Centre, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $30-$40, at ticketfly.com.

Dec. 14

JP Hoe Hoe Hoe Holiday Show 

Burton Cummings Theatre, 8 p.m.

Sold out.

JP Hoe Hoe Hoe Holiday Show After Party 

Park Theatre, 11 p.m.

Tickets: $10, at ticketfly.com.

Rockin Elvis Christmas with Rory Allen 

Club Regent Event Centre, 7 p.m.

Tickets: $34.74 at casinosofwinnipeg.com.

Dec. 15

Don Amero’s Amero Little Christmas 

West End Cultural Centre, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $25 at the WECC, Into the Music and at ticketfly.com.

Fred Penner: Concert for the Season 

Burton Cummings Theatre, 3 p.m.

Tickets: $34.25-$39.50 at Ticketmaster.

Dec. 16

Bury the Lede Live: A Holiday Podcast Spectacular 

West End Cultural Centre, 2 p.m.

Tickets $20 at ticketfly.com.

Dec. 19

School of Rock — Rock the Halls 2 

West End Cultural Centre, 6 p.m.

Tickets: $20 at ticketfly.com.

Michael Bolton — Greatest Hits & Holiday Favourites 

Club Regent Event Centre, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $73.74-$109.09 at casinosofwinnipeg.com.

Dec. 22

House of Gold Diamonds presents: Christmas Cher Board 

Club 200, 10 p.m.

Admission $10.

"There are times when they’re tired, but they don’t complain... it’s never, ‘I don’t want to play.’ I think it’s just their norm, and they like playing the music and when we’re home, they’re dancing through the hallways anyway, they definitely enjoy it."

But being onstage is in their blood. MacMaster, Leahy and many members of their families are considered Canadian Celtic music royalty and now their children are following suit, joining their parents on the road, not just at Christmas, but many times throughout the year.

"We’ve actually done it for decades, Donnell and I first on our own as a married couple and them when Mary Francis was born 13 years ago, she started out on tour with us and the next baby came along and the next baby, and it’s not just Christmas we tour together, any time there’s a Donnell-Natalie show, we’re touring together, so it’s every month, two months, we’re doing shows all the time," MacMaster says.

MacMaster and Leahy’s children range in age from six months to 13 years old, and most of them are adept fiddle players. (Supplied)</p>

MacMaster and Leahy’s children range in age from six months to 13 years old, and most of them are adept fiddle players. (Supplied)

If you can’t make it out to the show in Winnipeg tonight, MacMaster and her family also recorded A Celtic Family Christmas as a one-hour television special that airs on Vision TV on Thursday, Dec. 13, at 10 p.m., Christmas Eve at 7 p.m. and Christmas Day at 10 p.m.

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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