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MacMaster, with growing family, performs in Cape Breton just in time for Christmas

Natalie MacMaster embraces one of her four children who performed with her and husband Donnell Leahy at the 2016 East Coast Music Awards Gala in Sydney. MacMaster and her growing family head home for Christmas and will be performing in Sydney on Friday.
ANDREW VAUGHAN • CP
Natalie MacMaster embraces one of her four children who performed with her and husband Donnell Leahy at the 2016 East Coast Music Awards Gala in Sydney. MacMaster and her growing family head home for Christmas and will be performing in Sydney on Friday. ANDREW VAUGHAN • CP

Natalie MacMaster is coming home for Christmas, and this time she’s expecting.

“Baby No. 7 is cooking up,” said the Troy native with a laugh while on the phone in Iowa last week.

The family’s well into their latest tour, which will bring them to Sydney’s Centre 200 for A Celtic Family Christmas show on Friday. Natalie, for one, is counting down the days.

“Gosh, yes. I’ve been looking forward to it for a year and a half, that’s how long it’s been booked.

But the thing is, I always have been more nervous and excited at that hometown show than I would be playing here, tonight, in Iowa.

Even though it’s the most beautiful venue, it won’t spark that side of me like a Cape Breton crowd would.”

And what can the hometown audience expect?

“A good variety of sweet and exciting,” she promises. That means a heaping of Donnell’s Irish/Cape Breton-flavoured fiddling, and a chance to see the little ones take the floor.

“We’ll also rock it up a little, a little bit of who-cares-what-thisis, let’s just make some great music. I’ll play a couple trad numbers.”

But it is Christmas, Natalie’s favourite occasion of the year.

“I’m an old-fashioned soul and I always have been. I’m one of those ‘Oh my God, it’s Christmas!’ kind of people. I like to give the crowd the same thing I like to see at Christmas: the tree, the angel at the top, the kids singing carols, people playing fiddle tunes, and sharing joy, laughter and jokes and a little drink.

“It’s about going to church and sharing in the birth of our Lord. I just love all that. It’s all intertwined.”

Life continues to be hectic for Natalie and

her musical sidekick and husband Donnell Leahy.

When the family’s not on the road, they’re back at the farm in Ontario. With six little ones, ranging in ages from three to 12, things can go haywire from time to time. But Natalie insists she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s wonderful to look forward to the tour. All the farming is gone, all the cooking is gone, making beds and sweeping and housework. The kids are homeschooled, so the days are full.

When we’re on the road, there’s just one simple task to do: the show. But we always find time to be a family.

“People sometimes ask me if I planned on being successful. I never ever did. I just followed the course. I’m a trusting soul, for sure. I trust in our higher power, the Lord. I trust that, yes, you can have hopes and dreams and expectations and aspire to things, I’ve always had that.

“But Donnell and I never tried to be the masterminds of some extraordinary plan, to have this set number of how many kids we would have. We took the gifts as they were given to us. No doubt, you’re thinking how are you going to handle it, but that’s what love is for.

“I’m tearing up thinking about it. If people wait for the right time for things, they may never come along. I’m very grateful that Donnell and I didn’t say we’re too busy.”

Life in Ontario has offered new and life-enriching opportunities.

But home is never far from Natalie’s mind. She sees to it that each morning the kids are awoken to Cape Breton classics, played by the likes of Howie MacDonald, her late uncle Buddy MacMaster, Jerry Holland and Winston Scotty Fitzgerald, among others.

It seems to be having an impact on the wee ones.

“I greatly appreciate, more than ever, how awesome that culture is and what it can give to them in life, just to have the Cape Breton way in their spirit, the Cape Breton way in their musicality. I have an expression my dad used to say to me that I now say to them: Gobble ’er down like a little dog.

The kids now say that a lot. I love that.”

This Christmas, Natalie’s mind will inevitably turn to Buddy.

Christmas remained a sacred occasion throughout his accomplished life. “In the biggest way Christmas was important to Buddy. Every family function Buddy was there. He was the main guy fiddling. He was all about the spirituality of it, the depth of it. He wouldn’t be a surface guy but that’s what he based his whole life on.”

To purchase tickets to A Celtic Family Christmas, visit https:// tickets.capebreton.ca

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