Mahaiwe, Great Barrington, MA
March 24, 2013
by Eric Sutter
Two of the world's most celebrated fiddlers -- Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy -- heated a cold Berkshire night to hot. They combined French, Celtic and American Bluegrass styles with MacMaster's Cape Breton fiddle work for a medley of jigs and reels from her latest CD "Cape Breton Girl."
It seemed especially apropos that this married pair performed a warm and relaxed "Anniversary Waltz" that especially touched the audience. Life, love, and laughter showed, especially when many family members joined Leahy and MacMaster on stage.
Donnell Leahy played the lengthy moody piece, "Fiddler's Despair" which ebbed and flowed with vibrant passion. Another fiddle tune brought out the sparkling Leahy children to play their wee fiddles and step dance. Youngsters Mary and Michael dazzled the audience. The impish Claire made a surprise visit for truly a joyful family affair. The entire family demonstrated some fancy dancing as well.
"Madness" was a mix of whimsical piano and fiddle sounds that brightened delightfully. Erin Leahy stood out on a ragtime piano piece followed by the Canadian fiddle duel of "Orange Blossom Special." As MacMaster herself exclaimed, "Holy Smokers!"
The second half of the concert brought Donnell Leahy to the forefront. The intense "Gypsy Boy" seared with heat. The musicians joined forces and blended their talents on the beautiful Scottish air "Professor Blackie." This plunking piano piece caused an emotional stir.
This was a literally forceful performance. Apparently in the past, and particularly when they have had an extended blast of reels, while sawing away a string would break. On this evening it was Leahy first, and then MacMaster followed. The duo, who carry extra equipment, simply made everything "well" again as they continued on.
MacMaster began a blast of reels that drove the show into an overdrive of pure exhilaration. The headliners did some magical step dancing of their own, set to a Cape Breton groove. The encore sizzled with a quick reel of dueling fiddles which included a surprise "Jingle Bells." This was brilliant music that appealed to all.