Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 4, 2008

Natalie MacMaster

Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield
March 2, 2008
by Eric Sutter

Natalie MacMaster comes from the high cliffs of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. She started fiddling at age 9 and step-dancing at age 5. With attractive looks she lives and breathes this unique culture through her music and dance.

In all her splendid glory she moved from Gaelic airs to reels and jigs. Her back-up band included equally competent musicians who quickened the spirit. The spritely "Sweet as a Bird" was an exquisite balance of sweetness and sinew. Clog rhythms were evidenced in the spine-tingling excitement of "Volcanic Jig" as she tapped out the tune with fancy dance steps. With driving energy and irresistible charm she showed the audience what a Cape Breton party was all about. Evidently there existed plenty of Celtic DNA in the audience judged by the response of sheer joy. "Joshephine's Waltz" was a soulful balanced interplay between heartfelt cello and fiddle.

Into the light she played and danced while the backdrop lighting changed from hues of pink and blue to green and purple which softened or bolstered the music accordingly. She was dressed in effervescent blue. Oftentimes she cavorted around the cello player or bass man and coaxed them to play mightily. Drawing energy from them she suddenly turned and cut into rousing fiddle tunes.

The second half of the program brought an awesome bagpipe solo. The woeful slow air "Lament for the Death" conjured up a graveness of spirit. The delicate calm lasted until the fired up and mischievous, "Madness Medley" which oscillated between flashy fiddling and funky world beat bass and drum jams interspersed with Nathaniel Smith's moving cello solo, "What a Wonderful World."

MacMaster's boundless energy was displayed on the closing foot-tapping rave-up, "Pretty Mary." She performed a Celtic Michael Jackson moonwalk dance which was pure exhilaration. To be sure, MacMaster possesses Celtic beauty, grace and soul and is a source of inspiration to many lovers of modern Celtic and Appalachian music.