Volume 91, Issue 86

Thursday, March 12, 1998

3,770 strong and growing


Always got time for Natalie MacMaster

By Rod Refcio
Gazette Staff

With a lot of talent, practice and a little luck there truly are no limits to what you can achieve – as rising star of East-coast fiddling Natalie MacMaster clearly demonstrates.

Hailing from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the gentle and mild-mannered musician first picked up a fiddle in early childhood and it has not left her hand much since then.

Drawing encouragement from her musically inclined family, MacMaster has been able to transform her abundant raw natural talent into a finely-tuned skill. "I was never forced into playing [the fiddle], but my parents always gave me lots of positive encouragement," the soft-spoken fiddler reminisces.

However, like most early achievers, some sacrifices had to be made. "I just ran into an old girlfriend of mine the other day and she was telling me how she remembers my Mom telling me that I had to practice before I could go out and play."

MacMaster's dedication and tremendous skill have taken her from her first live public performance at the age of 10 to her recent sold-out concerts in both America and Europe. The appeal of down-home country fiddling seems to transcend all cultural, social and political boundaries.

"My music is universal. It's easy music to understand and the audience always claps along," affirms MacMaster. Subsequently, her world travels have placed her in the role of musical ambassador for Canada and have given her a new respect for her country. "Being Canadian is meaning more and more to me. At first, I thought of myself as being from Cape Breton, then Nova Scotia and now I consider myself to be very fortunate to be a Canadian."

The whirlwind touring lifestyle that takes her around the world does have some minor drawbacks. "The actual touring is the hardest part for me," MacMaster acknowledges. Forced to live a large part of her life on the road, her time is limited and hobbies are a luxury that she simply can not afford. "If I do get some free time, I just like to watch television." Mad About You is one of her favourites, although she's only seen about three or four episodes: a testament to her hectic schedule.

Although extensive travelling can take its toll, MacMaster's obvious love for performing gives her the energy and drive to persevere. When asked to describe her feelings about performing on stage, the 20-something fiddler muses, "I definitely don't vent [my emotions] with my fiddle. Whatever type of day I've had, I try not to let it affect my playing. I do have an occasional off day and some days are extra special, but I always try to give 110 per cent."

Clearly, MacMaster has developed into a consummate professional over the course of her 15-year career and her tendency towards a perfectionist disposition is evident. This tendency becomes especially focused when she is working in the studio. "I love being in the studio. There's control, the proper equipment and everyone's working to make sure you give your best performance."

Her latest effort, My Roots Are Showing, is due for release in late March. This compilation of traditional fiddle music is composed of several tracks that inspire an undeniable and infectious toe-tapping reaction. The release is sure to build on the momentum of her last album, which garnered gold status in Canada. Although traditional music continues to be her bread and butter, MacMaster harbours no inhibitions about further broadening her musical horizons to include more styles. "My main thing is traditional, however, I would like to entertain other audiences – probably on my next album."

Riding this wave of expanding success, Natalie MacMaster is sure to establish herself as one of Canada's most distinguished musical performers, while remaining true to her Cape Breton roots. You can catch this spirited, toe-tapping fiddler tonight at Centennial Hall.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998