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Author: Becca Vaclavik

This December, the holidays are a fiddling family affair

Nova Scotia native Natalie MacMaster came from a musical family. She grew up playing the family’s piano, singing Gaelic songs and learning to dance from her mother. Her uncle, Buddy, was an internationally renowned fiddle player. When she was 9, she was gifted her first small fiddle of her own—she says she took to it naturally.

Donnell Leahy, too, was raised with musical roots. Along with his 10 siblings, he fronted The Leahy Family (known simply as Leahy now), a folk family band that has been performing internationally since the 1980s.

It only makes sense, then, that Natalie and Donnell—now Canada’s reigning couple of Celtic music—share that gift with their seven children, too.

“It’s like eating your vegetables. We feel it’s important for our kids’ growth that they learn music in some capacity. And they’re all interested because they see everyone else do it. Even our one-and-a-half year old cries for the fiddle when someone else has one and she doesn’t.”

Though the two youngest MacMaster-Leahy’s aren’t currently on tour, the majority of the family travels together as much as possible. To make it work, Natalie and Donnell homeschool their children and keep stints away from home brief. It’s not perfect, but the arrangement does have its perks.

“All of a sudden there are no beds to make, no garbage to take out, no meals to make, no dishes to clean. No hockey, gymnastics, piano lessons. It’s just you and your family, and we can do whatever we want together.”

Boulder audiences will have an opportunity to see Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy (and even some of the MacMaster-Leahy kids) in “A Celtic Family Christmas,” performing in Macky Auditorium Dec. 17. The program will feature folk arrangements of holiday classics like “White Christmas,” “Twelve Days of Christmas” and “Up on the House Top.”

“I have such awesome memories of Boulder,” said MacMaster. “I’ve done so many cool shows there over the years. I love it. I love the people. And it’s all about the people.”

See Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy in Macky Auditorium Dec. 17. Tickets start at $22.