New chapter in Celtic music benefits hospital

The names Leahy and MacMaster are almost synonymous with traditional Celtic fiddle music in Canada.

Leahy, the Juno award-winning family group, brought their frenetic style of Scottish and Irish-based music to the masses, most notably in the 90s when their The Call to Dance hit both country and adult contemporary charts. They toured internationally and opened for big-name performers like Shania Twain.

Doug, one of the Leahy siblings, has been pushing the musical heritage forward, performing with his own young family as Next Generation Leahy, becoming a frequent performer in Markham.

Another of the famous family siblings, Donnell, went on to meet and marry Cape Breton legend Natalie MacMaster, famous in her own right as a fiddle prodigy and recording artist, related to other famed Celtic performers such as uncle Buddy MacMaster and cousin Ashley MacIssac.  The couple, performed and recorded as a duo, and now with their own growing family.

The shows showcase the talents of their children including their eldest, the fiddling, piano-playing, step-dancing whirlwind, Mary Frances Leahy who, as Donnell Leahy wryly noted, was not forced by him to play but was “genetically compelled,” he said with a laugh.

The COVID-enforced touring break left time for Mary Frances to begin to create her own musical identity and begin writing music of her own and now at age 18, she is clearly ready to step out of her formidable family shadow into her own light. So with that batch of songs under her belt, she recently took centre stage in her own career, launching First Light, an album taking pieces of her Cape Breton and Irish heritage and matching it up with a world music sound that is distinct in its own way.

First Light opens with the Celtic, hand-clapping, foot-stomping title track before giving way to the Latin rhythm Camico and a number that in name and sound perhaps best describes First Light as a whole-Celticumbia, giving a nod to both the Celtic and to Cumbia the percussion-heavy sounds from Columbia, Mexico and Latin America.

The launch, sponsored by United Soils and Maple Leaf Mulch, also served to benefit Oak Valley Health, which includes the Uxbridge Hospital, Markham-Stouffville Hospital as well as the Oak Valley Community Clinic in Stouffville.


Photo: Mary Frances Leahy launches her First Light album at a recent fundraising event for Oak Valley Health.

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