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Christmas spirit in Peterborough on Dec. 12

WHATSON Dec 07, 2018 by Jessica Nyznik

The Barra MacNeils have been known to ignite the Christmas spirit.

The Barra MacNeils perform at Showplace in Peterborough Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $57.50. – SPECIAL TO THE EXAMINER

At least that’s what they’ve been told, anyway. Kyle MacNeil said he’s often told audience members say they weren’t in the holiday spirit until they saw An East Coast Christmas.

“I’m right in the swing of things now,'” MacNeil said he hears after concerts.

The Barra MacNeils will be in Peterborough Wednesday to help fans get into the holiday groove.

The group mainly consists of MacNeil siblings, although they did let one outsider into the mix, bassist Jamie Gatti.


Lucy, Boyd, Stewart, Kyle and Sheumas MacNeil make up the rest of the band, with only one sibling missing on stage, a brother who now lives in South Africa.

As kids who grew up with instruments in their hands, it’s no wonder they all went on to study music in university.

When they’d go home for the holidays during their studies, they’d play a Christmas concert at a local pub.
That concert lead to others, and their Christmas tour grew and grew.

For the last 19 years, the Barra MacNeils have toured the country for the holidays, spending five weeks a year on the road.

An East Coast Christmas combines music from their three Christmas albums, with music from their latest album, too. On the Bright Side has a Celtic feel and came out earlier this year.

“It gets tougher and tougher every year to get all the material in,” said MacNeil of the concert set list.

He describes the show as lively, with lots of fiddle music, dancing and familiar carols. “It’s a very festive show.”

It’s even more festive for the MacNeils, who perform it for weeks on end leading up to Christmas.

“It’s five weeks of Christmas with your family every day,” MacNeil said with a chuckle.

An East Coast Christmas in Oshawa’s Regent Theatre on Dec. 15, with shows at 3 and 7:30 p.m.

The Barra MacNeils, dubbed “Canada’s Celtic ambassadors,” for almost two decades have toured the country at this time of year, sharing an East Coast Christmas. The band is at Oshawa’s Regent Theatre on Dec. 15 and a second show has been added…
MacNeil says people have made going to the concert a Christmas tradition, noting where parents once brought their young children, the latter have grown up and are now treating their parents. It’s a tradition for the band as well.
“There is something special about travelling across Canada at this time of year and seeing faces old and new,” he says.

A little light for ‘dark times’

…“People, during the dark times of the year, do need celebration with light and we try to augment that with some music and stories to match the season,” MacNeil said.
The five-sibling outfit — Stewart (vocals, accordion, tin whistle, flute, bouzouki, guitar, stepdancing), Kyle (vocals, guitar, violin, mandolin), Lucy (vocals, bodhran, Celtic harp, fiddle, step-dancing), Sheumas (keyboards, piano, bodhran, fiddle, bouzouki, vocals) and Boyd (mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, percussion, step-dancing) are joined by Jamie Gatti (bass) — is essentially expected to tour annually at Christmas, and this year’s production features no shortage of favourites, such as a O Holy Night, Ave Maria, Christmas in Killarney and Auld Lang Syne, coupled with comedy, seasonal stories and dance…
Making quality music, MacNeil said, remains a principal quest.
“It’s something that’s taken us through good times and bad,” he added. “And, I think, for a lot of our fans, that music is that same thing. It’s not always music for the good times. It’s getting you through the tough times in life. Emotional support is something we all need from time to time.”