Q&A: The TSO Presents Celtic Christmas

Donnell Leahy on fun, family and performing holiday favourites with Natalie MacMaster and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Presented by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Steven Reineke
Featuring Donnell Leahy, Natalie MacMaster and family

Photo by Rebecca Littlejohn.

The holiday season is upon us and Juno Award-winning fiddler Donnell Leahy is ready to party—with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. This week, the TSO presents Celtic Christmas, a celtic holiday music party featuring the Leahy family and guest performer Natalie MacMaster under the baton of TSO Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke. The show will also spotlight the Etobicoke School of the Arts Holiday Chorus.

We caught up with Leahy to find out more about this high-energy performance.

Theatromania: Tell us about Celtic Christmas. How would you describe this production in a few sentences?

DL: Basically my Christmas traditions which involved family, a lot of family and music. So this show IS that; it’s a celebration of family, fun, friends, and traditional music, shared with our family. I’m of Irish & Cape Breton heritage. My influences are wide spread, originating in Cape Breton & Ireland and has evolved to include my experiences around the world, musically and otherwise.

Theatromania: What are some of the challenges in balancing the Leahy-MacMaster family traditions with the orchestra on stage?

DL: My family learned to play music by ear, we do not follow chart music, we’re more free- form. So that’s the one challenge that I have to start and end a piece at the right time. Another challenge that I have, since I’m affected by what I hear directly, is that when I hear the big, beautiful symphony playing, it’s actually hard for me to concentrate because I’m listening to them. I wish I could be in the audience listening.

Theatromania: Have you learned anything new from working with Steven Reineke?

DL: Steven is a great talent and I lean on him a lot when I play with orchestras. He’s obviously huge in the classical world, but he completely “gets” me and my music. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious and it kind of carries the show; it’s contagious to all players on stage, including myself, and it’s the spirit and confidence that leads us.

Theatromania: What is your favourite song on the programme? Why?

DL: The “Christmas Medley” is my favourite, because it is the number that really embodies Christmas for me: it’s me and my wife and our children, and their cousins, and the orchestra. It’s all of us playing together and sharing together. That’s what Christmas is for me.

Theatromania: What do you hope audiences take away from this performance?

DL: I hope that they feel when they leave that they weren’t at a performance, but that they were at a big Christmas gathering, a big party, that they were a participant in a big Christmas party, and that everyone feels that they shared in a wonderful Christmas musical experience. I want people to feel that we weren’t “performing” but that we were sharing, that they feel that they were at a real, warm, beautiful house party that they’ll never forget.

See the TSO's Celtic Christmas featuring Donnell Leahy and & Family on stage December 9 and 10 at Roy Thompson Hall. Visit tso.ca for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Tue, 2014-12-09 - Wed, 2014-12-10


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