, 2014

Children’s chorus to perform
concert with international fiddler

by Renss Greene

When internationally best-selling fiddler Natalie MacMaster comes to Kilmarnock, she will have some special accompaniment.

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Beth Somers conducts the Chesapeake Academy children’s chorus as they prepare for their big show with Natalie MacMaster on December 9.

The Chesapeake Academy children’s chorus will sing along with two-time Grammy nominee MacMaster during the second half of her “Christmas in Cape Breton” concert December 9 at the Lancaster Middle School Theater, 191 School Street, Kilmarnock. The chorus will perform a medley of three songs with the Canadian instrumentalist.

MacMaster’s presentation is part of the Rappahannock Foundation for the Arts’ (RFA) 2013-14 On Stage series. Tickets can be purchased at rappahannockfoundation.org. Adult tickets are $35 and student tickets are $12.

“Our parents are like, over the moon excited,” said Beth Somers, music teacher at Chespeake Academy.

Somers first heard that MacMaster was looking for accompaniment last summer. Ersel Buckley-Sharp, an RFA board member and a member of Somers’ church choir, asked Somers if she would be interested in an opportunity like this one. A few weeks later, Buckley-Sharp told Somers about the MacMaster concert.

“So I went to Debbie (Deborah Cook, Chesapeake Academy’s Head of School) and said, here’s a chance for our kids to shine,” Somers said.

“For me it’s just more real when you have little kids,” MacMaster said. “You can hear the excitement in their voices.”

Rehearsing for the concert comes alongside rehearsing for the Chesapeake Academy’s Christmas concert on December 20.

“That was one thing that really had me worried, because I was already getting ready to rehearse Christmas music here,” Somers said. “It was probably the second week of October, and I said ‘I need the music, I need some details, so I can get my kids going.’”

Although they have already begun rehearsing, MacMaster’s busy tour schedule won’t allow very much time rehearsing with the band.

“Gosh, I think it’s like an hour,” Somers said. “I’m the one that’s anxious about it, the kids are just happy to be singing.”

“We have it worked out very specific with our times and how we rehearse,” MacMaster said. “The choir will be prepared, of course. And then I guess an hour before showtime, we run the music. I mean, I’ve done this before, so I know it’ll work.”

MacMaster already has a few fans in Kilmarnock.

“We have a set of twins in fourth grade, and their father has been to one of her concerts,” Somers said. “Their family was already actually planning to attend the concert when they saw she was coming to town, so they’re really thrilled that it’s going to be somebody that he’s heard before.”

MacMaster said she wanted a children’s chorus because “for me, and I think for most people too, Christmas is so much about the kids.”

“We have some great Christmas tunes worked out, but they’re just instrumental, you know,” MacMaster said. “So it’s so nice to hear the words. When people think Christmas music, they’re singing the songs, not humming the melodies so much.”

MacMaster has had music chart success in both her native Canada and the U.S. Her album “Blueprint” peaked at #6 on the U.S. bluegrass charts, and she has had three gold-selling records in Canada. She released her debut album, “Four on the Floor,” at age 16, and is a recipient of the Order of Canada, the second-highest honor in Canada.

“Most of my career has been American, in front of the American crowd,” MacMaster said. “They’re very warm. They really appreciate the music.

“The U.S. has always been probably the best country to me,” she continued. “Canada’s great, but the thing about Canada is, even though it’s a huge country, there’s not a lot of places to play.

“You come to the United States and my gosh, I remember the time my husband’s group did a three-week tour just in North Carolina.”

The “Christmas in Cape Breton” concert is meant to evoke the Cape Breton Christmastime house parties MacMaster saw growing up and the music she heard there.

“Most of us have very strong traditions we grow up with, and the same goes for me, of course,” MacMaster said.” Part of that was about just the house parties.

“The medleys of tunes that I’m playing are traditional Cape Breton,” she said. “Some of them are very old, some of them are even 300-year-old pieces of music.”

“I hope the community is going to come out and support it,” Somers said. “I feel like they are. It’s a great way to start off the Christmas season, and these kids will have an opportunity. It might not seem so very special now, but as they grow up, later they’ll go ‘we sang onstage with that lady,’ you know? That’s really a cool thing.”

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