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14 / Summer 2012 / RECORD
"Those were busy times, and trying to balance our schedules was
pretty tricky," Stewart recalls. "But they were wonderful years.
We learned a lot about life, about music, and those bonds which
developed are lifelong ones."
Some of their best memories of university life were the musical
concerts that took place on campus. Acts such as Ryan's Fancy,
Valdy, Matt Minglewood, Bryan Adams, Blue Rodeo, Fraser
MacPherson, and Joel Miller all stood out in their minds as some
great musical memories at Mount Allison.
Now famous themselves and one of the world's favourite Celtic
bands, the group has opened for such entertainers as Celine Dion
and Kenny Rogers, and has traveled as far as Japan, Germany,
and the U.K. to give their own concerts. They have performed
in the far north, in places like Iqaluit and Whitehorse, and have
taken their show down the road to Times Square in New York
City and Barbados.
Even though they have toured to every corner of Canada, the Barra
MacNeils still all live within a half-hour of Sydney Mines, NS, where
the "Celtic kids" grew up, so they do not have to travel far to engage
in a jam session or rehearse for an upcoming project. They rotate
between houses, joking that where they end up rehearsing depends on
who is serving the most appetizing entrée for supper that night.
They barricade themselves in one of the band member's houses
and work on the project at hand until it is complete. Without a
doubt it is their neighbours who are treated to something special
with each endeavour the Barra MacNeils take on. In particular,
the family recalls an unusual summer when the group was
rehearsing for the Rita MacNeil TV Christmas special in the
middle of those hot days in July. While practising with the
windows wide open,
O Holy Night and other Christmas melodies
quickly became favourites in the neighbourhood.
The siblings say their parents had a great deal of influence in their
lives. Their mother actually coined the group's name, taking it
from the Isle of Barra in Scotland, the ancestral home of Clan
MacNeil. Both parents were musical, and the group received early
training at home, especially from their singing mother.
"Music was the norm in our household," Lucy says. "Our relatives
were always playing on weekends, and our Mom, who taught us
how to step dance, was the first piano player in Washabuck, NS.
She could also pick up a guitar, a fiddle, and sing. Our father, who
is a bit shyer, doesn't sing as much as we all do. He is musical as
well, and can sing also, but he's always joked, `Not everybody can
somebody has to listen.'"
Simply staying
together for 25 years
is a rarity in today's
music world
--Stewart MacNeil