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"After playing the square dances and concerts at home as teenagers,
we progressed to university, played on weekends up and down the
East Coast, and recorded our first album in 1986," Stewart says.
"Lucy joined us about then too and we've expanded naturally and
grown and progressed to what we are now."
Officially recording their first album with the original four
Allisonians in 1986, the charter member Barra MacNeils were
joined in 2005 by younger brothers Ryan and Boyd, who had
spent a decade with the band Slainte Mhath. In fact this Celtic
band opened several concerts for the original Barra MacNeils
before Ryan and Boyd finally joined them on tour.
After a memorable 20th year celebration in 2007 at the Cape
Breton Celtic Colours International Festival and a cross-Canada
tour, the siblings are again celebrating, but this time with their
25th anniversary tour.
The group's second stop was to return to the Mount Allison
campus, where, in addition to Stewart's 25th university reunion,
they celebrated the retirement of long-serving music professor,
Nancy Vogan.
During the Friday night concert the Barra MacNeils sang
Nancy-O, dedicated to Vogan, who retired after 40 years of
devoted service to Mount Allison. Vogan was thrilled over the
entire weekend's events.
"I always really enjoy the Barra MacNeils," she says. "They are
really fine musicians and such wonderful people. Attending this
exciting event made a wonderful ending to a great day of reunit-
ing with so many music alumni and friends, one I'll not forget."
The Barra MacNeils, who are five-time East Coast Music Award
winners, also just completed a major recording, a 15th album
called
The Barra MacNeils with Symphony Nova Scotia (Live).
The two-day performance in Halifax was taped by CBC. Also
in the works is yet another CD, recorded at the Celtic Colours
International Festival in Cape Breton last year, that saw the band
record with a different artist each day of the event. This CD will
come out in the fall to also help them celebrate their 25th
anniversary tour.
"It's nice when we travel and we do meet people from home,"
Stewart says. "That connection with Mount Allison has been
great -- we get people coming out to the shows and saying hello.
It's nice because we get to keep up with what others are doing and
sometimes without the aid of the Internet. We are actually seeing
and talking to people in person. It's one of the nice things about
our job -- keeping in touch with friends."
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