LAKEFIELD, ONTARIO: Natalie MacMaster said her nomination to the Order of Nova Scotia came at a special time.
“It feels incredible,” she told The Reporter. “It feels so good to be honoured by those you value most.”
On November 9, Lieutenant-Governor Arthur J. LeBlanc, Chancellor of the Order of Nova Scotia, confirmed that MacMaster is among six Nova Scotians who will have their contributions honoured later this month.
The day before she was notified, MacMaster said Cape Breton was on her mind once again.
“The day prior to that, I was thinking of being forgotten, or being away from Cape Breton so long that people wouldn’t remember that I’m apart of Cape Breton. I feel like that and I will go to my grave feeling like that in the deepest way,” MacMaster said. “When she called, it was just a really thoughtful time for me.”
Now in her late 40s, and a resident of Ontario for the past 18 years, MacMaster said she is thinking more about her roots these days.
“I can honestly say I have Nova Scotia, and in particular Cape Breton, on my mind living up here in Ontario in a very deep way. I always just hope and pray, that even though I’m far away, that my kids will love the culture and be a part of it in some way,” said MacMaster. “When you love something so much, you don’t want to be detached from it, even though you’re separated from it.”
To ensure the preservation of the Gaelic culture and music she was raised on, MacMaster said she’s been teaching her children, including playing Cape Breton fiddle tunes over breakfast each morning.
“I just had them learn a Gaelic song from their great grandmother, and Jeff MacDonald has been wonderful helping me out with some Gaelic, myself,” she stated. “I just taught them the ‘King George’ about a week ago. I’m thinking like that all the time, I think like a Cape Bretoner and I play Cape Breton music, and I’m feeding them Cape Breton stuff, but we’re not living in the culture of Cape Breton.”
Calling herself a “prayerful person,” MacMaster is well-known for her charitable works. Most recently, she was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the Atlantic School of Theology.
“I always pray that God will bring the charity to me because I don’t have time to go looking for ways to be kind to people or do good deeds,” she noted. “He brings a lot in. There’s all sorts of people looking for music for an event.”
A native of Troy, MacMaster began her fiddling career at 16. Over her three-decades in music, MacMaster has produced 11 albums, performed at thousands of shows around the globe (including Antarctica), and worked on collaborations with world-renowned artists.
Like past and present Cape Breton fiddle greats, MacMaster has become synonymous with the classic Cape Breton sound that has made Gaelic music and dance popular world-wide.
MacMaster is considered a musical ambassador for Nova Scotia and she has been recognized throughout the industry, including multiple gold albums, awards from across North America, and honorary doctorates. She also received the Arts & Letters Award from the Canadian Association of New York and was inducted into the Order of Canada.
An award-winning performer and musician, MacMaster is the fifth musician to be inducted.
Past Strait area recipients of the Order of Nova Scotia include: John Boudreau; James Kehoe; Buddy MacMaster; Teresa MacNeil; Eva Landry; Silver Donald Cameron; Raylene Rankin; and Alistair MacLeod.
MacMaster added she hopes to return home this summer, but nothing is certain given the pandemic. In the meantime, she and her husband Donnell Leahy will be doing a virtual Christmas tour where tickets can be purchased at local venues, including the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre at: https://www.natalieanddonnell.com/shows/.
“It’s all watching it from your home, it’s just way to keep our industry alive and work with great theatres that we’ve worked with all through the years,” she added. “Each of those theatres will have their own network of people that they will sell through.”
The Order of Nova Scotia is the highest honour of the Province of Nova Scotia. Those considered must have made outstanding contributions to the cultural, social, or economic well-being of the province. Fields of endeavour recognized include the arts, academics, research, agriculture, business, industry, community leadership, and public service.
In all 105 recipients have been invested into the Order of Nova Scotia since it was established in June 2001.
The 19th investiture ceremony will take place on November 24 at Pier 21 in Halifax.