Tonight at Moncton’s Empress Theatre, Nova Scotian Celtic-roots duo Cassie and Maggie MacDonald will be celebrating the release of their third full-length effort, The Willow Collection. Recorded and produced by fellow Nova Scotian Dave Gunning, the sibling’s high-energy and instrumental prowess permeates virtually each corner of their new record.
Now three records deep in their career, Cassie says The Willow Collection is the duo’s most realized work to date.
“We’ve grown so much as musicians and performers since the release of our first album [2011’s Fresh Heirs]. That really shines through on The Willow Collection. We grew up playing mainly instrumental music on the fiddle and piano, but more recently, have found a love of traditional folk singing. We wanted to find a way to connect with the immense catalogue of folk songs in the same way we connected with instrumental music, which meant delving into different archives containing field recordings of old songs that had been passed down through generations of traditional singers,” Cassie says.
“With this record, we decided to give ourselves a theme that would help focus our research and also help us trace the evolution of certain songs as they travelled across the Atlantic and formed the backbone of many folk genres as we know them today. The willow was a natural choice, it has such a symbolic meaning in folklore, many of the most beautiful and poignant songs in traditional music are inspired by the image of the willow and what it represents.”
The siblings foray – both current and initial – into the world of Celtic-folk music is no accident. Their grandfather was a well-known fiddler from Antigonish, N.S., and was one of the first fiddlers from the province to travel to Montreal to record traditional Celtic fiddle in 1935.
It was only natural they would find their way to carry on that musical tradition.
“We grew up immersed in instrumental Celtic music, our grandfathers playing, and that of our older cousins was an enormous influence on us,” Cassie says. “Our parents were so good about bringing us out to see as much live music as possible, they would bring us to all the local dances and concerts where our cousins were playing, so not only did we get to hear amazing tunes live, but we also got a real sense of what it meant to be on stage and perform live.”
Not coincidentally, it is on stage that Cassie and Maggie are arguably best appreciated. In addition to touring throughout Atlantic Canada, the siblings have also toured extensively throughout the United States while also having dipped their toes in Europe as well.
Their stage show has earned accolades from Live Ireland Radio, Irish Music Magazine, and the New York Theatre Guide, and has also played a part in their having secured multiple East Coast Music Award and Canadian Folk Music Award nominations.
What: Cassie & Maggie
When: Saturday March 11, 8 p.m.
Where: Empress Theatre, Robinson Court, Downtown Moncton
Tickets are $18. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca