Rita MacNeil shares the stage with The von Trapp Children

One of Canada’s best-loved singers is joining forces with an internationally acclaimed vocal group to bring audiences across Canada a memorable Christmas concert.

Rita MacNeil and The von Trapp Children began a joint holiday tour through Canada in late November and will bring their festive show to Moncton Wesleyan Church’s Celebration Centre tomorrow night.

Rita MacNeil is a familiar face to music fans around the world. Since her enthusiastically received performance at Expo ’86 in Vancouver, the Cape Breton native has been unstoppable. She has been the recipient of numerous honours, including Juno Awards and Canadian Country Music Awards, while also being lauded with the East Coast Music Awards’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

Anybody familiar with The Sound of Music will immediately recognize the von Trapp family, whose story was told in the 1965 musical. Now featuring Justin, Amanda, Sofia and Melanie, The von Trapp Children are the great-grandchildren of Captain and Maria von Trapp. The quartet has performed in virtually all corners of the world, from Australia and South Korea, to Ireland and Africa, while also making appearances on major American television shows including The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show and Good Morning America.

The von Trapp Children, who were last in the Atlantic region in 2008, normally perform a variety of traditional folk and classical songs in addition to timeless pieces from The Sound of Music.

Doing a concert tour in the time leading up to Christmas has become somewhat of a custom for MacNeil who, in previous years, has performed her holiday shows with Frank Mills and Men of The Deeps. From her home in Nova Scotia last month, MacNeil tells The Times & Transcript that she is excited at the prospect of heading out on the road.

“Christmas is a typically busy time of year for me in terms of performances,” Rita says. “The tour that I am undertaking with the von Trapps is comprised of 20 shows right across the country. It is such a special time of year to be on the road; people are in an ‘up’ kind of mood and it is just such a pleasure to be able to perform for them.”

Rita’s affiliation with The von Trapp Children came about after she saw them perform a show in Ontario. “Amazed” by their performance, Rita thought that they would make ideal touring companions for this year’s holiday tour. She says the show, which will feature a mix of original and traditional material, will dedicate a portion of the show to each of the performers before they join forces on stage for the second half of the show.

At 67 years old, MacNeil shares that she has a new studio record in the works which she hopes to release in the New Year. And, while technically past retirement age, she says that she has no intention of slowing down.

“I have been very fortunate that I have been making music for a long time now. I still very much enjoy being in the business of entertaining people and am so very grateful for the longevity that I have had with my career,” she says.

“As long as people want to continue hearing from me, I am going to continue making music.”

Article published in December 6, 2011 edition of The Times & Transcript