Wendy MacIsaac
at the Festival Club, St. Ann's, Cape Breton (2007)

Wendy MacIsaac will always hold a special place in my fiddler's heart.

I don't remember how many years ago it was, but I do know at the time my only experience to date with live Cape Breton music was a visit by Natalie MacMaster (with Tracey Dares and Dave MacIsaac) to York, Pa., for a dance.

This time I was in Manhattan, primarily to see Great Big Sea. The opener that evening was Mary Jane Lamond, a true mistress of gorgeous Gaelic singing. But as wonderful as Mary Jane's show was, my attention was drawn to one side of the stage, where fiddler Wendy MacIsaac was making excellence look effortless.

She still does it.

Flash forward to Thursday night at Celtic Colours 2007. Wendy had been having a very busy week as an artist in residence at the international event, and she'd just made the drive to St. Ann's from a show at the Cape Breton Highlands Academy in Belle Cote.

"I had my last show out of seven tonight," she said. "I'm going to sleep in tomorrow."

But that's tomorrow. Tonight, Wendy is on the stage and ready to play the Festival Club closed.

First up, a grand set with Wendy leading the way, guitarist Patrick Gillis providing support. Then, Wendy invited Andrea Beaton to take a seat at the piano for "a big blast in A."

Through it all, Wendy played with her eyes closed, or nearly so, with a serene expression and a faint smile on her face.

In the many years since I first saw Wendy play in Manhattan, I've come to know a great many Cape Breton fiddlers. And yet, few names will make me rush for a seat in the hall as fast as I did when I heard Wendy MacIsaac was coming onstage. As usual, she didn't disappoint.

[ visit Wendy's website ]

review by
Tom Knapp

1 December 2007

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