Artist profile: Donnell Leahy
You may not think that Lakefield, Ontario is the home of innovative Celtic music, but Donnell Leahy has been blazing a trail for decades!
Donnell came to prominence in the 1980s as lead fiddle player for The Leahy Family band (now known as Leahy), made up of eight siblings. Their first album, Leahy, reached #1 in the Canadian Country Chart and went platinum.
The close-knit group is well-known for its electrifying live performances, combining traditional Celtic music with classical, country, folk, and contemporary. There is even Irish dancing and fiddles played upside down!
Donnell has always had a passion for Celtic music. His father is an accomplished fiddle player, and Donell started playing at the age of three. Growing up on a farm, Donnell noted that playing music was the only way to get out of chores. When he got older, he also realised that it was a great way to get invited to all the local dances and parties.
The Leahy Family has received three Juno awards for their music. The band opened for Shania Twain on her world tour, as well as feature on two of her television specials. Donnell contributed the fiddle line to Shania’s 1997 hit Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You).
The Leahy Family were even the focus of a short film, which won the directors an Academy Award!
Donnell married fellow fiddle player Natalie MacMaster in 2002. The pair initially dated in the 1990s, reconnecting later on. The couple has played together ever since! Donnell and Natalie have released two albums as a duo, even though they admit that they have slightly different musical tastes.
One was released in 2015, produced by legendary rock legend Bob Ezrin. A Celtic Family Christmas was released in 2016, showcasing traditional Christmas songs played on the fiddle.