I remember the first time I heard Ashley MacIsaac perform live.
It was in the mid-1990s when he came to Charlottetown to launch his CD, “Hi, How Are You Today”, at the club formerly known as Myron’s.
I don’t remember what he was wearing, but it didn’t matter.
What did matter was his powerful music and that’s what the large, enthusiastic audience had come to hear.
After taking his place on stage, MacIsaac ran his rosined bow across the strings of the fiddle to play “Sleepy Maggie”. A few bars later, people were swaying to the beat of the music as Celtic singer Mary Jane Lammond started to sing in Gaelic.
And by the end of the four-and-a-half-minute song, the audience was entranced by his hypnotic music.
That night MacIsaac also touched heartstrings when he played “MacDougall’s Pride”, a tune he wrote with Gordie Sampson. The slow aire was so moving and I remember tears welling up in my eyes, for no reason at all.
And, although I’ve heard the international music sensation perform many times since, I’ll never forget the first time.
The Creignish, N.S., native will create even more memories for people when he comes back to Charlottetown next week. His show, Celtic Christmas with Ashley MacIsaac and Friends, is set for Dec. 15 at Trinity United Church in Charlottetown. It’s a fundraiser for the Indian River Festival and the Trinity church.
And MacIsaac tells me he can’t wait for sound check.
“It’s extra special to be a musician at this time of the year because you get to perform music you don’t get to play the rest of the year,” says MacIsaac, hinting about the holiday-tinged program that he and his touring partners, Hilda Chaisson, Maxim Cormier and country star Robert Bouchard, formerly of the “Tommy Hunter Show”, are planning.
“Come and celebrate with us four Acadians. We will be playing Christmas carols, fiddle tunes and country songs.”
And, while he has a general idea of how things will unfold, there’s no set list yet.
“We’ll figure that out when we get to Charlottetown. I have ideas of music that I want to do. It’s the first of five shows that we’re going to do. And I know that we’re all skilled enough that even though we go in thinking we’re going to something and it ends up being something different, it’s going to be great.”
Don Quarles, executive director of the Indian River Festival, says excitement for the show has been rising.
“It’s going to be an amazing cross section of Celtic, traditional Christmas and country songs.
“It’s the first time that Ashley has been here for a while and he has this flare for music. And I’m really thrilled with the fact that he wanted to stop on P.E.I. for this tour,” he says.
When the tour finishes, MacIsaac’s attention will go to other projects when he returns to Windsor, Ont., where he calls home.
“I have a desire to make a country record. I’ve been thinking about it on and off for years. I’m not sure whether or not it will come true. And, because I live across from Detroit, I may end up making an R&B record,” he says.
MacIsaac tells me he is in a good place, following his marriage breakup.
“I have a new partner in my life. I’m in a very happy stage. So I’m not sure where the directions will take me.”
If you are going
- What: Celtic Christmas with Ashley MacIsaac and Friends.
- When and where: Friday, Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m., Trinity United Church, Charlottetown
- Tickets: Online from Ticketpro.ca or by calling the Indian River Box Office: 1-866-856-3733 or 902-836-3733.
- Looking for a drive? Wedge Tours are providing transportation for people in Prince County for a fee. They will leave from the College of Piping in Summerside at 5 p.m. and Island Stone Pub in Kensington at 5:30 p.m. for Charlottetown.
Call in and win
The question is: Where was Ashley MacIsaac born?
The prize: A pair of tickets to the Celtic Christmas Fundraiser in Charlottetown on Friday, Dec. 15.
Last week’s winner: Rosemary Vigeant won the Heather Rankin and Kelley Mooney Christmas CD package.
To enter: Call The Guardian’s Phone and Win contest line at 902-629-1707.
Sally Cole is an entertainment writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggesions for future columns from readers. She may be reached at sally.cole@TheGuardian.pe.ca or by phone at 902-629-6000, ext. 6054.