July 11, 2011 | Doris Boardman, Website and SEO Manager

We have TWO concerts here this week at York Street. Come to the Gardens, enjoy one of these concerts and delight in the unrivaled ambience of thousands of blooming plants. And, remember--you can bring a picnic and a bottle of wine or your favorite beverage to enjoy before or during the concert.

Natalie MacMaster and Great Big Sea
Thursday, July 14

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Doors at 6 p.m., concert starts at 7 p.m.

Allen Toussaint and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Buckwheat Zydeco
Friday, July 15

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Doors at 6 p.m., concert starts at 7 p.m.

These concerts will both be amazing! The following pre-concert reviews are courtesy of Gardens' member Rick Hum.

July 14 - Natalie MacMaster and the Great Big Sea

We are going to be treated to two great groups of musicians from Eastern Canada, both with strong roots in Cape Breton fiddling.

Natalie McMaster at Denver Botanic GardensNatalie MacMaster was born June 13, 1972 to her parents Alex and Minnie MacMaster in Troy, Inverness County, Nova Scotia. Natalie MacMaster’s impressive musical lineage includes a cadre of amazing fiddlers, including her uncle, fiddle prodigy Buddy MacMaster.

Natalie began playing fiddle at the age of nine.  She released her first album at the age of sixteen and has since recorded eleven albums.  She has been received numerous ECMA (East Coast Music Awards) [11], Juno (Canada’s Music Awards) [2], CCMA (Canadian Country Music Awards) [7] and a Grammy nomination. 

See her perform once and when you hear the music again you’ll always picture Natalie MacMaster bouncing on the balls of her feet, blond tresses flying as she wildly fiddles the jigs and reels she learned as a girl back home on Cape Breton Island.

In addition to her music career she is mother of four kids under the age of five.  The youngest was born in January 2011.  She married fellow fiddler Donnell Leahy of Lakefield, Ontario’s musical Leahy Family in 2002. The family is now living in a newly-built farmhouse in Douro, Ontario. Natalie oversaw the construction of the house, while homeschooling their children. 

Amazingly, she had her first book published titled Natalie MacMaster: A Cape Breton Aire: The Story of a Musical Life and Place last October.

Photo by Dustin Rabin PhotographyGreat Big Sea is a Canadian folk-rock band from Newfoundland and Labrador, best known for performing energetic rock interpretations of traditional Newfoundland folk songs including sea shanties, which draw from the island's 500-year-old Irish, English, and French heritage. The band also performs original material.

The band had its roots playing St. John’s rowdy pubs as the Newfoundland Republican Army.  The Great Big Sea played its first official gig on March 11, 1993 in St. John. Founding band members included Alan Doyle (vocals, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin), Séan McCann (vocals, bodhrán, guitar, tin whistle), Darrell Power (vocals, bass, guitar, bones), and Bob Hallett (vocals, fiddle, accordion, mandolin, concertina, bouzouki, whistles, bagpipes).  In 2002 drummer Kris MacFarlane joined the band, and a year later bass player Murray Foster came aboard.

Great Big Sea won the Entertainer of the Year award at the East Coast Music Awards for every year between 1996 and 2000.  In 2001, they decided not to submit their name for nomination in order to allow other bands to compete. Natalie MacMaster was the beneficiary.  They have also been nominated for several Juno Awards [5] including Group of the Year in 1998, 2005, 2009, and 2011.

July 15 - Allen Toussaint and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Buckwheat Zydeco

If you were at the Dr. John concert, you got a great appetizer of New Orleans music. This show has three of the classic acts from the Crescent City.

Allen Toussaint at Denver Botanic GardensAllen Toussaint was born on January 14, 1938. He grew up in a shotgun house in the New Orleans neighborhood of Gert Town, where his mother welcomed and fed all manner of musicians as they practiced and recorded with her son. At age 17 he stood in for Huey Smith at a performance with Earl King's band.

Allen Toussaint has crossed many paths in his illustrious 40 years plus music career. He has produced, written for, arranged, had his songs covered by, and performed with many music giants. Toussaint was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 16, 2011. In the announcement of his introduction the Los Angeles Times calls him the New Orleans R&B godfather.

Allen Toussaint’s typical traveling bad includes: Brian “Breeze” Cayolle on sax, Roland Guerin on Bass and Renard Poché on guitar.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band: In 1977, the Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club in New Orleans began showcasing a traditional Crescent City brass band. It was a joining of two proud, traditions at the time: social and pleasure clubs dated back over a century to a time when black southerners could rarely afford life insurance, and the clubs would provide proper funeral arrangements; and brass bands would often follow the funeral procession playing somber dirges, then once the family of the deceased was out of earshot, burst into jubilant dance tunes as casual onlookers danced in the streets. The Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club decided to assemble this group as a house band; the seven-member ensemble adopted the venue's name: the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

The present band members are Gregory Davis (trumpet, vocals), Roger Lewis (baritone, soprano sax), Kevin Harris (tenor saxophone), Terence Higgins  (drums), Jake Eckert (guitar), Efrem Towns (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Kirk Joseph (sousaphone).

Buckwheat Zydeco: Stanley Joseph Dural, Jr. was born in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1947; with his braided hair, he soon acquired the nickname "Buckwheat" (an homage to the Our Gang/The Little Rascals character). By the age of four he was already touted as a piano prodigy. Although his father was an accomplished, non-professional Creole accordion player, Buckwheat preferred rhythm and blues. There’s a great story about 9 year-old "Joe" staking out a motel for hours to meet Fats Domino. By the late 1950's an organ playing Buckwheat was backing Joe Tex, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and many others.

Buckwheat Zydeco performed at the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics to a worldwide audience of three billion people. Buckwheat Zydeco has released 21 albums in the last 30 years. They were awarded a Grammy for Best Zydeco Or Cajun Music Album, Lay Your Burden Down, in January 2010.


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