Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster, left, with her husband Donnell Leahy. MacMaster, a Catholic, will receive an honorary doctor of divinity degree from the Atlantic School of Theology May 4. Photo from Rebekah Littlejohn Photography

In the good and true is God, says fiddler MacMaster

By 
  • March 30, 2013

As a theologian, Natalie MacMaster favours the toe-tapping, hand-clapping, step-dancing-around-the-kitchen-table school of theological inquiry. The Juno-Award-winning fiddler now has an honorary doctor of divinity degree to back up her theology.

The Cape Breton musician and member of the Order of Canada will pick up her theology degree from the Atlantic School of Theology during convocation exercises May 4, at All Saints Anglican Cathedral in Halifax.

“My bishop friend, the late Bishop Faber MacDonald, he used to say ‘Where there is music there is joy, and where there is joy there is no room for the devil,’ ” said MacMaster.

Already in possession of honorary degrees from St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B., Niagara University in Buffalo, N.Y., and Trent University in Peterborough, Ont. — to say nothing of 10 East Coast Music Awards, eight Canadian Country Music Awards, a Juno and a Grammy — MacMaster has gotten used to accepting awards.

“I certainly don’t feel worthy. If people choose to give that to me, well I will certainly graciously accept,” she told The Catholic Register.

“She is a woman who has been very, very open about her faith,” said AST board member Fr. James Mallon. “She doesn’t hide the fact that faith is very much at the heart of the overall culture from which she comes… We just wanted to honour that.”

The mother of five currently on tour is happy this award is for making her faith part of the conversation in Canadian culture.

“We try to push God out of too much in this day and age,” said MacMaster.

A sense of God leads us naturally to an attraction to the good and the true, she said.

“I can’t figure out why society just keeps trying to push it away. If we can’t learn to be good and to love then we might as well quit everything,” she said.

MacMaster would be very happy if one of her own children decided to study theology.

“I would think that would be a very, very cool thing,” she said. “I would think that would be something a parent such as myself would be very proud of — that they would want to go deeper into a calling of our faith, that they would want to understand it more.”

If you’re looking for the MacMaster theology in her current show, listen for the jigs and reels, said the fiddler.

“They’re so joyful. You can’t help but catch the spirit in that,” she said. “I can’t imagine that there’s anybody out there thinking evil or negative thoughts.”

Her Cape Breton Girl tour will include shows at the Markham Theatre for the Performing Arts April 17 and 18, at the Brock University Centre for the Arts in St. Catharines, Ont., April 20 and Barrie’s Georgian Theatre April 24. For more dates, see www.nataliemacmaster.com.

For a sample of MacMaster playing with her husband Donell Leahy check www.catholicregister.org or the digital edition of The Catholic Register.

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