Barra MacNeils make first trip to Yorkton

The Barra MacNeils have been performing together all of their lives, and have become a fixture of the Canadian music scene in the process. They will be doing a short Saskatchewan tour, hitting three cities, including Yorkton on April 8.

Kyle MacNeil, one of the founding members of the group, says that the band has been playing music since they could pick up an instrument, and the family has been making music before there was an official band. A big reason why the band has been able to have such a long career, MacNeil says, is because all of the members know each other well and are all on the same page when it comes to music and what they want to see.

“The big thing, being a family band we know what the goal is at the end of the day and the end of the year. Our goals are similar, we get along great. Bands that come from different areas or are not related, sometimes the turnover can happen quite often, but in our case we’ve been able to stick it out.”

This is the first time the group will play in Yorkton, MacNeil believes, and he says that the regular Barra MacNeil show, which has “all the hits” and is a lively show with traditional music, singing and step dancing.

“I always find it exciting to play in a new place, visiting an area that you haven’t seen before and playing in a theatre that you haven’t been in before... Hopefully we can make some new friends and some new fans.”

Even after playing together for decades, MacNeil says that once they hit the stage it’s still fresh and they’re excited about meeting new fans and talk to people who are seeing them for the first time. He says that it’s still an exciting career, and the show they put on demonstrates it, with a high energy performance that appeals to a broad age range. He says that from the moment they get on stage, the adrenalin kicks in and the stresses of travelling and touring disappear and they are able to put on another great show.

“We still play as if we were twenty year-olds.”

The group’s music starts in tradition, but MacNeil says they try to spice it up by playing it in a more modern vein, by using modern instruments, making rhythmic changes, and adapting the music so that it does appeal to as many people as possible.

MacNeil says that their career has gone through the major changes in the music industry as a whole, with the first album pressed as an LP, going through the many changes that have gone on into the digital era. They’ve found success by doing what they’re good at, MacNeil says, centered around Celtic and east coast style music.

“We’ve managed to fare through it, stay alive and keep doing what we love to do.”

Cape Breton has always been one of the country’s big music scenes, and MacNeil says that there is a wide diversity in the area and that it is an interesting music scene to watch since it is so varied and different, though he admits that the big scene in the country tends to shift from place to place.

In Canada, the band has been closely linked with Christmas, after several specials, albums and a tour during the season that has expanded to five weeks annually. MacNeil says that their links with the holiday season have been steamrolling ahead, but that means for many people their regular show means they get to see a side of the band that they haven’t necessarily been familiar with.

“They can get an opportunity to see that we play more than Christmas music!”

Stars for Saskatchewan presents the Barra MacNeils, April 8 at the Anne Portnuff Theatre. Tickets are available at or Welcome Home Crafts.

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