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Barra MacNeils Christmas concert returning to Orillia after year's hiatus

Nova Scotia siblings are bringing their eclectic mix of holiday music to Orillia on Friday; 'For a lot of people, it kicks off their Christmas season'
2021-11-29 Barra MacNeils
The Barra MacNeils' annual Christmas tour is back on track. They'll perform in Orillia this Friday.

A festive family favourite is returning to Orillia this week after being sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

A one-year hiatus might not seem like much, but for the Barra MacNeils, taking a year off from their annual Christmas tour was unusual.

They had spent 20 years sharing their holiday favourites with crowds across Canada.

“That Christmas tour (in 2019) was the last time we played until this summer,” said Stewart MacNeil.

He and his fellow siblings from Cape Breton, N.S. — Boyd, Kyle, Lucy and Sheumas — presented a virtual Christmas concert in 2020, but there’s something about a Barra MacNeils show that begs to be experienced in person.

For the MacNeils, music and stories and family have always been at the heart of holiday celebrations. They draw on that nostalgia when they perform on tour.

The shows evoke kitchen party scenes, but also include a mixture of fan favourites, including both liturgical and secular pieces.

“There certainly is the tried and true, but sometimes we stray from that,” MacNeil said, adding concerts often include “pleasant surprises for both us and the audience.”

A handful of stops along the Christmas tour — including Huntsville, Kingston, Newmarket and Owen Sound — are already sold out.

“That’s very energizing for us,” he said. “People are very much into going to these shows as a family. For a lot of people, it kicks off their Christmas season.”

They’ll be at the Orillia Opera House this Friday, and there are still tickets available.

The family band has always been well received in Orillia, and MacNeil said they’re looking forward to making their return to the opera house.

“It’s an amazing hall. There’s always been a great fan base. We’re very fortunate to do these shows, especially during these challenging times,” he told OrilliaMatters on Monday, while he was on a bus en route to Sarnia for the first show of the tour.

“It is so nice to be out touring again. Everybody’s in good cheer.”

Tickets to the Orillia show can be purchased here.

To keep up with the latest on the Barra MacNeils’ Christmas tour, check out the band’s website or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.