Skip to content

PODCAST: An East Coast Christmas with the Barra MacNeils

TODAY IN B.C.: Heartwarming stories and family harmonies

You will find ‘Today in B.C.’ podcasts on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, iHeart, YouTube and Google podcasts.

Host Peter McCully talks with Lucy and Stewart MacNeil about the Barra MacNeils Christmas concert tour that began in Whitehorse and ended on Cape Breton Island.

Lucy and Stewart discuss the impact of their music on audiences, especially during the Christmas season. They highlight the role of family in their performances, emphasizing the unique sound that comes from singing together as a family.

The siblings reminisce about their roots in Sydney Mines, Cape Breton, and how the name ‘Barra MacNeils’ originated from the small Scottish island of Barra, known for its rich Gaelic singing tradition.

“Barra is an island off the coast of Scotland, a small little wee island,” said Stewart MacNeil. “That’s where the association is. That’s where it started at Kisimul Castle. Although it’s a very small island, there’s a huge tradition, especially of Gaelic singing.”

Stewart MacNeil recalling a unique encounter at Eastside Mario’s in Sydney, where a Chinese women’s basketball team unexpectedly joined in singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, demonstrating the universal power of music.

The siblings share anecdotes about recording Christmas albums in May, creating a festive atmosphere with a turkey dinner during the recording process, and the significance of certain songs like ‘Miner’s First Noel’.

Bruce Guthro, a dear friend, neighbour and songwriter, is fondly remembered, as is his song ‘Bound for Bethlehem’. Stewart MacNeil recounts Bruce becoming a legend in Europe with the band Runrig.

The podcast touches on the MacNeil families enduring connection t, and the impact of their performances on the community, especially during the holiday season. The siblings express their gratitude for the continued support of their fans and the evolving traditions within their own families.

The podcast includes a wide selection of seasonal music: ‘Carol of the Bells,’ ‘Christmas in Carrick,’ ‘Miner’s First Noel,’ ‘Bound for Bethlehem,’ ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,’ ‘I Saw Three Ships,’ ‘Christmas in Killarney,’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne.’

If you have suggestions or comments, send a voice message to you may be part of our audio podcast mailbag segment.

LISTEN: The far-reaching consequences of B.C.’s wildfires

LISTEN: Award winning Celtic Musicians, Cassie and Maggie MacDonald

LISTEN: Sean McCann is the ‘Shantyman’

Peter McCully

About the Author: Peter McCully

Peter has been a broadcaster and publisher on both of Canada’s coasts and has owned a small newspaper and run an advertising agency along the way.
Read more