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A family affair

Celtic-jazz harpist Terry McDade and his brood, The McDades, are one of the most enduring family groups around.

Celtic-jazz harpist Terry McDade and his brood, The McDades, are one of the most enduring family groups around.

Terry estimates he started playing with his children — fiddle player Shannon, wind instrumentalist Jeremiah and bass player Solon — about 31 years ago. In that time they’ve coalesced into one of the area’s most popular roots groups with a signature brand of hearth and home musicality.

Heck, The McDades, composed solely of the three siblings, were even heaped with national recognition, winning a 2007 Juno for their album Bloom in the Best Roots and Traditional category.

Even though the foursome lives in two provinces — Terry and Shannon reside in Edmonton while Jeremiah and Solon dwell in Montreal — their Christmas musical get-togethers are fast becoming a popular seasonal tradition.

Once again they return to the Arden Theatre on Dec. 11 and 12 for a two-night engagement that evokes the spirit of Christmas. They have also invited special guests Jim de Felice, a noted actor/director/playwright, and Zephyr, a francophone dance group.

“We stay away from Santa Claus songs and show tunes. The vibe has a spirit of Christmas, but it’s not an overly religious approach. But it is a non-commercial approach,” says Terry.

They’ll be singing familiar tunes such as We Three Kings, What Child is This and The Little Drummer Boy. Adding a dash of international flavour, the younger McDades, graduates of Edmonton’s French immersion schools, will also sing the expressive Breton song Guillo Pran Tan Tambourine, the Spanish Riu, Riu Chiu and one of Solon’s compositions titled Nous voici, dans la ville.

“The combination of what we do, the people who come and the interaction between us will make a moment we’ll never forget. And that’s what we shoot for — that kind of connection. It’s all about that feeling.”

Terry invited de Felice, a close friend and retired University of Alberta drama professor, to do a reading of several poems while the McDades provide background music.

He is reading two Robert Frost poems, Christmas Trees and Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening. The former “has a sense of what we hold dear and what we are willing to give up,” says de Felice while the latter deals with making choices.

Instead the Irish poem, A Christmas Childhood by Patrick Kavanagh, is more of a memory poem. “It touches on many ideas; that Christmas is a time to be with family. It is a time to remember friends, remember those who have passed away and it is a time to reconnect.”

And finally, Zephyr, a seven-man dance troupe performs two dances — the traditional French Canadian stepdance and a second choreography that blends Israeli and stepdance moves.


Terry McDade and The McDades<br />With special guests Jim de Felice and Zephyr<br />Dec. 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m.<br />Arden Theatre<br />Tickets: $32. Call 780-459-1542 or visit

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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