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Originally published December 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 26, 2007 at 2:10 AM


Canadian band makes music real family affair

Like Americans, many Canadians came from Celtic-rooted nations like England, Ireland and Scotland. But many also come with French roots...

Times Snohomish County bureau

The McDades

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Where: Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N.

Tickets, information: $26 general, $24 seniors age 62 and older, $13 for youths age 18 and younger; at the door, by calling 425-275-9595 or 877-548-3237 or at

Like Americans, many Canadians came from Celtic-rooted nations like England, Ireland and Scotland.

But many also come with French roots.

"Canada is very open, culturally. It's a culture that's very accepting with being within a border but having pride in your ancestry and where you come from," said Solon McDade of The McDades, a group whose music has Celtic roots but with overlays of jazz and world music.

The McDades perform Friday at the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

In this brother-sister group, fiddler Shannon Johnson, 38, is the eldest, followed by bassist Solon, 33, and multi-instrumentalist Jeremiah McDade, 30. Joining them in this concert are drummer Eric Breton and guitarist Simon Marion.

Shannon, Solon and Jeremiah performed with their parents, Terry and Danielle McDade, as the McDade Family Band for 20 years, off and on.

"We really have a lot of respect for classical and jazz musicians and people who are masters of their instruments," said Solon McDade. The McDades are known for their expert blending of sounds, taking influences from many different cultures.

"We take a lot of inspiration from Europe, North Africa, India, China, Eastern Europe," he said.

Friday's concert features 19 or 20 songs from two albums, "For Reel," and "Bloom," their latest CD, winner of a Juno Award, Canada's equivalent of the Grammy. There's also new material not yet recorded.

The band plays mostly original works as well as tunes from American and Canadian composers and a few traditional French tunes. Everyone in the band is bilingual, and "It's important for us to mix those elements together," said McDade.

"Les Trois Capitaines," for example, is an upbeat tune about three captains who go off to war and meet back at the end of the war at the pub. They get drunk at the relief of still being alive.

These traditional tunes, often without a named composer, are called "chansons à répondre," songs in which one person in the band sings a line, and everyone sings it back.

It's a Quebecois song style built around having everyone sing together, and the band invites audiences to join in.

Birth-order roles shift in this group, said Solon. Though fiddler Shannon helped choose a lot of the early material with their parents in the family band, now as adults, "It's almost like the three of us change roles, depending on the subject and what each person goes through, professionally and emotionally," McDade said. "One person will be the leader on one project, and the next project might be someone else's. Everyone has input."

Being family makes for seamless performances on stage.

"A part of the song will come up that's unrehearsed and not planned out, and they'll play two lines that blend and complement each other so perfectly people assume it's been arranged, but it's not," he said.

Johnson wrote two of the songs the band plays. "Dance of the Seven Veils" is inspired by the dance Salome did for King Herod. It's in an odd meter, with a scale that's Middle Eastern in sound. "We like to say people have their opportunity for their inner hippie, and they get expressive with their dancing. We're happy to see people dancing in the aisles," said McDade.

That tune is connected to another one, "The Silver Platter," about the tray the head of John the Baptist rested on during Salome's dance.

Another tune that multi-instrumentalist Jeremiah wrote is "Robin's Song," after a visit to Western Canada's Desolation Sound. "He plays a bansuri, a bamboo flute from India, and it has such a unique sound — earthy, dark-toned — and it inspires that Asian, East Indian sound," said McDade.

American culture is a huge influence in Canada, so Mike Cross' "The Bounty Hunter" is about two cowboys who meet in a town. One is a bounty hunter, and they mix the melody with a cajon, a drum from Peru. The theme and the feel [is] a western cowboy, and then it goes global."

McDade believes it works because North American influences have always been global.

"When you think of the settling of Canada and the U.S., people from around the world were coming to make their way," he said. "And a lot of them still are. They're bringing their cultures and their sounds and their ideas to their new towns."

Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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