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Pandemic Perspectives: Boyd MacNeil

Boyd MacNeil

Boyd MacNeil always knew that music would be a big part of his life. The youngest sibling in a musical family, Boyd received his first violin lesson at the age of four, and a few years later made his performing debut at a local Remembrance Day ceremony. 

In his mid-teens, Boyd and his brother Ryan were special guests in the odd concert with already established quartet, The Barra MacNeils, and officially joined the group in 2005, after 10 years performing and recording with their own band, Slainte Mhath. 

Music took on a greater meaning for him when he started traveling and performing with the Barra MacNeils regularly and witnessed time and again how the group’s music could move, affect and transform an audience. Boyd MacNeil has toured Japan with Celtic music legends The Chieftains and continues to explore many musical ideas within and in addition to his work with The Barra MacNeils. 

When he is not playing music on stage, he is teaching violin both privately and at group workshops.

This is his COVID 19 Story


As I sit back and think about the last few months, my situation (like everyone’s) has changed quite drastically. As far as my work: any shows that were booked were cancelled or rescheduled to next year. I had to stop any in-person music lessons and teach online (which cut my students to below half). My family gathers at my parents place quite often for celebrations or just for visits. This went down to just essential visits for supplies as our parents are more vulnerable to the infection. 

Knowing my parents were vulnerable to the virus meant limited time with them and that was one of the most challenging things for me. They are elderly and have other conditions which could potentially complicate the risk of infection. It’s nice to visit with them in person for an extended time to talk and get a sense of how they’re doing. When you just drop off groceries at the door and talk on the phone, it’s hard to get a real sense of how they’re doing. 

However, although that’s been challenging, having such a connected family who helped with supporting my parents and checking in with them is something I am very grateful for. As well, my wife has been supporting and helping me in every way throughout all of this and I don’t know how I could have done it without her.

While we are extremely lucky in terms of COVID numbers here on the island, there are things I am still concerned about. I worry about people’s health, specifically procedures not related to COVID 19 getting pushed aside.

As well, the last few months have been hard for everyone’s mental health and people are getting stretched to the limit dealing with isolation and fear of what’s next. 

That fear is felt by many, I’m worried about my wife and myself making a living. She is a massage therapist; I am a musician-we are both self-employed. When things shut down, it’s hard to survive.

Going forward I hope that people continue to social distance and wear masks in public. I believe we are quite lucky so far, as the case count has been low here, but when people get comfortable with less social distancing, it’s those habits which have a major impact when the next wave hits.

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