Playing the Scottish Smallpipes

Playing the Scottish Smallpipes

"High priestess of Celtic music"
- Minnesota Public Radio

"MacKenzie maintains the magic"- Sing Out!

"A performing artist of astonishing versatility, singing and playing with skill and emotion a splendid repertoire."
- American Association of University Women

"Wielding an array of whistles, pipes and concertina, she balances prodigious abilities with a maturity and overall expertise." -fROOTS (U.K.)

  • "Celtic music wizard" - Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • "MacKenzie's vocals - strong, clear and lilting - are another plus."
    -Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • "Laura MacKenzie is a jewel in the Twin Cities crown of Celtic players." - Irish Gazette
  • "Known for the fleet-fingered dexterity with which she plays flute, concertina and bagpipes" -Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio
  • "It's easy to be won over by the creative flair of Laura's performances"
    -- The Living Tradition

  • "MacKenzie plays an array of ancient pipes, whistles and concertina that add an unusual beauty and elegance." - Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • "One of the Land O' Lakes' best known exponents of pan-Celtic culture on flutes, whistles, bagpipes, concertina and vocals." - Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • "Attending a concert in which Laura appears is a treat for the ears and the eyes."
    Upper Midwest Flute Association

  • "Laura MacKenzie is a master of all things bellowed and blown." -Dirty Linen magazine (i.e., pipes, flutes, concertina, whistles...edit. note)
  • "Laura's music draws from a deep well, and her broad experience allows her to bring that depth out into diverse and accessible contexts." -- Tim Britton, Pied Piper Productions
  • "Thirty-odd years ago, a bright-haired lass trekked among the grey stone buildings of old Edinburgh and found musical treasure. She scooped it up with both hands, gathered more, and put up a trove to share, to our great gain. She has been called "Celtic music wizard", "High Priestess", and "Goddess" - but perhaps the right word is simply - "Master". - Siobhán Dugan, The Celtic Junction Arts Center

From Lifescapes (Target's in-house label), Introducing Laura....
"In my little black book of musicians and writers there's an entire page dedicated to Laura MacKenzie. Few musicians are persistent and talented enough to become accomplished at more than one instrument in a lifetime. It's common to find a great fiddle player that 'sort of" plays mandolin and guitar. Thus, 'multi-instrumentalist' has become a casual term for a musical jack-of-all-trades. Laura is a blinding exception to that trend. I have been blessed by her talents on many occasions. It doesn't seem to matter if she's playing penny whistles, wooden flutes, Scottish smallpipes, border pipes, concertina or singing; she's among the greatest talent my ears have ever heard. Through intense study her gentle spirit has gained mastery over some of the world's more difficult instruments to play. I am not alone in believing that when Laura plays she has a spirit that sings with such beauty that the audience, in the studio, in the music hall or at home listening to her CDs is blissfully kissed by enchantment." -Paul Frantzich, Executive Producer, Compass Productions

For her recording "From Uig to Duluth", Scots Gaelic Music and Song:

  • “…a recording of subtle excellence and substantial emotional depth, filled with both joy and longing, delivered through skillful arrangements by some of the best.” 
     -- Gary Rue, producer/composer/professor/director of New Music Arts and Musicals 4 Young Audiences 
  • "Laura and her colleagues skillfully and subtly convey the songs’ essence with a gentle, light touch....it's easy to be won over by the creative flair of Laura's performances."
    - The Living Tradition
  •  “A monumental piece of preservation of Scots Gaelic….A Herculean task well done I must say. Laura performs the Gaelic tunes as if she’d spent her whole life in the Hebrides.”
    - Jack Baker, Irish American News
  • "Fascinating musical project performing the Gaelic repertoire of singer John Matheson, who migrated from the Isle of Lews to Minnesota in 1905.  Laura's clear Gaelic vocal has lots of expression. Guitar, smallpipes,harp and whistles provide sprightly, bright, smooth accompaniment" -- fROOTS (U.K.) (with a "Thumbs Up" rating!)
  • "Her guests are Andrea Stern on Celtic Harp and Dáithí Sproule, one of Celtic music's most inventive and tasteful guitarists. With this palette, MacKenzie builds arrangements with a fresh, light quality, alternating between the spirited Scottish dance music of such pieces as "Chuir i glùin air a' bhodach" and the more stately feel of parlor music on tunes like "Màiri mhin mheall-shùileach." All of this perfectly suits Matheson's delicate traditional airs. MacKenzie is also the main singer on the recording, and she does an impressive job with the challenging task of singing quick, sometimes wordy Gaelic songs and making them accessible and enjoyable. MacKenzie relies on Matheson's field recordings for most of the repertoire, so with a few notable exceptions (such as "Fear a bhatha" and "Gabhaidh sinn an rathad mor"), the tunes and songs will be fresh even to people very familiar with Scottish Gaelic music.   It's a very appealing package for both general listeners and connoisseurs."
    -- Steve Winick, Huffington Post

For her recordings "Laura & the Lads" and "Evidence":

  • "Experienced U.S. multi-instrumentalist steps out with a pair of releases...Wielding an array of whistles, pipes and concertina, she balances prodigious abilities with a maturity and overall expertise...Extremely worthwhile." -fROOTS (U.K.)
  • "MacKenzie maintains the magic. Her lovely soprano shines...and her piping, both Scottish smallpipes and the little heard French cornemuse, is deft. Taken together these recordings are a delight, and bring a remarkable musician to a wider audience."
    -Sing Out!

  • "On both discs the sound is crisp and the arrangements bright, and the versatile MacKenzie plays everything with grace and skill." -Dirty Linen magazine
  • "The sheer polish in her playing on these two recordings is very impressive....Laura and the Lads is the more lively while Evidence is the more lovely." -Green Man Review

Review of the Brass Lassie album

For the Library and Community Programs:

  • "Laura has a very pleasant way of presenting educational information in a fun and professional manner...She kept focused on an excellent balance between talking and playing a variety of music with her unique instruments. Laura's skills in education, presentation and music were very enjoyable to experience and many of us would like Laura to return, since the material was so interesting and fun. Her answers to our questions were easy to understand and well thought out. It was a pleasure to attend the program Laura MacKenzie did for the Rochester Music Guild."  
    -- Carol Benson, Rochester Music Guild

  • "Our membership expressed great appreciation for your musical program and for the grace and humor you used to good advantage."
    -- American Association of University Women
  • "With a sparkle in her eye, Laura always presents entertaining, informative and interesting shows that leave you with a smile on your face, an 'I didn't know that!' in your mind, and warmth in your heart." -- Sue Spencer, Eira Music
  • "Your wonderful talent with the unusual wind instruments was informative and a special treat. It was a great break from the traditional 'speech'."
    North Country Library Cooperative

For the elementary school programs:

  • "Your penny whistle tunes made eyes and mouths open wide. Being the day before our Easter break, the boys and girls were full of extra energy, but you seemed to charm them." — Belle Plaine Elementary School
  • "The sad songs made me feel like crying. It was so real and wonderful...The happy music made me feel like I was going to fly away." — Fourth grader, Halmstad Elementary School
  • "(A Halmstad Student) said she liked MacKenzie's flute playing so much that she plans to learn to play the instrument." — Chippewa Herald


"Northfield's Laura MacKenzie - Celtic Music Wizard"by historian Susan Hvistendahl (2013)

"Catching Up with Celtic Music Wizard Laura MacKenzie", by Susan Hvistendahl (2016)

"Laura MacKenzie: A Bounty of Sound", by Siobhán Dugan (2012)