Taking the "dis" out of "disability"
Welcome – Fàilte!
Welcome – Fàilte!
Hello and welcome to my website.
I am Susanna McCleary and I play traditional fiddle and classical violin. I am also a classically trained singer.
Fàilte means “Welcome” in Scots Gaelic – I am a fan of Scots fiddle music, including that of Cape Breton, and specialize in different kinds of traditional fiddle music, including Klezmer. I also sing Gaelic traditional song.
I have been blind since birth and have never seen. But my ears work well, and I enjoy playing for people. I am a graduate of Mohawk College and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Please explore my website and discover my world. I would love to share it with you.
Born in London, England, Susanna McCleary is a violinist and vocalist with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, an inherited type of blindness, and was later diagnosed as high-functioning autistic. This combination makes her a truly unique musician, with an astonishing memory for tunes and lyrics. While in the UK, she attended both special and mainstream schools, including the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford, England.
The newly created duo, Neep&Tattie, invoking the warmth and comfort of “neeps and tatties” (turnips and potatoes) at a kitchen ceilidh, was formed to showcase the talents of the blind/autistic fiddler and soprano Susanna McCleary and keyboard collaborator and composer Dorothy de Val, who specialize in Celtic, Canadian and Klezmer repertoire. After years of struggling with negative public perceptions of blindness and autism, they aim to take the “dis” out of “disability.”
Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis
I was born with no vision. I was diagnosed with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, which is a disease caused by an autosomal recessive gene inherited from both parents. The condition is named after the German ophthalmologist Theodor Karl Gustav Leber (1840-1917), who published a paper on it in 1869. Having Leber’s made it necessary for me to have special schooling, which included learning Braille.
Violinist Susanna McCleary shimmers in a silver top as she strides over the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre stage, one hand balanced lightly on the back of her mother, Dorothy de Val. McCleary leads the pair in a rousing rendition of the klezmer piece Hora Marasinei, her brow furrowed in concentration as her bow darts and dances over her violin. De Val replicates her rhythms on the piano, and mother and daughter sway in synchrony.
After their opening act, pianist Michael Arnowitt grabs his white cane and heads into the spotlight. As his nimble fingers plunge into a series of Bach selections, Arnowitt is mesmerized by the music, punctuating the accents with sharp tosses of his head. The final, plaintive note quivers for an eternity in the hush of the room.
This performance on October 15 last year, “An Evening in the Key of B: A Benefit Concert,” was a fundraiser for the non-profit organization BALANCE for Blind Adults (balancefba.org), which helps visually impaired clients regain their independence.