The newly created duo, Neep&Tattie, evoking 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.”
Neep&Tattie are available for fiddle and keyboard workshops (basic accompanying techniques), social dances, concerts or events, weddings, funerals, , parties etc. We can even supply you with a newly composed fiddle tune in honour of a friend or relative, or just for you!
Susanna McCleary was born totally blind and was later diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. This combination is unusual and posed challenges in education in both special and mainstream schools. It also has its advantages, in that Susanna can learn and memorize hundreds of tunes and pieces of music, and also has autobiographical memory, which means she has a keen memory for dates and events in her past. Born in London, England, Susanna eventually settled in Toronto after winning the Herefordshire Musician of the Year competition in 2006 and studied violin privately with Ian Grant. She later gained a diploma in Music from Mohawk College and a music degree from McMaster University, studying the violin with Sonia Vizante. She now lives in Hamilton, where she is active as a violinist and vocalist. She is active in the blind community, and often plays for events such as fundraisers and conferences. A strong believer in community music, she was a regular soloist at Shalom Retirement Village in Hamilton before the pandemic and continued with virtual performances afterwards. More recently, she performed a virtual concert of traditional fiddle music for the Canadian Council for the Blind, Toronto Visionaries Chapter (April 2021) and was also an invited soloist for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities Conference in December 2021.
Susanna is also a classically trained singer (soprano), who began her studies as a child in Oxford and continued them in Toronto with Tina Torlone (Pro Voce Studios). She is a regular soloist at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Hamilton, and has sung at many events both as a classical and traditional singer.
Dorothy de Val, pianist, musicologist and composer, began her piano studies with Boris Berlin and composition with Srul Irving Glick in Toronto and later moved to London UK to pursue her classical piano studies at the Royal College of Music, gaining the ARCM with Distinction. She completed the PhD (Musicology) on early English pianos at King’s College, London, inspired by her work with fortepianos at he Royal College of Music’s Museum of Instruments. After teaching at the Royal Academy of Music, Oxford Brookes University and Oxford University, she moved back to Toronto to join the Music Department at York University,. Her post-doctoral research focused on the first English Folk Revival, which resulted in a book, In Search of Song: The Life and Times of Lucy Broadwood, (Routledge, 2016), which gained an Honorable Mention for the Pauline Alderman Award for its outstanding contribution to studies of women in music. She has since turned to composition and is gaining recognition in that field through various performances of her works. She has been improvising traditional keyboard accompaniments off lead sheets for the last 16 years and has worked with Betty Beaton, Kolten MacDonnell, Jacqueline Schwab, Mary Lea, Peter Barnes (Bare Necessities), Daron Douglas (Foxfire) and others over the years. She is also a regular keyboardist for various ensembles playing for English Country Dance balls and is an active player in chamber ensembles based at the Heliconian Club, Toronto. See EVENTS for upcoming performances!