Clara Olney MacLeod was born in Carievale, Saskatchewan on April 26, 1929. Her musical education began with piano lessons given by Mrs. Ericson at 25¢ each. Her mother, Lavinia, reinforced the lessons with supervision of a daily practice and a good crack on the fingers if the notes weren’t right. Clara’s family was very musical; her brothers had amazing singing voices and her dad, Edwin, played a mean mandolin.
Clara moved to Glengarry County when she married Rod MacLeod. She gave piano lessons for several years, played in Ron Clare’s orchestra for four or five years and then joined Sylvester and the Clansmen in 1976. She still does an odd engagement with Sylvester, but in recent years, she has been the regular accompanist for her grandson, Kenton McBean, an accomplished fiddler. She accompanied Kenton and the MacCulloch Dancers on their worldwide travel. One highlight of her trips occurred when she was honoured by the Mexican Dance Troupe; they brought her gifts because in their culture, elders with special talents are considered very important.
More than willing to play at any concert, dance, party or any gathering when asked, Clara is an excellent piano player of Scottish, modern and country music. She loves working with the young and is especially proud of her children and grandchildren and their continuation of the Celtic musical tradition. Her son Darrel plays the fiddle, her daughter Cheryl was a MacCulloch Dancer and Allan still plays the saxophone and sings.
Clara played the organ at St. Columba Presbyterian Church for 24 years and was the Assistant Organist for 25 years before that. Her philosophy consists of two golden rules: “practice makes perfect” and “share your talent.”