The heart of Scottish music

According to Scottish fiddle virtuoso Alasdair Fraser, as far back as the 1700s and as recently as the early 20th century, the fiddle and cello made up the dance band of choice in Scotland. The cellist bowed bass lines and drove the rhythm.

Southern Oregon audiences will have an opportunity to experience this celebration of Scottish music when St. Clair Productions presents Fraser and cellist Natalie Haas in concert at 8 p.m. Friday, April 17, at Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland.

Fraser and Haas also will present a hands-on workshop from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 18, at the Bellview Grange, 1050 Tolman Creek Rd., Ashland. Cost is $40. The workshop is open to all ages and abilities on both the fiddle and cello. Fraser and Haas teach together.

The Boston Globe wrote, "You would think they'd been playing together for centuries. While his fiddle dances, her cello throbs darkly or plucks puckishly. Then (Haas) opens her cello's throat, joining Fraser in soaring sustains, windswept refrains, and sudden, jazzy explosions. Their sound is as urbane as a Manhattan midnight, and as wild as a Clakmannan (Scotland) winter."

The musical partnership between Fraser, long regarded as Scotland's premier fiddle ambassador, and the sizzlingly talented young California cellist Haas may not seem an obvious one. Fraser, acclaimed by the San Francisco Examiner as the Michael Jordan of Scottish fiddling, has a concert and recording career spanning 30 years, with a long list of awards, accolades, television credits and feature performances on movie soundtracks ("Last of the Mohicans," "Titanic").

Fraser has been sponsored by the British Council to represent Scotland's music internationally and received the Scottish Heritage Center Service Award for outstanding contributions to Scottish culture and traditions.

Haas, a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, wasn't even born when Fraser was winning national fiddle competitions on the other side of the Atlantic. But this seemingly unlikely pairing is the fulfillment of a long-standing musical dream for Fraser, whose cutting-edge musical explorations took him full circle to find a cellist who could help him return the cello to its historical role at the rhythmic heart of Scottish dance music.

The Scotsman wrote, "Fraser, one of the most respected of all exponents of the Scots fiddle, would look long and hard to find a more appropriate cellist as a partner. Haas can switch just as effortlessly as Fraser from a gentle singing tone to driving, dancing melody. A positive joy,"

Haas was just 11 when she first attended Fraser's Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School in California. She responded to Fraser's challenge to find and release the cello's rhythmic soul, and four years later she and Fraser played their first gig together. Now regularly touring with Fraser and creating a buzz at festivals and in concert halls throughout Europe and North America, Haas is in the vanguard of young cellists who are redefining the role of the cello in traditional music.

The duo represented Scotland at the Smithsonian Museum's Folklife Festival, in Washington, D.C. They have been featured on nationally broadcast "Performance Today," "The Thistle & Shamrock," and "Mountain Stage." They both teach at Fraser's annual summer fiddle courses: Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School and Sierra Fiddle Camp in California and Sabhal Mor Ostaig Gaelic College in Scotland. Haas also is on the faculty of Berklee College of Music in Boston.

The duo's debut recording, "Fire & Grace," displays dazzling teamwork, driving, dancing rhythms and the duo's shared passion for improvising on the melody and the groove of Scottish tunes. The recording won not only critical acclaim, but also the coveted Scots Trad Music Album of the Year award, the Scottish equivalent of the Grammy. The duo has recently released a new CD "In the Moment."

Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 at the door, $10 for youth 12-17. Children under 12 are admitted free. Tickets are available at the Music Coop, Ashland; on-line at or by calling 535-3562.

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