Scottish fiddle with a cello influence

2013-12-12T00:00:00Z Scottish fiddle with a cello influenceBy Gerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Cellist Natalie Haas was 15 years old, one year shy of legal driving age, when she started performing venues with Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser.

Haas met Fraser when she was 11 while attending the Valley of the Moon Scottish fiddle camp in Northern California.

Fraser is the director of the camp. He took an interest in Haas because of her interest in the cello.

“It was well-documented that the cello historically was a big part of the Scottish fiddle tradition,” Haas said in a phone interview last week from Montreal. “Not a lot of fiddle camps were accepting cellos, but he wanted to bring it back into Scottish music.”

The two struck up a friendship and were soon adapting old Scottish tunes with cello baselines and creating new instrumental works, which they eventually took on the road.

Fifteen years and four CDs later, the duo is still performing.

They have a new album, “Abundance,” which they will play songs from at the Unitarian Universalist Church on East 22nd Street on Friday.

The release features a number of guest artists, including an appearance from fiddle player Brittany Haas, Natalie’s sister and a member of the Americana string band Crooked Still.

After 15 years, how is Alasdair as a tour mate? “We have an amazing time together. We are good buddies who make each other laugh all the time.”

How about on stage? “We are constantly challenging ourselves. Your choice in musical partners can really make or break that. I think we both are bringing various things to the table, pushing the other one to go in directions that we are not necessarily comfortable with.

“We try not to fall too much into melody-accompaniment roles. We like to switch off a lot and have it be a fluid conversation.”

What exactly does he bring to the table? “He is the authority on Scottish music. I’ve been indoctrinated with his philosophies. He has a lifetime’s worth of experience and a few years on me.”

What do you bring? “I was raised in California going to his fiddle camps. As a cello player, I am sort of bringing to the table a rhythmic knowledge that I’ve gotten from a lot of different sources.

“I am in charge of being the rhythm section for the band. I’ll use a lot of different techniques, treating the instrument like a bass or a harp, those types of things.”

What direction did you want to take with “Abundance”? “We wanted to explore our sound and experiment by inviting friends. We wanted to try our hand at arranging for larger ensembles. We have a lot of friends playing on the album.”

How was it recording with your sister? “Aside from Alasdair, she is my favorite fiddle player. We were very lucky to have her. She sounds great on it.”

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.

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