Rosin up your bow!: Fiddler’s Ceilidh brings traditional revelry to Pioneer Park |

Rosin up your bow!: Fiddler’s Ceilidh brings traditional revelry to Pioneer Park

Katrina Paz
Special to Prospector
Performers celebrate the end of an unforgettable week at Sierra Fiddle Camp.
Photo by Amy Luper


WHO: Sierra Fiddle Camp presents

WHAT: Alasdair Fraser’s Ceilidh in the Park Picnic Concert

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Pioneer Park, 423 Nimrod Street, Nevada City

TICKETS: $20, $10 Children 12 & under and available at The BriarPatch — 530-272-5333, or online at

INFO: Visit for more information

Pioneer Park transforms into a lively European village this Saturday, as the Sierra Fiddle Camp culminates with the annual Ceilidh in the Park. The festivities feature more than 200 musicians, dancers and singers taking to the stage for a traditional concert and community gathering.

A ceilidh (pronounced KAY-lee) is defined as a Scottish or Irish party with music, dancing and storytelling.

Alasdair Fraser, director of the camp and one of the music world’s most renowned Scottish fiddlers, says Saturday’s gathering reminds him of a village folk orchestra; an old tradition in many European countries where musicians gather and create a night to entertain each other and anyone else who wants to come along. He adds that it’s also a way to invite the Nevada County community to take part in the spirit of the camp, which attracts hundreds of musicians of all ages to the San Juan Ridge camp.

“It’s what people do when they want to get together, celebrate, sing, dance and tell a story,” he said. “It’s great to have that organic music making. It’s exciting and crazy.”

More than 200 musicians will take the stage for a rollicking performance and celebration. The orchestra is comprised of camp students of all ages and they’re not just relegated to fiddles, but will include also bagpipes, pianos, percussion, cellos and guitars, as well as singers and dancers.

“These are some of the best players in their genre,” Fraser said.

The orchestra accompanies the performances of more than a dozen of the camp’s prestigious instructors, including Bruce Molsky and Kevin Henderson. Molsky, who Fraser describes as the ambassador of American old time folk music, performed at the first Ceilidh in the Park 12 years ago. He’s a Grammy-nominated artist, playing both banjo and guitar, as well as the fiddle.

Familiar faces from across the pond

While the featured instructors are usually rotated regularly, Henderson returns to the camp and concert for the second year in a row. He hails from the Shetland Island, one of Scotland’s archipelagos with one of the richest fiddle traditions in the world. Due to the island’s northern location and proximity to Scandinavia, the Scandinavian influence is evident in his playing.

Born in Clackmannan Scotland, Fraser now calls Nevada County home. He founded his first camp, Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School, in the Santa Cruz Mountains 35 years ago. He has since opened camps in Spain, Scotland, Australia and Nevada County.

“It’s great to be back home,” he said after just returning from France last week. “It’s different for me (the Sierra Fiddle Camp). It’s great to have a camp where my family grew up, with my neighbors.”

He adds that the camp and culminating ceilidhs, are the same no matter which country he’s in — it’s a universal celebration.

Peter Wilson of Strings Concerts, the producer of the event, says that the concert is true variety show of world-renowned performers. The orchestra is made up of musicians of all ages, from two to 92.

“It’s not just the music, it’s the community you put together,” said Wilson. “All these performers have spent the week together. It’s so much fun. It pours right off the stage.”

He adds that the band shell at the park is a “sweet spot” for such a gathering. The picnic concert has revelers, neighbors and guests bringing chairs, blankets and dinners for a complete celebration.

The concert reflects a week’s worth of music immersion at the Sierra Fiddle Camp. Participants and instructors live, learn and jam throughout the day and night. All classes are taught by ear, without written music.

Katrina Paz is a freelance writer for Prospector and is a resident of Grass Valley.

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