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Fiddler heads to international festival

Eileen JoyceFiddler Alasdair Fraser hangs out at his home on the San Juan Ridge Friday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Nevada County’s Alasdair Fraser hasn’t even seen the score for the last of four movements of “The Curve of the Earth,” a 40-minute fiddle concerto written for him by a Scottish composer.

Fraser, who said on Friday that the ink’s still drying, will premiere the concerto at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow, Scotland, on Feb. 1.



The Scottish-born Fraser is the festival’s artist in residence for the third consecutive year. He will also conduct a seven-day school of fiddle and dance at the festival.




As the San Juan Ridge resident packed Friday for his trip the next day to Scotland, Fraser had no idea how many students would sign up for the school. And he didn’t know which orchestra would back him in his solo performance during the concerto.

Fraser is not worried with the details – or lack of details. It’s his nature to take it all in stride.

“Somebody knows who the orchestra is. I don’t,” he said, laughing.

“When I hit town (Glasgow) Sunday, I’ll find a lot of information,” Fraser added. “This is just an opportunity to do what I love to do. It’s certainly a challenge, I like to give myself a challenge every year at the Celtic Connections Festival.”

Fraser performed at Celtic Connections for two years prior to becoming the resident artist. The three-week festival is one of the largest Celtic festivals internationally and runs from Jan. 16 to Feb. 3 at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and other venues.

“The festival keeps me on my toes,” said Fraser, who says he tries to find something new musically to share there each year.

“What I’m trying to say musically at the festival is as a traditional musician to know the old tunes, to enjoy them and to be in touch with the dance floor,” Fraser explained, “while inspiring new ideas and pushing forward with the music and ways of expressing human emotions appropriate today.”

Fraser performs solo, in duos and with groups most months of the year in the United States and Europe. He’s recorded nine Scottish fiddling albums and appeared as a guest on more than 50 releases by other musicians.

He was surprised when Mark Sheridan, a music and composition professor at the University of Glasgow, wrote “The Curve of the Earth” with him in mind. The two met at Celtic Connections four years ago.

“I feel very honored,” Fraser said. “Nobody’s written anything to this extent for me, except for fiddle tunes.”

Fraser describes “The Curve of the Earth” as a Scottish tribute to jazz elements and rhythmic elements from different cultures.

While Fraser’s own compositions combine traditional Scottish music with baroque, jazz and world beat, Sheridan’s composition is different.

“Mark’s is much more an orchestral piece, in the classical idiom,” said Fraser, who studied that genre as a youth in Scotland.

Fraser wants to perform “The Curve of the Earth” for his Nevada County friends and fans.

“I love the idea of having my friends in Nevada County hear this piece. Flights are cheap to Scotland … ,” Fraser said, before acknowledging that was just a dream.

“I’d love to bring it here to Nevada County. That would be incredibly exciting,” he said. “I want to bridge the gap between the world I’m privileged to travel into as a musician and (my living) here in the Sierra. I want my loved ones to see what I’m experiencing.”


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