Picture a stage filled with 50 fiddlers backed by piano, drums, cellos, guitars, harps, the occasional bagpipe, and perhaps even a harmonica, projecting a sound lively as a dance band, as majestic as a symphony orchestra.
Imagine a group that creates such a two-way sense of fun and joy between musicians and audience that people spontaneously get out of their seats and dance in the aisles whether or not they know the steps to the jigs and reels pouring forth from the stage.
Front this merry group of music-makers with Scottish master fiddler Alasdair Fraser, whose humor, passion and charismatic playing set the tone, and you’ll have a rough idea what it’s like to attend a concert with The San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers: an evening packed with tunes, songs, and dances.
Founded in 1986 by Alasdair and friends, the group has grown to over 400 members from all over Northern California, the US and beyond. Varying widely in age and backgrounds, the fiddlers are drawn together by their love of Celtic traditional music. Prized in the group is the ability to play by ear, to feel the music deep in one’s soul, and be enough in the moment to follow spontaneous changes of direction during performances.
Many members know hundreds of tunes by heart and love nothing better than to get together and play. They can be heard individually and in small groups throughout the year at contra dances, pub sessions and Scottish festivals. Every year a hundred or more of the members get together for performances which range from a spring concert series in the San Francisco Bay Area, tours of Northern California (1995 and 2014) and Alaska (1999), to big concerts in impressive settings such as Anchorage’s Atwood Hall (1999) and the Lake Tahoe Summer Music Festival (2004).
Alasdair Fraser, musical
director of the group, ranks among the finest
interpreters of Scotland’s
music; his playing has earned worldwide critical
acclaim. He maintains a busy performing schedule
with musicians such as cellist Natalie Haas,
guitarist Tony McManus and pianists Paul Machlis
and Muriel Johnstone. He is the director of
the Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School
in California, where he teaches every summer,
and has been artist-in-residence at the prestigious
Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow for
the past several years. His music is widely
available on CD, and can also be heard on movie
soundtracks from “Titanic,” “The
Last of the Mohicans,” “Wyatt Earp,” “Spitfire
Grill” and “Treasure Planet.”