Alasdair Fraser, Wake The Dead

Benefit for David Thompson & Andrea Brewer Thompson

Alasdair Fraser

Wake The Dead

Monday, March 2nd

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

$30 adv / $32 door

Alasdair Fraser
Alasdair Fraser
The musical partnership between Alasdair Fraser, long regarded as Scotland's premier fiddle ambassador, and the sizzlingly-talented young California cellist Natalie 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 top 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.

Natalie Haas, a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, wasn't even born when Alasdair 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.

"Going back to the 1700s, and as late as the early 20th century," Fraser says, "fiddle and cello made up the dance band of choice in Scotland, with the cellist bowing bass lines and driving the rhythm. Pianos and accordions elbowed out the cello, relegating it to an orchestral setting. I've been pushing to get the cello back into the traditional music scene for years, always on the lookout for a cellist with whom I could have a strong musical conversation, one that incorporated not just the cello's gorgeous melodic tones, but also the gristly bits—the rhythmic, percussive energy that makes the wee hairs on the back of the neck stand up."

Natalie 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, when Natalie was just 15, Fraser and Haas 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, Natalie 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, have been featured on nationally broadcast Performance Today, the Thistle & Shamrock, and Mountain Stage. They both teach at Fraser's popular annual summer fiddle courses (Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School and Sierra Fiddle Camp in California, and at Sabhal Mor Ostaig Gaelic College in Scotland), and Natalie is on the faculty of Berklee College of Music in Boston.

"Cellists are coming out of the woodwork to study with Natalie, to learn how she creates a groove and a whole chunky rhythm section," says Fraser. "It's inspiring to hear the cello unleashed from its orchestral shackles!"

One of the inspirations is the duo's debut recording, Fire & Grace, which displays dazzling teamwork, driving, dancing rhythms, and the duo's shared passion for improvising on the melody and the groove of Scottish tunes. The two instruments duck and dive around each other, swapping melodic and harmonic lines, and trading rhythmic riffs. The recording won not only critical acclaim, but also the coveted the Scots Trad Music "Album of the Year" award, the Scottish equivalent of a Grammy. Fire & Grace, and the duo's new CD In the Moment, and Fraser's many other recordings are on his own Culburnie Records label.

Workshops, Master Classes, and Residency ActivitiesThrough two summer programs that he founded nearly two decades ago, the Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School in California and a week-long course on the Isle of Skye, Alasdair has inspired hundreds of aspiring and accomplished musicians.

Alasdair is available for master classes and workshops for performers of all ages, with an emphasis on the tradition and techniques of Scottish fiddle music. The classes can be for fiddlers only, or can include musicians playing any stringed instrument, with special focus on playing by ear, improvising, and learning to play as part of an ensemble. Alasdair can present classes for music teachers and students that emphasize music as a voyage of discovery and finding the individual voice. For schools, he and Natalie can present both educational performances and bus-in performances in conjunction with evening concerts at performing arts centers.
Wake The Dead
Wake The Dead
Wake the Dead was born in 2000 when three veteran Celtic performers who shared a love for the Grateful Dead experienced a joint flash of inspiration and began weaving the two seemingly alien musical genres into something new and immediately appealing. Singer-fiddler-mandolinist Danny Carnahan, singer-mandolinist Paul Kotapish, and Celtic harper Maureen Brennan assembled a septet of seasoned Celtic, jazz, and new acoustic players and recorded their eponymous CD Wake the Dead as a lark. But Grateful Dead Records took one listen, immediately signed the band, sold 25,000 copies of the CD, and booked Wake the Dead at the Fillmore. Nice start for what has turned into an 18-year romp that has seen the band's fan base spread as far as Canada and Colorado and their repertoire blossom beyond the Dead canon to emcompass a whole, delightfully Celtic Summer of Love.

Maureen retired from the band last year. Rounding out the band are Sylvia Herold (vocal and guitar), Kevin Carr (fiddle & uilleann pipes), and Cindy Browne (bass) and percussionist Brian Rice. The new arrangements are richer and more adventurous than those on the debut album… more thunderous grooves, more interesting textural shifts, more unexpected medleys, and more and more stepping out into dangerous improvisational territory.

In recent years, Wake the Dead has grown into the World's Only Celtic All-Star Summer of Love Party Band, stepping beyond the Dead canon and embracing The Airplane, the Youngbloods, Buffalo Springfield, Cream, the Beatles and more as joyful parts of the mix. Local fans are guaranteed many brand-new surprises. The fourth band CD, Deal, came out last October and reflects the exciting new repertoire and the band's unique live and crackling energy.
Danny, Paul, and Maureen are joined by original bandmates Sylvia Herold (vocal and guitar), Kevin Carr (fiddle & uilleann pipes), and Cindy Browne (bass) and percussionist Brian Rice, who took over from Joe Craven in 2002. The new arrangements are richer and more adventurous than those on the debut album. The band takes advantage of the strengths of each member, establishing more thunderous grooves, more interesting textural shifts, more unexpected medleys, and more and more stepping out into dangerous improvisational territory.

The first studio CD was followed by Buckdancer's Choice (2002) and Blue Light Cheap Hotel (2007). Live and studio-produced videos have been popping up more and more on YouTube and elsewhere. A brand-new CD Deal, to be released this summer, captures more of the band's crackling live sound than ever before.