Dance with Humanity

Alasdair Fraser with Natalie Haas in a dialogue of “a wee fiddle and the big fiddle.” Haas adds cello to Fraser’s fiddle. Both musicians live and perform plenty in California.

Fiddler and self-proclaimed Scotsman in California, Alasdair Fraser thinks of his life as a “very interesting journey” he has been on, adding layers of musical – and philosophical – understanding to the Scottish tapestry of his upbringing. The more and further he’s traveled from his hometown of Clackmannan, sitting down and playing with musicians from all over the world – Spain, Tahiti, the Middle East – the more aware he has become of “a universal component” of all musical cultures. “With the terrible polarization we have, people won’t even sit at the same table sometimes,” he says of his global audiences. “Until the music starts.”

Trained in classical violin and soaked in the Celtic traditions of his ancestors, Fraser lives in Nevada City, on a side of a mountain, enjoying the freshness of this “old but new country.”

“It still feels like a temporary visit,” he says of living in the U.S., even though he moved here in 1981. “A new territory to roam.” But “I do go home,” he adds quickly, invariably meaning Scotland, “to make sure I keep up with the plot.”

While traveling the world and living abroad helps him to stay inquisitive (“I like to be curious”), Fraser’s native music is the core of his inspiration, along with the rugged Scottish landscapes it was born on. For Fraser’s ancestors, music was “a way to get through the day,” he says, and dancing was a big part of it.

Asked if he dances, Fraser responds that indeed he does. “Wildly and badly,” he says.

Fraser has been performing around California for years, including in Monterey County. He is famous for various fiddle camp initiatives in the region (Valley of the Moon fiddle camp, Sierra Fiddle Camp), as well as his work with Californian cellist Natalie Haas (since 2003). Their most recent album, Syzygy, was released in 2021.

The San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers formed in 1986 around a nucleus of musicians passionate about the traditional music of Scotland. In addition to fiddle, expect cello, bass, guitar, percussion, piano – and the occasional flute, harmonica and musical saw.

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