Fraser & Hass, like peas & carrots

Alistair Fraser & Natalie Haas
Alistair Fraser & Natalie Haas at the UVM Recital Hall

Though I like peas and I like carrots, I’ve never been convinced that peas and carrots actually go together all that well. But I guess one could say that about fiddle music and cello music and yet when you hear them together you wonder why you don’t hear it more often.

Last night Scottish fiddler, Alastair Fraser and cellist, Natalie Hass, performed a flawless concert at the UVM Recital Hall as part of the Lane Series. We often hear fiddle and guitar and fiddle and piano, yet it’s not very often we hear fiddle and cello. I’m not sure why since fiddle and  cello were historically at the heart of Scottish dance music going back to the 1700’s, explained Fraser during a break in last night’s concert. “Cellos have been in captivity for quite some time,” he joked. “And now they’re starting to break out.”

Traditional jigs, reels and Strathspey’s (indigenous to Scottish and Cape Breton music) were played with the percussive backdrop of the cello. The  music was peppered with melodic harmonies that complimented the sweet tones of the fiddle. Together their timing was impeccable, their music was tight, flawless and at moments literally transported me to a different time, place and era.

The show opened up with Cape Breton fiddlers and pianists, Kimberly Fraser and Troy MacGillivray with the traditional Cape Breton sounds of fiddle and piano, and a little step dancing. It was a good introduction to the Scottish tradition as Cape Breton music stems from Scotland and it took us from the present back to the past.

Scottish and Cape Breton music is so percussive, its almost impossible to sit in your seat. As I watched heads bopping, feet tapping and hands moving around in the air, I realized how silly it is that we have these amazing concerts in concert halls. We should be having them in dance halls so we can actually experience the music instead of just listening to it. This was one of the points Fraser brought up at the finale when he made the entire audience stand and learn the basics of Scottish step dancing.

Though this was their first time performing in Vermont I hope it is not their last. The combination of fiddle and cello in folk music is innovative yet brings us back to the roots of this music. I love when musicians break out of the mold. The two instruments truly do go together like peas and carrots. Now I wonder, what other instruments can we bring together?

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