News / Arts & Entertainment

Once Muffled, Scottish Fiddling Thrives in US

Several dozen of Alistair Fraser's camp students join him in a performance at the annual Scottish Gathering and Games in Pleasanton, California. (VOA/J Mar)
Several dozen of Alistair Fraser's camp students join him in a performance at the annual Scottish Gathering and Games in Pleasanton, California. (VOA/J Mar)
Many people associate Scottish music with one instrument:  bagpipes. But Scotland's folk tradition is so much richer and fiddler Alasdair Fraser hopes to bring that musical message to the world.

The California-based performer and composer runs popular Scottish fiddling camps to encourage young and old to take up the instrument.  

The Valley of the Moon Scottish fiddle camp is nestled amidst towering redwood trees in the Santa Cruz mountains. In that bucolic setting, more than 200 students spend a week camping, swimming, hiking and playing their fiddles day and night.

Express yourself

Fraser started the music camp 29 years ago, shortly after he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from his native Scotland.

Once Muffled, Scottish Fiddling Thrives in US
Once Muffled, Scottish Fiddling Thrives in USi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X


His desire to share his music grew out of childhood memories from the 1950s and 60s, when traditional music was suppressed in Scottland's schools and universities. Fraser felt pressured to conform to British culture. People were afraid to speak with a Scottish accent.

"That hurt me to realize that, because what I want is justice, for the human soul to be allowed to flourish and for people to be able to express themselves," he says. "And so shy, introverted little me, with a fiddle in my hand,I feel compelled to ask questions that I wouldn't normally…saying 'Why are we not playing these tunes?'"

Shared passion
 
In the 1980s, Fraser found only a handful of people who knew Scottish fiddling, with its distinctive driving, syncopated rhythms, double-stops and use of staccato. He hoped Valley of the Moon would introduce Americans to Scottish music and get them to share his passion.

"The idea is to release the personal voice we have within us and to enable people to find fluency in their own expression, their own soul," he says. "You can create an environment where people feel safe to try, to open up and to know that they're valued. And once people begin to realize that, they'll begin to speak."
California-based performer and composer Alasdair Fraser runs popular Scottish fiddling camps to encourage young and old to take up the instrument.(VOA/J. Mar)California-based performer and composer Alasdair Fraser runs popular Scottish fiddling camps to encourage young and old to take up the instrument.(VOA/J. Mar)
x
California-based performer and composer Alasdair Fraser runs popular Scottish fiddling camps to encourage young and old to take up the instrument.(VOA/J. Mar)
California-based performer and composer Alasdair Fraser runs popular Scottish fiddling camps to encourage young and old to take up the instrument.(VOA/J. Mar)

Mariel van der Steel found her voice when she attended Valley of the Moon for the first time in 2000, at age 14. She’d been playing classical violin since she was a child, but found it too restrictive and was on the verge of quitting.

"My mom happened to see a San Francisco Scottish fiddlers-Alasdair Fraser poster for a concert near my house at the grocery store and she thought 'Maybe I'll bring Mariel to that," Mariel says. "She did and it was a magical experience and I just saw all these musicians, these fiddle players on stage playing music all together with huge smiles on their faces and that's what made me know I needed to come to Valley of the Moon, so I signed up for San Francisco Scottish fiddlers after the show."

'Educating the ear'

Valley of the Moon offers workshops and classes for fiddle, cello, percussion, guitar, and keyboards. The instructors teach students to play by ear, the traditional way that the old tunes were learned and passed on centuries ago in Scotland. Written music and tune books are not allowed at the camp. Fraser says the goal is to educate the ear.

Listen to Alasdair Fraser Perform
Listen to Alasdair Fraser Performi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X


The Valley of the Moon is so popular that its once-a-year summer camp now fills up quickly. To meet demand, Fraser opened a second California fiddle camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a four-hour drive east of San Francisco. He's also started camps in Scotland's Isle of Skye and most recently at the Crisol de Cuerda - the Crucible of Strings - in the Valle de Tena in northern Spain.  

The camps are open to musicians of all ages and abilities. The idea, he says, is to create a supportive and inclusive environment.

"I love hearing someone who is really good at what they do. But I also like saying to someone who is very good at what they do 'hey, could you take a minute and help that little girl who's having trouble with her bow arm right now?'  And people want to do that-they want to share what they've learned. I think everyone just relaxes when they know the competitive edge is not there and really it's just family taking care of each other."

The ‘family’ wraps up the week-long camp with a concert at the Santa Cruz Civic auditorium, featuring all 232 fiddlers and musicians performing on stage, helping Alasdair Fraser keep traditional Scottish music alive and well in the 21st century.

You May Like

Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis Rally Against Racism

PM Netanyahu says he will meet Damas Pakada, the Ethiopia-born Israeli soldier who was filmed being beaten by two policemen More

Multimedia Ten Migrants Drown in Mediterranean, 4,800 Rescued

All of those rescued are being ferried to Italian ports, with some arriving on Italy's southernmost island, Lampedusa, and others taken to Sicily and Calabria More

HRW: Saudis Using US Cluster Bombs in Yemen

Human Rights Watch says photographs, video and other evidence have emerged indicating cluster munitions have been used in 'recent weeks' in airstrikes in Houthi stronghold in northern Yemen More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalistsi
X
May 04, 2015 3:32 PM
Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”