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Artists Series to present acclaimed fiddle/cello duo April 14

RELEASED: March 31, 2010

Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas
Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will welcome Scottish fiddle star Alasdair Fraser and cello prodigy Natalie Haas to the Artists Series stage April 14. Displaying dazzling teamwork, dancing rhythms and a shared passion for improvising on the melody and groove of Scottish tunes, the duo will begin its concert at 7:30 p.m. in Schofield Auditorium.

The musical partnership between Alasdair Fraser, long regarded as Scotland's premier fiddle ambassador, and the young California cellist Natalie Haas may not seem a likely one. But the pairing is the fulfillment of a long-standing musical dream for Fraser, a master fiddler 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.

"People may be familiar with the gorgeous, melodic cello sound, but they're surprised to learn that the cello used to comprise the rhythm section in Scottish dance bands," Fraser has said. "It's inspiring to hear the cello released from its orchestral shackles."

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 featured performances on movie soundtracks ("The Last of the Mohicans," "Titanic"). He has been sponsored by the British Council to represent Scotland's music internationally, and he received the Scottish Heritage Center Service Award for outstanding contributions to Scottish culture and traditions.

Haas, a graduate of The Juilliard School's Music Division, discovered the cello at age 9. Her musical journey found purpose when she was 11 and fell in love with Celtic music as a student at Fraser's Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School. Haas now joins Fraser in teaching his popular annual summer fiddle courses in California and Scotland, and she is on the faculty of the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

"Natalie Haas unleashes textures and deep, powerful rhythms that drive fiddle tunes," Fraser says. "We can duck and dive around each other, swap melody and harmony lines, and improvise on each other's rhythmic riffs. She has such a great sense of exploration and excitement for the music. It's a joy to play with her."

Fraser and Haas represented Scotland at the Smithsonian Museum's Folklife Festival, and they have been featured on National Public Radio's "Performance Today," "The Thistle & Shamrock" and "Mountain Stage."

"You would think they'd been playing together for centuries," wrote Boston Globe music critic Scott Alarik in his review of the duo's 2007 release, "In the Moment." Their CD "Fire & Grace" (2004) was named Best Album of the Year in the Scots Trad Music Awards.

Tickets for the duo's UW-Eau Claire performance are $17 for the public, $15 for those 62 and older and UW System or Chippewa Valley Technical College faculty and staff, or $7 for those 17 and younger and UW System or CVTC students. Tickets for students are half-price, $3.50, until the day of the event. On the day of the event, students must pay the full student-ticket price.

Patrons also may charge their tickets to MasterCard, Visa or Discover when they order by phone. Call 715-836-3727 or, outside the immediate Eau Claire area, call toll-free 800-949-UWEC. A $3 handling fee will be added to all telephone charge orders.

The Artists Series is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the state of Wisconsin. The Artists Series also is funded in part by Visit Eau Claire ... The Unexpected Wisconsin. Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas are additionally supported by the Performing Arts Fund, a program of Arts Midwest funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art, with additional contributions from the Wisconsin Arts Board, General Mills Foundation and Land O'Lakes Foundation. Wisconsin Public Radio, WHYS Radio and Community Television have contributed promotional support. Best Western Trail Lodge Hotel & Suites (715-838-9989), 3340 Mondovi Road, is the exclusive accommodations partner for the Artists Series.

The Artists Series, funded by the students of UW-Eau Claire, is administered by the Activities and Programs office of the University Centers.

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JS/JP

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