Fiddlers by the dozen to play in Murphys

Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat /

A whole bunch of fiddlers - led by Scottish master Alasdair Fraser - will perform Saturday in Murphys.

Fraser's group, the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers, will star at the Murphys Ceilidh, taking place from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Native Sons of the Golden West Hall on Main Street.

The evening also will include singing, dancing and open jamming. All instruments, ages and ability levels are welcome.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children under 12, available at the door.

This will be a chance for local audiences to see the fiddlers up close in advance of their concert Sunday at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto.

Founded in 1986, the group has grown to more than 200 members from all over Northern California, the United States and beyond. Varying widely in age and backgrounds, the fiddlers are drawn together by their love of Celtic traditional music. Prized in the group is the ability to play by ear, feel the music in one's soul and be able to follow spontaneous changes of direction during performances.

Many members know hundreds of tunes by heart. They can be heard individually and in small groups throughout the year at contra dances, pub sessions and Scottish festivals. The large group - sometimes more than 100 - gets together annually for performances which range from a Northern California spring concert series to big concerts in such settings as the Lake Tahoe Summer Music Festival and Atwood Hall in Anchorage, Alaska.

Members play contemporary tunes as well as those that have been passed down from the Highlands and Western Isles, the northeast of Scotland, and Shetland.Many tunes also come from the Scottish fiddling tradition that flourishes in Cape Breton Island off the northeast coast of Canada.

Alasdair Fraser, the group's founder and musical director, ranks among the world's finest interpreters of Scotland's music. He maintains a busy recording and performing schedule with musicians including pianists Paul Machlis and Muriel Johnstone, cellist Natalie Haas and guitarist Tony McManus.

His music also can be heard on movie soundtracks such as "Titanic," "The Last of the Mohicans," "Spitfire Grill," "Wyatt Earp" and "Treasure Planet."

Fraser also is director of the Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School in California, where he teaches every summer, and has been artist-in-residence at the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow for the past several years.

The Murphys Ceilidh - pronounced Kay-Lee - will feature about 80 of the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers, said organizer Siri Gilpin.

"A ceilidh is a traditional Gaelic social gathering, which usually involves playing Gaelic folk music and dancing," she said. "There will be dance callers, guitars, keyboards, percussion, cellos and more. Local musicians are encouraged to join in and play with the group or to contribute a tune of their own. It's also a time to relax on the sidelines while watching friends or children enjoy themselves."

Wine bar and soft beverages will be available. Snacks to share are encouraged.

For more information, call Gilpin at 728-4438 or email Siri@LavenderRidgeVineyard.com .

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