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Scottish fiddler, cellist teaming up in Ogden

What do Sean Connery, Itzhak Perlman and "A Prairie Home Companion" have in common?

Alasdair Fraser.

The Scottish fiddler has found diverse company as his music has led him everywhere from playing a solo tribute to fellow countryman Connery to appearing alongside Perlman in New York's Lincoln Center to joining Garrison Keillor on the PBS radio program "A Prairie Home Companion" — to many places in between.

When Fraser comes to Ogden Friday, his companion will be up-and-coming cellist Natalie Haas for an intimate program of Celtic music. "Fiddle and cello just are a great combination together," Fraser said during a telephone interview from California. "It's my most exciting thing right now, and we're going to be recording a lot of that stuff very soon"

Fraser said the two would be digging deep into the tradition, and also playing some newer, rhythmic material in Ogden. "Natalie's making quite a statement on the cello — I guess you'd call it nuovo cello."

He added, "A little-known fact is that the cello was one of the main instruments used for the accompaniment of dance music in Scotland for centuries — in fact, in many countries before the piano came along.

"So we're going back to an older sound, and it's got a lot of dance energy but also a lot of beautiful presentation of these old airs."

Fraser said that nowadays, most people think of the cello as an orchestral instrument that mainly plays beautiful, slow, melodic lines. But in the baroque era, the cello was used in folk music to play rhythmic bass for dance. It's that tradition — mixed with some modern elements — that Haas will be playing.

"Natalie really gets the cello up and jumping and grooving," Fraser said. "She's taking it outside the melody and improvising on solos, that kind of thing, doing very rhythmic stuff. She's involved in a new wave of cello players I like to describe as having broken loose of their orchestral shackles, and they're roaming free and putting some life and energy back into the instrument that was sort of rendered safe by classical music."

Fraser added that he has known Haas since she was 12 years old, when she began coming to his fiddle camp in California. "It's just been a joy for me to have someone like Natalie come through and say 'Yeah, this music is for me, and it's going to be a big part of my life,' " he said. "She's now 19 years old and she's at Juilliard, convincing all the people at the Juilliard School of Music that they should get a lot more energy into their playing."

Although this program will be on a small scale, Fraser is also involved with a larger band, Skyedance, which just released its latest CD, "Skyedance: Live in Spain."

"I get involved in lots of different perspectives on the music," Fraser said of the project. "Most of what I play is coming from a very Scottish place. I get very involved in the old music, the 18th-century repertoire, all the way to more modern and contemporary works, with more modern composition and arrangement ideas.

"So 'Skyedance: Live In Spain' was with my six-piece band and a very wonderful guest from a very Spanish tradition. It was a lot of fun and sort of celebrated the years of touring that we did over there."


If you go . . .

What: Alasdair Fraser with Natalie Haas

Where: Peery's Egyptian Theater, Ogden

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

How much: $14-$16

Phone: (810) 395-3227


E-mail: rcline@desnews.com