Tag Archives: violin

Artist Profiles: Alasdair Fraser

Alasdair Fraser at the Carrboro ArtsCenter – Photo by Angel Romero

Alasdair Fraser was born on may 14 May, 1955 in Clackmannan, Scotland. He is widely acclaimed as a top performer, recording artist and teacher of the rich fiddling tradition of his native Scotland.

His vast repertoire spans several centuries of Scottish music and also includes his own compositions, blending a profound understanding of the Scottish tradition. Fraser is justly renowned for his ability to communicate with his audience through his personal warmth and wit as well as through music. His richly expressive playing transports listeners across a broad spectrum ranging from haunting laments drawn from the Gaelic tradition to classically-styled airs and raucous dance tunes.

In addition to releasing critically acclaimed solo albums, Alasdair’s compositions and performances have also been included on top selling Celtic and New Age compilation albums (Celtic Twilight on the Hearts of Space label, and Wilderness Collection and Celtic Odyssey on Narada). His solo violin can be heard on the soundtracks of several major films, including The Last of the Mohicans and Titanic.

Alasdair Fraser with Skyedance Band

In May 1996, Alasdair’s album Dawn Dance received the prestigious NAIRD (now AFIM) Indie Award for best Celtic album of the Year. This is the first album by Alasdair to feature entirely his own compositions. The music brings together the best of Scottish, Baroque, Rock and Medieval/Ancient ideas and features some of the best musicians in these respective fields. Shortly after the release of Dawn Dance, Alasdair and the other musicians decided to name their band Skyedance.

Fraser has founded five summer fiddling programs in the USA, Spain and Australia.

Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas at the Carrboro ArtsCenter – Photo by Angel Romero

In recent years, he has been touring and recording with American cellist Natalie Haas.

Fraser lives in northern California, in the United States.

Discography

Portrait of a Scottish Fiddler (Brownrigg Productions, 1982)
Skyedance, with Paul Machlis (Culburnie Records, 1985)
The Road North, with Paul Machlis (Sona Gaia/Narada, 1987)
The Driven Bow, with Jody Stecher (1989)
Dawn Dance (Culburnie Records, 1996)
Way Out to Hope Street, with Skyedance Band (1997)
Return to Kintail, with Tony McManus (Culburnie Records, 1999)
Labyrinth, with Skyedance Band (2000)
Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle, Vol 1, with Paul Machlis (Piano) and Natalie Haas (Cello) – released 2002
Live in Spain, with Skyedance Band – released 2002
Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle, Vol 2, with Muriel Johnstone and Natalie Haas (Culburnie Records, 2004)
Fire and Grace, with Natalie Haas (Greentrax Records, 2004)
In the Moment, with Natalie Haas (Culburnie Records, 2007)
Highlander’s Farewell, with Natalie Haas (Culburnie Records, 2011)
Abundance, with Natalie Haas (Culburnie Records, 2014)
Ports of Call, with Natalie Haas ( Culburnie Records, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Aly Bain

Aly Bain

Aly Bain was born on May 15 1946 in Lerwick, Shetland, Scotland. Lerwick is a small, enchanting town on the Shetland Islands. Aly began learning fiddle at the age of eleven. Tom Anderson, his teacher, is acknowledged as one of the true masters of Shetland music. Aly developed a highly dramatic style of playing, matching his great tone and technical ability with genuine emotion. Alert to the musical potential of the dynamic interaction between Irish and Scottish traditions, he helped establish the Boys of the Lough. The group is now recognized as one of the best in the tradition.

Simultaneously, Aly pursued his solo career. Since 1986, he has been working with Pelicula Films on various television series dealing with folk music. The first series, “Down Home,” traces fiddle music from its roots in Scotland across the Atlantic to the United States and Canada. The second, entitled “The Transatlantic Sessions” (1995), featured many prominent artists, such as Emmylou Harris, Iris DeMent, Kathy Mattea, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Mary Black, Karen Matheson, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, Donal Lunny, Dick Gaughan, and Phil Cunningham.

Aly Bain (left) &Phil Cunningham (right)

Aly Bain and accordionist Phil Cunningham are two of the most celebrated musicians on the Scottish traditional scene. The duo first worked together on a television series in 1988, and embarked on their first tour shortly after. They were so well received that they have been touring Scotland annually ever since, in addition to frequent performances in Europe and North America.

In 1993, his autobiography, Fiddler on the Loose, was published, co-written by journalist and editor Alasdair Clark. He continues to tour extensively with the Boys of the Lough in addition to his collaborations with Phil and many other musicians.

Aly Bain also tours with Swedish multi-instrumentalist Ale Möller and with American fiddler, singer, guitarist and banjo player Bruce Molsky.

Discography:

Aly Bain ( Whirlie Records, 1984)
Aly Bain & Friends (Greentrax Records, 1989)
Lonely Bird (Green Linnet, 1992)
The Best of Aly Bain:Volume One:A Fiddler’s Tale (2008)

With Phil Cunningham:

The Pearl (Green Linnet, 1995)
The Ruby (Whirlie Records, 1997)
Another Gem (Whirlie Records, 2000)
Spring the Summer Long (Whirlie Records, 2003)
Best of Aly and Phil, Volume One (2004)
Roads Not Travelled (Whirlie Records, 2006)
Portrait (2010)
Five and Twenty (Whirlie Records, 2012)
Best of Aly and Phil, Volume Two (2013)

With Ale Möller

Fully Rigged (Whirlie Records/Northside, 1999)
Beyond the Stacks (Whirlie Records/Northside, 2007)
Meeting Point, with Ale Möller and Bruce Molsky (2013)

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Artist Profiles: Anna Wendy Stevenson

Anna Wendy Stevenson

Raised in Edinburgh, and surrounded by music from a family steeped in the arts, violinist, composer and producer Anna Wendy Stevenson has made her name as a highly respected performer and teacher of traditional fiddle. She studied music with her grandfather, composer Ronald Stevenson, and won a scholarship to study in the USA when she was only 19.

A founding member of highly successful trio Fine Friday, Anna Wendy has recorded and toured extensively throughout Europe, Canada and Australia performing at many of the top festivals (The National Festival, Celtic Colours International Festival, Celtic Connections, Port Fairy). She is also a member of all female quartet Calluna and was a member of globe trotting band Anam. Anna-Wendy also performed with the Bella MacNab Dance Band, the ceilidh band of choice for the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Revels at the Assembly Rooms.

A holder of the London College of Music LLCM, ALCM (diplomas in teaching and performance) and renowned for her innovative approach to teaching, Anna-Wendy is a principle teacher at Lochgoilhead Fiddle Workshop and is involved with the Feis and other teaching organizations. Her excellent communication skills have led to extensive work with Yehudi Menuhin’s Live Music Now Organization bringing music to people with special needs.

Anna-Wendy released the CD Gowd and Silver with her grandfather Ronald Stevenson featuring a selection of Ronald’s arrangements of Scottish melodies as well as some of his original compositions.

Discography:

Dance Tunes, Airs and Songs from Scotland, with Calluna (Scottish Mill Records, 2000)
Gone Dancing, with Fine Friday (Foot Stompin’ Records, 2002)
Mowing the Machair, Fine Friday (Foot Stompin’ Records, 2005)
Gowd & Silver (Eclectic Records, 2005)
Anna-Wendy Stevenson (2006)
My Edinburgh (Anna-Wendy Music, 2010)

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A Sound Journey Through Varanasi



Srdjan Beronja – The Sounds of Varanasi

Srdjan Beronja – The Sounds of Varanasi – a unique sound journey through the holy city (ARC Music, 2014)

The Sounds of Varanasi is a set of recording made in Varanasi, India in 2011 by Serbian musician and producer Srdjan Beronja. He lived in Varanasi (formerly Benares) where he studied classical Indian tabla and made live recordings with local virtuoso musicians on traditional Indian instruments as well as field recordings of rituals, mantras (praying recitations), weddings,  and other distinctive sounds of the holy city of Varanasi.

The Indian artists featured include Pt. Dhruv Nath Mishra on sitar; Ravi Tripathi on tabla; Pt. Sukhdev Prasad Mishra on Indian violin; Vikas Tripathi on tabla; Pt. Atul Shankar on bansuri; Prakash Bimlesh on vocals and harmonium; and Pt. Kailash Nath Mishra on tabla.

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Anatolia’s Joyful Celebration of Turkish and Arabic Folk Traditions


The Best of Folk Music Group Anatolia (Edward Hines Music, 2018)

The Best of Folk Music Group Anatolia is a compilation that includes recordings from Anatolia’s previous three albums: Folk Songs and Dance Music of Turkey and the Arab World (1996), Lost Songs of Palestine (2001), and Middle Eastern Songs and Dances for Children (2005).

Anatolia is a world music group led by American multi-instrumentalist Edward J. Hines, whose goal is to preserve the folk,classical and dance music traditions of the Middle East.

The Best of Folk Music Group Anatolia presents a fascinating overview of the rich and varied folk traditions of Turkey and the Arab world, using a wide spectrum of traditional musical instruments performed by Hines and his collaborators.

Even if you don’t speak the language, the popular Turkish children’s song “Ali Baban’ın Çiftliği” reels you in right away with its catchy hooks. It’s a lot of fun, featuring various mimicked farm animal sounds.

The lineup includes Edward Hines on ‘ud, divan sazi, kaval, clarinet, zurna, buzuq, cura, sipsi, ocarina and vocals); Taner Okatan on saz, baglama, divan sazi, percussion and vocals; Michel Moushabeck on percussion and vocals; Jamal Sinno on kanun; Jenny Killgore on violin, kasik and vocals; Bruce Rawan on kanun; Mohammed Mejaour on nay, percussion and vocals; Saied Khoury on violin, buzuq, ud and vocals; and V. Tailan Yildiz on accordion.

Buy The Best of Folk Music Group Anatolia

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Artist Profiles: Claude Chalhoub

Claude Chalhoub – Photo by Jorg Brodstedt

Born in 1974 in Lebanon into a family of musicians, Claude Chalhoub was introduced to the violin by his father who played the rebec. At the age of eight his brother gave him his first violin, and he started to play at home with the family, mostly improvising Arab music. He soon entered the conservatory, but as the war took hold of Lebanon, the conservatory was closed and Claude was forced to continue his studies on his own, discovering most of the technique of the violin by himself. A teacher later told him that he didn’t want to change that technique but refine it, because music is about the sounds and the colors of these sounds, and not about theoretical discussions about harmonies and techniques.

Obviously his self styled technique was good enough to meet high academic standards, because at the age of 18 he was offered the prestigious Queen Elizabeth scholarship which allowed him to continue his studies at the Royal College of Music in London. He studied with professor Grigory Zhisling and Rodney Friend and was introduced to a large repertoire of classical music, not only during his studying hours, but mainly by listening to all the symphonic orchestras he could watch.

Classical music was not the only repertoire he absorbed. In London he was exposed to many different culture. Claude listened to Indian music, African music, and Chinese music. He searched for his own sound. In his 4th year of studies this search led to the first recording session of his own music, Red Desert, combining the sounds of an Indian tabla with those of Arabic improvisation and a string octet.

For his final recital at the conservatory he chose a composition of his own, “Oriental Images”, which turned out to be a huge success. In 1997 he received an award for excellence. His public debut on the stage of St. John?s in London?s Smith Square led to a series of successful European concerts.

In 1999 Claude was invited to Weimar to participate in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim. The aim of this West Eastern Divan was to give young musicians from Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, the Middle East and Germany the opportunity to study and play music together. Barenboim selected Claude to be the musical director of the orchestra. During one of the chamber concerts, Claude attracted so much attention for his improvisational music that he was signed to record his first album. In the summer of 2000 he started to work with producer and guitarist Michael Brook in the Sound Factory in Los Angeles. At he same time he was invited to participate in Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road project in Tanglewood (USA). The self-titled album, Claude Chalhoub features Pakistani singer Forroukh Fateh Ali Khan, the brother of the legendary Nusrat. It was released in the spring of 2001 in the USA and Germany, England, France, Italy and other territories followed in 2002/2003.

In 2003 Claude also started touring with his own quartet and plays concerts in several German cities, France and Italy . The Traumzeitfestival in Duisburg, Germany commissioned him to write music for a group specially gathered for this festival. The premiere in Duisburg featuring the Indigo string octett, Trilok Gurtu on tabla , Gilad Atzmon on clarinet and saxophone plus Claude?s band was received with standing ovations.

For his performance at the prestigious WOMAD Festival in Rivermead, UK, Claude invited another outstanding musician to join his band: Indian flute virtuoso Ronu Majumdar.

Claude has composed soundtrack for several films: ?Hollywood Buddah?, ?Persona non grata? (Oliver Stone’s documentary on the Middle East conflict.) He also continues to teach at the conservatory in Beirut.

Discography:

Claude Chalhoub (Teldec Classics, 2001)
Diwan (Herzog Records, 2008)

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Delightful Scottish Fiddle Inspired by Short Stories

Aidan O’Rourke with Kit Downes – 365: Volume 1 (Reveal Records, 2018)

365: Volume 1 is a truly exquisite double album of instrumental music composed by Scottish fiddler Aidan O’Rourke. He’s joined by Kit Downes on piano and harmonium.

365: Volume 1 was inspired by the short stories of James Robertson, one of Aidan O’Rourke’s favorite Scottish authors. Robertson wrote a short story each day for a year, and every story had exactly 365 words. Aidan O’Rourke decided to do something similar and composed a tune every day for 1 year, each one connected to a story from James’s collection.

Although the plan is to record all 365 tunes, 365: Volume 1 features the first set of highlights. The musicianship is superb. The wonderful music is rooted in Scottish folk music tradition, although Aidan O’Rourke goes beyond, incorporating classical and jazz elements.

The nicely-packaged two CD set includes a booklet with all the stories that inspired the recordings and the date they were composed.

Aidan O’Rourke is the founder and fiddler of acclaimed Scottish band Lau. His other solo albums include Sirius (2006), An Tobar (2008) and Hotline (2013). The Lau albums are Lightweights and Gentlemen (2007), Live (2008), Arc Light (2009), Race the Loser (2012), and The Bell That Never Rang (2015).

365: Volume 1 is an impeccable contemporary Scottish folk music album featuring exceptionally expressive violin performances.

Buy 365: Volume 1

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Artist Profiles: Sephira

Sephira

Sephira is comprised of two classically trained Irish musicians who have forged their own musical niche combining classical music and Irish traditional music: Joyce O’Leary (vocals/violin) and Ruth O’Leary.

Their unique sound can be compared to the emotional swells of a movie – sensational, dramatic, and filled with the full sweep of human passions.

Their debut album Believe was released in 2006 to critical acclaim.

Discography

Believe (Cicero Records, 2006)
Sephira (Cicero Records, 2008)
Starlight (Cicero Records, 2011)
Eternity (Cicero Records, 2013)

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Artist Profiles: Harikumar Sivan

Harikumar Sivan

Harikumar Sivan (formerly S. Harikumar) was born in 1980. He is an A grade violinist of All India Radio since the age of 16. Harikumar is a native Kerala and now works in Delhi.

Harikumar is a disciple of violin master Dr, L Subramaniam. He has worked with great musicians such as Pandit Kishan Mehraj, Anindo Chatterjee, T N Sesha Gopalan, and others. He has a deep knowledge of Hindustani and Carnatic music as well as western music.

His musical style is what is known as New Indian Classical Music which contains both Carnatic and Hindustani elements. For example one Carnatic Keerthanam (Ambavani Rag Keervani ) in the Hindustani style of improvisation, creating what he calls “New Indian Music”

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Artist Profiles: Sisirkana Chowdhury

Sisirkana Chowdhury

Dr. Sisirkana Chowdhury is known as a distinguished violinist throughout India and abroad. She had her first lesson on the violin from Ustad Moti Mian when she was seven years old. Later she received systematic training from the famous violinist Padma Bhushan Pandit V.G. Jog.

Impressed by her talent, Maestro Ali Akbar Khan accepted her as his pupil in 1956. She also had the occasion to come in touch with the scholar-musician Acharya T. L. Rana and enrich her theoretical knowledge of the different aspects of Hindustani classical music.

Sisirkana has had a distinguished career as Dean of Music at Rabindra Bharati University in Calcutta.

Currently she is a visiting professor at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California.

Discography:

Sisirkana Dhar Choudhury (His Master’s Voice, 1974)

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