Traveling fiddles: Hanneke Cassel

Boston to the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Shanghai, in China, to New Zealand. India to Austria, Oregon to Germany to California to Kenya to Texas to Cape Breton: those a but a few of the places Hanneke Cassel has taken the music of her fiddle.

Cassel grounds herself in the music of Scotland. Fiery strathspeys and haunting airs both call to her, as does the distinctive music of Scotland’s sons and daughters who came to Atlantic Canada, to Cape Breton. Her playing and her composing draws from the deep wells of these traditions, and there are flavors of other landscapes and traditions as well. “I’d call what I do American Celtic,” she says. “I spent quite a bit of time trying to sound Scottish, trying to sound Cape Breton, and I can, to a certain extent. I’m from America, though, and America has a really great Celtic sound. It’s different,” she continues, “it’s very different from what’s happening in Scotland and what’s happening in Cape Breton. It has its own sound, and it’s exciting to be part of that.”

You could call Cassel one of the pioneers of that sound. On her album Silver she has a set of tunes celebrating the Boston Red Sox (it’s called The Curse Reversed) one that’s drawn from her time teaching in fiddle camps in Tennessee, another based in a tune inspired by a time she spent in New Zealand, several based on music from the Scottish tradition. On her album For Reasons Unseen, there’s a set from her time in China along with with the Fire of Roses set for her father, a tune for her mother called The Ides of March, and one called Alasdair’s Jig, honoring her mentor in the music of Scotland Alasdair Fraser, who comes along to sit in on the set. Alongside are tunes drawn from Scottish tradition. Other landscapes come into play as well, including her adopted hometown of Boston and the Pacific northwest where she grew up. As is common in Celtic music, most of this music is presented in sets, with two or three tunes weaving into each other, often an original tune setting off a traditional one or a piece composed by a contemporary musician. Cassel’s gift for choosing, composing, and integrating music this way is one of the things that makes her music both traditional an contemporary, and engaging for those who love the traditions of Scotland as well as those who don’t know a thing about that bl ast enjoy acoustic music. It is a traveler’s music. one that’s open to influences but remains at home in Celtic tradition.

In addition to her recording and touring with her own music, Cassel teaches at music camps. She’s also toured and recorded with other artists, among them early music specialists Ensemble Gallilei and Irish singer and songwriter Cathie Ryan. She’s produced albums for progressive bluegrass band Crooked Still and Scottish style fiddle player and composer Katie McNally as well. At this writing, Cassel is working on her fifth solo recording, and she’s raising funds for that. To help with that, she’s created a funny video which you may see by following this link..

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  1. Jane Boursaw May 23, 2013
    • Kerry Dexter May 26, 2013

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