Two fine fiddlers to open KCT concert series

Brittney Haas and Lauren Rioux and their five string fiddles open the KCT concert season tomorrow evening at Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven. — Photo courtesy of Brittney Haas and Lauren Rioux

Two extraordinary fiddlers open the 2012 KCT Concert season tomorrow evening at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven.

Brittany Haas and Lauren Rioux are both skilled musicians and seasoned performers. They have deep roots in American traditional music and are active players in the contemporary alternative bluegrass scene. Five-string violins are a bit unusual, but they both play them, and they also play banjo. Ms. Rioux also plays viola and Ms. Haas sings.

Maybe you prefer jazz, classical music, or refuse to listen to anything but Irish drinking songs. Maybe your car’s radio only picks up hard rock or country. Maybe you’re an opera fan or only listen to rap, blues, or folk. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like or what kind of music you don’t like. I will bet that these two musicians will reach you, will move you.

They have earned their chops in respected contemporary string bands. Both play with the chamber-grass group Crooked Still and alternative bluegrass band Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings. They are sometimes seen performing with numerous and sundry other combinations of players.

Brittany Haas, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and now calls Nashville home, began playing with the Republic of Strings at the age of 14, before her stint with the school band at Princeton University, from which she graduated in 2009, studying baboons and evolutionary biology. She has also performed with Yonder Mountain String Band, Tony Trischka, Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas (her cellist sister), Abigail Washburn, and The Waybacks. She played her fiddle on Steve Martin’s Grammy award-winning CD, “The Crow,” and performed in his band on Letterman and SNL. She released her debut self-titled solo album at 17, produced by Darol Anger and featuring Bruce Molsky, Mike Marshall, Alison Brown, and others.

In addition to the Republic of Strings and Crooked Still, Lauren Rioux plays with the band Crow Molly. In great demand as a music teacher, she leads classes and workshops across the country.

Ms. Rioux was born in Portland, Maine. At age six, she began studying classical violin. In high school, she performed with an alternative folk-rock band named Kalliope. On a full scholarship at the University of Southern Maine, she completed a rigorous study of music, including performance-classical and jazz, and music education.

Her debut solo album, “All the Brighter,” is a collection of old and new melodies. The album was recorded in her home in Maine where she teaches. Rooted in traditional music, its inspiration comes from a wide variety of musical sources, from the soulful Sam Cooke to classical violinist Hillary Hahn.

Not often seen on the Katharine Cornell Theatre stage, the five-string fiddle usually combines the strings that would be on a viola with those on a violin. With that added range, the two musicians produce a richness of tone that can melt ice. Their music drips into a groove. They produce emotion-filled and harmonically progressive compositions that make for easy and moving listening.

KCT Concerts has a growing history of bringing top talent to the Island. This show should be quite a treat.

KCT Concerts has lined up Paddy Keenan, Oisin Mac Diarmada, Lunasa, and Greg Brown for future shows with more to be announced later.

KCT Concert with Brittany Haas and Lauren Rioux, Friday, Feb. 24, 8 pm, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $20; $15 in advance; free for children. For more information, visit