Producer/Director Tommie Dell Smith says she didn’t intend to make the film “The Groove Is Not Trivial.” She didn’t really know Alasdair Fraser, although she was impressed with his fiddle camp where she took her daughter for years.
Smith thought maybe she’d make a promotional film. As she fell in love with Alasdair’s story and his message, and realized that there’s global impact in it, Tommie Dell Smith was on her way to making a full-length documentary. She made a good one.
She wrestled well with the challenge of staying coherent and right-sized amidst the many themes and stories, the journeys hankering to be part of the film she was making. Watching “The Groove Is Not Trivial” you will feel the groove that Alasdair Fraser delivers and inspires wherever he plays and teaches.
The dictionary pegs “grooving” as “taking great pleasure,” “appreciating” and “enjoying,” “getting along or interacting well.” When Alasdair Fraser is around, there’s plenty of that. The dictionary also refers to being “in the groove” as “perfect functioning.” In the Alasdair Fraser spirit of devoted effort, it’s more about putting who you are, how you feel, and what it can be into it.
At his fiddle camps in California, Scotland, and Spain, Fraser guides people of all ages and levels of ability. Whether he’s sparking an individual or gelling an orchestra, there’s lots of connecting going on. Tommie Dell Smith calls Fraser “wonderful and frustrating.” While he could be so present for Smith and her film making, he was often being “so present” elsewhere when she needed his attention. Smith was quick to note that he’d “show up in the nick of time.”
Smith downplays what a fine job she’s done making “The Groove Is Not Trivial” when she mentions that Fraser doesn’t need help to make him look good. She says, “he is as thoughtful and deep as he seems,” and her film shows as well how talented, dedicated, and fun this music man is.
Note: Alasdair Fraser will be at the Thursday June 15 showing. Director/producer Tommie Dell Smith will be at the Thursday and Sunday June 18 showings – both at the Nevada Theatre at 7pm.
The following is distilled from a conversation with Nevada County icon and internationally renowned fiddler, Alasdair Fraser.
Chuck Jaffee: What is Alasdair Fraser’s quick summary of “The Groove”?
Alasdair Fraser: It’s being in touch with the rhythms of life. It’s connecting. It’s being alive.
CJ: Say something about excellence. Your teaching seems to encourage something else, or at least that excellence will take care of itself.
AF: It’s one of the great experiments. If you support and empower people, if you believe in them to be themselves, often they find their way to excellence … and not in a competitive way, especially with peers on a similar journey.
CJ: The film suggests that “the groove” is within reach of anyone devoted to making music. That’s a rather non-trivial affirmation, but the film travels another groove – sustaining the Scottish voice, character, and culture.
AF: It isn’t just a Scottish point [although] it is one of my battles to free the spirit in my countrymen. It’s a universal idea for people to explore their own potential [against] oppressive efforts designed to have people NOT explore their potential. [People need] to identify controlling, standardizing forces … to be free to be their idiosyncratic selves…. It’s ironic: great music, great art comes out of oppression. People have to express themselves.
CJ: How would you compare being a musician and being an activist?
AF: There’s no separation between music and life. There’s no one on the planet that can’t be affected by music. A musician or an activist is just being aware and seeking better pathways, human solutions, improving people’s lot in life.
CJ: Your fiddle camps are quite a phenomenon and a tradition. What’s your favorite thing about the fiddle camp experience?
AF: We create a village that’s a whole spectrum … old and young, the best players alongside beginners… playing as well as they can next to better players, next to a hero … you see the looks on their faces, a sense of achievement, maybe a new personal best….