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'Getting paid to eat ice cream,' fiddler finds his passion

Jamie Laval performs at Apple Valley Middle School. Jamie Laval performs at Apple Valley Middle School.

A classical violinist who played for the Seattle Symphony and other ensembles, Jamie Laval had a secret life.

After the last note was played in a symphony performance, he would shed his tuxedo, change into jeans and a T-shirt and dash from the concert hall to the nearest tavern where fiddlers were playing Celtic music. "I was on fire for fiddle music," he said.

"I was a classical musician. I loved it and made a pretty good living at it," he told about 100 middle school and high school strings players at the auditorium at Apple Valley School Friday morning. "But I really love this."

This is Laval's Celtic passion and his mastery of the traditional music of the British Isles. "It's just so fun. I tell people it's kind of like getting paid to eat ice cream."

Now a resident of Asheville, Laval migrated east from the Pacific Northwest because he liked the emerald green of the North Carolina mountains even better than the "purple green" of the northwest coast.

The students listened raptly as Laval played five tunes, using a square board and clogs to accompany his fast and smooth strokes with a percussive wooden rhythm.

The opening concert of the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra features Laval in a  "A Celtic Celebration" on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Blue Ridge Concert Hall at BRCC.

Laval will perform Celtic, Irish and Scottish tunes, along with music from Quebec and Brittany. Pre-concert music will be provided by the Montreat Pipe Band led by Hendersonville pipe major Joe Bailey. The orchestra will also play some well loved pieces with Celtic, Irish and Scottish themes.

The concert will feature a bombarde, a traditional French double reed woodwind that makes a loud musical noise, he said.

Laval combines his background in classical strings and gift for the Celtic fiddle to compose fiddle pieces for a full orchestra.

"The orchestra actually has been digging it," he said of the rehearsals he's had so far. "They've been taking up my scores with great zeal." The music is difficult, he said. "They're kind of sweating bullets on some of the pieces."

Laval will be joined by E.D. Jones on bagpipes, Roger Gold on guitar and dancers Alice Jamison and Pearl Shirley.
The Orchestra begins the program with "Lord of the Dance" written by Ronan Hardiman for Michael Flatley's famous dance program.
Tickets are available by calling the symphony office at 828.697.5884 or by going to