The tangle of string music coming from the American Fiddle Ensemble Sunday night was enough to make audience members stomp their feet -- even while seated in the pews in the Brewery Arts Center's new performance hall at the old St. Teresa's church.
The crowd of about 100 whooped and hollered as "legendary weirdo" Darol Anger and young Brittany Haas picked the strings of their fiddles, prodigy Rushad Eggleston drew the bow across his cello, and bluegrass guitar master Scott Nygaard strummed and flat-picked.
One of the most exciting things about the show was the young age of two of the main performers. Eggleston is a student at Boston's prestigious Berklee School Of Music on a full scholarship. He was the first string student to earn such an honor. He sat serenely with his eyes closed -- eyebrows jumping with the high notes and feet tapping in an old-school pair of black-and-white checkered Vans.
Haas, who is celebrating her 16th birthday today, will be back in high school in Menlo Park, Calif., by Tuesday. Despite her tender years, Anger calls her a "master of Appalachian old-time fiddle playing."
"It was like an obsession for me," she explains. "I fell in love with it when I was like 8 or 9."
Why does she prefer "old-time" music to the top 40 hits of today?
"It's the people," she says. "It's a smaller community so we all get to know each other. Like Darol -- we get to be friends."
Her mom, Barbara Haas, also likes the community element.
"Fiddlers, in general, are just very friendly people," she said. "I wish every kid had the opportunity to be mentored like my daughter has."
Sunday's performance showcased just how well mentoring has worked for the young musicians. With paintings of angels and winged bulls floating above them, the players wove a tapestry of sound, which varied from soft and tender to downright rockin'.
The acoustics in the new hall also highlighted their talent.
"The sound is really the fifth or sixth musician on the stage," said Joe McCarthy, member of the BAC board of directors.
BAC's new executive director, Mary Works, was also excited about the scene. "This is a capital city, and here we have capital-class music," she beamed during the set break. "We're bringing in world-class musicians, and I know the people of this town can appreciate it."
Next on tap at the Brewery is Men of Worth on Friday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m. Then don't miss Sierra Nevada Ballet Co.'s "Pea Nutcracker" on Sunday, Dec. 8, at 4 p.m. Call the Brewery for more information at 883-1976.