It has been 15 years since Scottish-American fiddler Hanneke Cassel came to Newburyport to play in a duo at Yankee Homecoming. On Saturday night, she will be making her return, this time as a headliner.
“I’m excited,” Cassel says of coming back to the city. “I haven’t played there in a long time, and it is its own community up there. I’m very excited to return.”
The Oregon native, who was named Junior National Scottish Fiddle Champ at the age of 14, came to the Boston area when she attended the Berklee College of Music in the late 1990s. She found she fit right in.
“Out of all the places I’ve traveled in the U.S., Boston has a really strong Irish scene and a really strong Scottish scene and a strong Cape Breton scene,” Cassel said. “They’re really distinct, and they also kind of mix with each other.”
Although she came East to open her musical horizons, it turns out she helped to open Berklee’s, as well, helping to start a strings department and set up fiddle camps in the area.
“When I was there, I was one of the only fiddle players playing Scottish music,” Cassel said. “So, I was playing traditional Scottish music and was in touch with that scene in Boston. But I was also improvising and all this other stuff. So, maybe my sound was sort of a newer thing within the Scottish community. Now, at Berklee, there is this whole department.”
In 1997, Cassel visited Newburyport with friends to play as a busker, or street performer, during the annual fall festival. She felt right at home.
“I loved it,” she said. “I’m from a town in Oregon on the coast, so I love being near the ocean. People just seemed to be having a really good time. And it was one of the first big festivals that I’ve played. I love performing and having an audience that wants to hear me perform. It was really exciting. It was really thrilling.”