Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2017

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Country, strings attached

Four classically schooled female violinists turn on the twang


Leila Navidi

New Country Strings fires up the crowd at Dixie’s Dam Country Bar at the Hooters hotel. Tony Moore says the cast members rotate occasionally and hail from around the world.


Who: New Country Fiddlers

When: 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays

Where: Dixie’s Dam Country Bar, Hooters hotel

Admission: Free

Beyond the Sun

Take equal parts fiddling, beautiful women and sexy dancing — combine them all in a country bar and you have an explosive formula for a good time.

The lab for this experiment is Dixie’s Dam Country Bar in Hooters.

The guinea pigs are the country music fans who drop by to take in Scotty Alexander and his Smok’n Nashville Band. At the end of his set they find themselves worked into an additional frenzy by the New Country Strings, a troupe of female fiddlers whose repertoire is pure country a la Bob Wills and his ilk.

The genius behind the strings is Tony Moore, co-founder of an entertainment company in Calgary, Alberta. Moore is a former classical violin teacher who decided almost 15 years ago there was more to strings than Bach and Beethoven.

The result of his discontent was “Barrage,” a traveling show that features violin music in a spirited 90-minute production. The troupe has been touring the world since it was formed in 1996.

“We created an alternative string project,” Moore says. “We wrote string music in different styles — gypsy, Irish, country — and we created the touring production shows featuring violin players dancing and moving and playing various kinds of styles of music.”

The New Country Strings is an offshoot of “Barrage.”

“This is the first time we have focused just on country music,” Moore says.

For the past couple of months, the New Country Strings has been a specialty act at Dixie’s, billed as the only all-women, all-fiddle, all-country group in the United States.

Las Vegas-based Dick Foster Productions was looking for an act to complement the high-energy performance of Alexander and his band. Moore and Foster had worked together on a number of corporate engagements.

“He saw the coolness of what we do with strings,” Moore says.

So, the New Country Strings will be fiddling around at Dixie’s for the foreseeable future.

The cast varies between three and four violinists, and the performers rotate from time to time. The original group of four recently rejoined “Barrage” for its world tour and another group has been brought in.

“The cast is interchangeable,” Moore says. “There could be 10 players in New Country Strings, but the first go-around, there just happened to be four.”

Moore finds his fiddlers from around the world.

A recent cast of New Country Strings included Annette Homann from Germany; Kristina Bauch from Winnipeg, Manitoba; Sarah Bennett from Nashville, Tenn.; and Alicia Enstrom from Topeka, Kan.

Homann came to New York to get a graduate degree at the Manhattan School of Music. “After I graduated I started gigging and teaching, but was not happy,” she says. “I wanted something else. The reason I came to the United States was I didn’t just want to do classical music.”

So she answered an ad placed by “Barrage” for violinists and got the job about three months ago. She’s been playing Bob Wills like a Texas native ever since.

“What we do is more about personality than just about playing the violin,” Homann says. “It’s about the whole picture, which is why I enjoy it so much.”

Dixie’s has a small stage, not enough room for the band and the fiddlers, who do their playing and dancing on the dance floor at the front edge of the stage, barely a bow’s length away from the dancers, who aren’t embarrassed to talk to the musicians while they’re going through their paces.

All of the musicians were looking for something beyond classical music.

“I was tired of the symphony gigs,” says Bennett, who was born and raised in Nashville and began studying violin at age 7. She attended Vanderbilt University and then the New England Conservatory in Boston when she decided to join Barrage.

Enstrom attended Vanderbilt with Bennett and was partly responsible for getting her into “Barrage.”

Bauch was a trained ballet dancer before she became a concert violinist. Combining the violin and dancing enticed her to join the New Country Strings.

“This was a chance to broaden my horizons,” she says.

Because this is an experiment, Moore doesn’t know what will come out of the lab.

The show could grow, with a larger cast as needed. There could be other New Country Strings companies in other venues across the country.

But for now, the fans at Dixie’s are the only ones experiencing the experiment.

“They wanted to create an authentic honky-tonk feel at the saloon,” Moore says. “They wanted something special, something different. We provide a spark, which is what we do best.”

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