Local Manx musicians Ruth Keggin and Tom Callister travelled to Norway recently, with funding from the Manx Heritage Foundation, to exchange fiddle and vocal music, and to meet Hardanger fiddler Erlend Apneseth and singer Margit Myhr.
Joining their fellow musicians at Ole Bull Akademiet, situated in Voss in western Norway, the aim of this visit was to share, explore and arrange music from both traditions, in an informal setting, providing an opportunity to learn more about each country’s unique traditional style.
The Ole Bull Akademiet is affiliated with the Grieg Institute at the University of Bergen, and is one of only three establishments in Norway where it’s possible to study Norwegian folk music at Bachelor degree level. This was a return trip for Ruth who had previously visited in 2009 as part of her research for a BA degree in music.
Erlend is currently one of the top young Hardanger-fiddle players in Norway and after years performing folk music in competitions and concerts has begun to explore contemporary and improvisational performance alongside traditional music. Having received the Grappa debutant award in 2012 Erlend will be releasing his debut album later this year. Meanwhile, Margit who has sung since childhood, also dances and plays the Hardanger-fiddle, together with the langeleik, also closely associated with Norway, and the lyre.
Language wasn’t a barrier as Ruth explained:
Margit began by teaching me Hallings and Springars – songs which, like the Scottish puirt à beul, are highly rhythmic, and can be used to accompany dancing. Some of the dance songs used lyrics while others used meaningless vocables. The act of singing vocables is called ‘tralling’ and is comparable with Irish lilting, although Norwegians tend to use more rounded ‘ooh’ sounds, which are produced further forward in the mouth. The two of us also shared lullabies and songs with common themes, occasionally weaving both Norwegian and Manx melodies together.
However, Tom and Erlend soon found that traditional fiddle techniques from each other’s country were more complex than they imagined, and that from a Manx perspective the shape of the Norwegian melody was altogether different.
Tom Callister, who has long been revered for his prowess with the fiddle both on the Isle of Man and beyond these shores, performs with new ‘trad power trio’ Barrule and is about to release his debut album, whilst Ruth Keggin represented the Isle of Man at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient during 2012, where she opened the Nuits Interceltiques to packed audiences of up to 12,000 people in the Stade du Moustoir (televised by France 3). She is currently working on material with a double bassist and guitarist.
Valerie Caine © October 2013
(Courtesy of Manx Tails)