By Maureen Ragner
Music across cultures can be an interesting thing to consider, especially when inventive instruments are brought into play as well.
On Sept. 30, a four-member group from the Twin Cities known as Tjärnblom, or “lakewood flower” in Swedish, played a large number of Scandinavian folk tunes in the Trinity Chapel.
Most of the instruments the group used were Scandinavian in origin. One such instrument was the nyckelharpa, a string instrument that has four main strings and twelve resonating strings that can change the sound of the note being played just by the player pressing keys that are on the neck of the instrument. This pushes the strings closer together and can result in some very intricate melodies and harmonies.
“It would be kinda fun to get one of those, actually,” said sophomore Tony Cordes.
The other instrument, a harmonium, is essentially a small, portable foot-pedal organ that operates using bellows. The model that Tjärnblom had also had knee pedals, which controlled the volume of sound that came from the instrument.
Each one of the songs that was played had an overall feel to it as though it was coaxing the listeners to move. Not all of the songs had been created specifically for dancing, either. Two of the selections were different styles of wedding marches.
“If it’s not dance music, it’s supposed to make you want to do something,” said Mary Crimi, one of the two nyckelharpa players of the group.
In fact, during one of the songs, harmonium player Val Eng coaxed a member of the audience–and their guest member from Sweden, Leif Alpsjö–to join her in dancing a waltzwith the song “Flickorna Våra,” or “Our Girls.” He played a number of dancing tunes with them on his nyckelharpa, then played a fiddle tune about a dry summer and a creaking water wheel. He emulated the sound of the water wheel by slowly dragging his bow across the strings, which had been tuned to harmonize with each other in a way that grated across one’s ears.
“You can’t bring fiddles into churches in Sweden because they’re the devil’s instrument,” said Alpsjö.
He explained in the story attached to the song that a fiddler had been called in as a last resort to get a creek flowing again so that the water wheel would turn.
As an encore performance, the group performed “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, which got a number of laughs from the audience. ABBA was a Swedish group, so Tjärnblom playing the song wasn’t a decision completely from left field.
After the concert, there was a reception in the YFAC, where the audience and the players gathered for some refreshments. There was also a spontaneous encore performance by Lief, Crimi and Cheryl Paschke of “Alfred Andersson Polska” on their nyckelharpas. A small number of students ended up dancing to the song as well.
The cultures of other countries–and our own heritage–can oftentimes be something interesting to look back on. Also, the inventive creativeness of other people when it comes to musical instruments can be fascinating, as well–enough that one might even want an instrument of their own.