Manx-Norwegian song and fiddle collaboration

Manx-Norwegian song and fiddle collaboration

This February, myself and Manx fiddle player Tom Callister (Barrule; Jamie Smith’s Mabon) travelled to Voss in Western Norway to begin a musical exchange with two Norwegian traditional musicians – Erlend Apneseth and Margit Myhr.

The ongoing collaborative project, which is being funded by the Manx Heritage Foundation, focuses upon Norwegian and Manx fiddle and vocal music; instruments which are central to the traditional music of both nations. The aim of our visit in February was to share, explore and arrange music from both traditions.

On our first morning in Norway, Tom and I left the Bergen Hostel ready to start our journey to Voss. Our first challenge was to locate the train station. Leisurely walking turned into hurried dashing after Tom turned the map I was ‘reading’ the right-way up and suggested we walk in the other direction. From then on, Tom’s navigational skills were trusted implicitly! Two hours later we began work with Margit and Erlend at the Ole Bull Akademiet in Voss. The OBA, affiliated with the Grieg Institute at the University of Bergen, is one of only three establishments in Norway where it is possible to study Norwegian folk music at Bachelor degree level.

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 seem 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: love, nature, occasionally weaving both Norwegian and Manx melodies together. The languages of the songs proved to be little barrier and time passed very quickly as we were totally absorbed in singing together. Tom, Erlend, Margit and I later worked together to arrange songs with two fiddles providing rhythmic and harmonic accompaniment; this is quite conventional in Norwegian folk music.

All four of us had a great rapport personally and musically, and we found that our music-making hours, though numerous, passed far too quickly.

Margit and Erlend are travelling over to the Isle of Man in November 2013, where we will continue collaborative work. Stay tuned for details of our forthcoming concerts, recordings and song/fiddle workshops…