Spring harpa gathering

23/03/2015 in News

Sadly, we can't go ahead with a weekend on 11/12 April. The pub venue is no longer available. Sorry it's taken so long to get back to you all, but these things do take time to organise - especially as we're chasing free venues. Many thanks to Edwin for his invaluable help with this one!
There's a chance we may be able to book something with the Prince of Wales in the autumn.
It's not all doom and gloom... there may be a possible alternative for the weekend 6/7 June in a pretty country pub just outside Chelmsford. Fingers crossed the date doesn't clash with any festivals or bals...
Let me know if you might be interested and I'll pursue the lead.
Chris x


Nyckelharpa weekend 16-17 May in the French Alps

12/03/2015 in News

I thought you might like to know about a nyckelharpa/fiddle weekend (other instruments possible, but contact the organisers first) taking place in the French Alps at Thorens-Glieres, not far from Annecy, on Sat-Sun 16-17 May 2015. The tutors will be Josefina Paulson and Jonas Akerlund. There will be workshops all day Saturday and Sunday morning with a bal on Sunday afternoon, and a concert on Saturday evening in the local village cinema followed by a Swedish film. Further information from Claire Fillard: clairefillard@orange.fr Tel : 04 50 22 80 60
Or I can forward her email to you if you contact me - taniasimon56@gmail.com. If you need help with a bit of French, I can probably assist.

It's a lovely location and a great place to spend a few days walking in the alps before or after the weekend.

by Fiona

‘Harpas at Halsway Manor 2014

29/01/2015 in workshop review

stairsHarpas at Halsway has joined various festivals as a 'must do' entry on our calendar at the start of each year. Having attended all three so far I know each time I would have hated to miss the next one! Right from that moment of driving through the gates into the grounds of Halsway Manor there is that lovely feeling of belonging, homecoming and anticipation, all rolled into one. The surroundings are beautiful, the people very friendly and the music fantastic.

The weekend starts with a meal in the Manor dining room followed by a relaxed evening of session playing and getting to know each other - work starts in earnest on the Saturday morning, although Vicki always gives the complete beginners an initial lesson on the Friday. We have had different ways of splitting the group to accomodate the different ability levels, but everyone has had the choice to work at their own level as well as being stretched! Just the opportunity to play together makes the weekend worthwhile but add into that the new tunes, the input on playing technique and Vicki's enthusiasm and warmth and you have the recipe for success!

MedalsThe days are nicely split into different sessions concentrating on areas such as types of tune, chords, finger exercises, bow technique and looking after the instrument, punctuated by tea and coffee breaks and meals and the opportunity to hear what non playing partners have been enjoying in the local area. On the Saturday evening we have been treated to a brilliant concert each time, which was also attended by some of the locals. In the past we have shared the Manor with the pipers society, so the concert has been pipes and harpas, with many memorable performances from Vicki and Jonny as well as the piping tutors. Last year our group then indulged in the light entertainment of the Harpa Olympics, where events such as the Svingrumpa Marathon caused much hilarity! All were awarded gold medals at the end, (specially made by Vicki using ribbon and chocolate coins!) and the prize of another great tune and dance session.

Harpa-WheelThe Sunday provides lots of opportunities to recap new material and play in parts with rounds or arrangements created by Vicki, and last year we processed across to coffee to serenade the pipers! After a wonderfully tasty Sunday lunch we had a gentle afternoon and finished about three thirty with a devonshire cream tea, our brains stretched to their maximum!
The next one is booked and waiting - it feels very exciting to think about taking over the whole Manor and filling it with harpas - thank you, Vicki, for taking the brave leap!


by Vicki

International Days of the Nyckelharpa

26/01/2015 in workshop review

The 11th International Days of Nyckelharpa - Burg Fürsteneck, somewhere vaguely near Frankfurt
Cost: €330 - €380, includes tuition fees, accomodation and meals

This is a huge residential nyckelharpa course. Seventy nyckelharpa players in the same castle (not a huge castle, more a fortified manor house, but it has a lovely tower). To get to the International Days in time I flew Lufthansa from London and arrived at the airport railway station and met up with the Swedes. I was grateful to have company to help me find my way, but I think I would have been ok in finding my way. The train journey to the castle is around 2 hours and is easy enough, just one change and a taxi ride and you're at the castle.

I was booked as a tutor and as it was my first time at Burg Fürsteneck I was unsure what to expect. Would it be like my Halsway weekends? What was the standard of playing going to be like? Would I have prepared enough material? It's hard to write up about the weekend - there was so much happening and going on that it would be a really long essay!

On the first (Thursday) evening everyone gathers in the main hall and all the tutors get to introduce themselves and play a little. This is where the students all get to make their final choice as to which tutor they're going to spend their time with. Was I petrified? Absolutely. I played safe. My chosen topic for the weekend was British music on the nyckelharpa - I chose to play a couple of well trodden session tunes. I have never ben so scared! Not only were my heroes in the room also playing for the students, but I was in a room with 70 other nyckelharpa players. It was an incredible room to be in.

From this point on the weekend flew past. The first workshop session is on that Thursday night. and you stay with the same group until Sunday morning. There are a two sessions (called short workshops) where you can change tutor and learn something new. It was great for me to teach some tunes to the different groups and get a feel for the differing standards. I taught jigs, reels, slip jigs. I even taught a simple dance. In the evenings there is time to drink beer and session. There was the usual Swedish tune session and I started more traditional British session, but these tunes aren't so well known on the continent yet, but I'm pretty sure this is going to change. The makers take over one room and each display their instruments and talk about them. The concert on the Saturday night is open to the general public and each tutor gets to perform and some ensembles get to perform together. The standard of playing was incredibly high and it was wonderful to see so many different styles and genres represented.

There were eight tutors and students ranged from complete beginners to very advanced. Swedish music, British music, classical music, early music, ensemble music. There really was something for everyone.

I was booked as a tutor, so I can only give a tutor's eye view of the weekend, but I'd certainly love to be a participant and may well try to get to the castle in future years as a student. That won't be next year - I'm back as a tutor again. I'd better head off down to the pub and brush up on more British session tunes!

Laxön Nyckelharpa Course

29/09/2014 in workshop review

viewLaxön nyckelharpa/fiddle course  Älvkarleby, Uppland, Sweden
11-17 August 2014
Teachers: Leif Alpsjö, Edward Anderzon, Pietrus Dilner
Cost: SKR 5,850 (about £500) which includes tuition fees, accommodation, and most of the meals.

This is a residential course on the beautiful island of Laxön and as far as I know happens every year in August – it certainly has taken place each of the four years I’ve been playing the nyckelharpa, but this last summer was the first time I’d made the journey. Peter Webb, my travelling companion, was a veteran, having been the previous year. Another member of Nyckelharpa UK who attended the course this year and the year before was Nana Ogashiwa.

Most of the thirteen students attending the course this year were nyckelharpa players, but there were also a few fiddlers. English, Japanese, German, and Swedish nations were represented – all the teaching was in English. Peter and I had opted not to risk our harpas on the plane as there was an opportunity to rent a harpa for the week. I was able to find one that was identical to the one I have at home, by the same maker (Elov Jansson). Peter was interested in buying a new harpa, so the week gave him plenty of time to make the right choice (which, as is often the case in these matters, turned out to be the first harpa he picked out).

The first day (Monday) is given over to arriving and settling in to the hostel which provides both accommodation and teaching space. After dinner the evening is about getting to know each other, and, of course, having a session! We also made our acquaintance with a word that was to prove of great significance over the course of the week – ‘fika’! If you have been to Sweden you will know all about this. It is a coffee break with added comestibles, which could be cake, or biscuits, or cheese and crispbread. Whatever it involves, it seems it has to happen at least five times a day, not including mealtimes! (I had come prepared with some decaff teabags as I can’t take that much caffeine in one day.)

The course began on Tuesday morning, and the first task was to split the students into groups depending on level. The determining factor was – are you confident you can tune your instrument? The majority of us put our hands up, but a few admitted to being uncertain and so they formed a separate group. There was also a Swedish couple who had recently bought each other fiddles, their first instruments – for their eightieth birthdays! As virtually complete beginners they constituted their own group!

fikaThe week is overseen by Leif, a ‘riksspelman’ (‘national fiddler’) and the man behind nyckelharpa.com, from whom I bought my harpa. Now in his seventies, Leif is a highly respected player and teacher who has written tuition books for the harpa. Alongside him were Edward, an ebullient chap with a great handlebar moustache and a vigorous playing style, and the young Pietrus, who had recently achieved the title of riksspelman at the unusually tender age of 17. Pietrus’s role was officially that of ‘assistant teacher’. There was to be another assistant, Marja, but unfortunately she was hospitalized on the morning the course began and was unable to take any further part. If we needed any proof of the prowess of Leif, Edward, and Pietrus on nyckelharpa it was supplied in spades at a teachers’ concert on the Thursday evening.

Leif’s approach is very much geared towards teaching technique. As he says, anyone can learn a tune any time, so he chose simple and/or familiar tunes (like Polska efter Båtsman Däck) and focused on bow hold, left-hand thumb position, attacking the strings, and getting a good consistent tone mostly with fairly minimal movement of the bow. I found myself having my bow hold virtually completely reconstructed. As a fiddler I was accustomed to placing my pinkie on the bow, but this I was told was quite wrong.

A morning of intense work with Leif was followed by lunch and then an afternoon of teaching from Edward. A great player in his own right, Edward is almost the complete opposite of Leif. He likes to use the whole of the bow with great, dynamic, sawing movements – and yes, he puts his pinkie on the bow. Having just been told not to do this, I was a bit confused! But it goes to show that there are few absolute rules in folk music, and if something works for you then it is good. This was very much Edward’s approach, and he concentrated more on teaching us new tunes and encouraging us to play out with confidence and style. As it happens, I had already begun to feel the benefit of the non-pinkie bow hold and so was determined to stick with it, and now it feels quite natural.

sessionAnd so the days quickly fell into a pattern. Up at 7 to take a walk in the early morning sunshine around the forested island. Then breakfast, lessons with fika breaks, lunch in the nearby restaurant, lessons with more fika, dinner in the hostel, and playing for fun and dancing in the evening (and fika). The island is surrounded by rivers and a reservoir, and the name ‘Laxön’ means ‘Salmon Island’: if you were lucky you could spot salmon leaping from the churning waters by the dam, or herons perched on rocks. The buildings on the island were formerly an army barracks, but have been transformed into hostels, restaurant, café, craft shop, and the like, and all round the island are tourist notices informing the visitor of the local history, in both Swedish and English.

On the Wednesday we were told that we would be performing as a group as part of an open-air concert on the island early on Thursday evening. We would do some tunes as an ensemble, but we could also split into smaller groups to do whatever we liked, and so we started to talk about what we might do. Jokingly, Peter said, ‘And Ed will do a tap dance!’ Equally jokingly, I replied, ‘Not a tap dance, but I could do a morris dance!’ To my surprise this was taken as a serious suggestion, and the next thing I knew I was inventing a dance to perform at the concert. There wasn’t anyone around who knew any morris tunes (shame on you, Peter!), so the solution was to put together something that could be danced to a Swedish tune, and I chose the Gånglåt from Äppelbo as a morris-friendly tune, which Leif would play for me on his nyckelharpa. So at breaktimes between lessons on the Wednesday and Thursday I could be seen outside the hostel developing my routine. I got some curious looks from passers-by as I danced solo, without any music, just the tune in my head. I had brought no bells or whites as I wasn’t expecting to do this, but managed to borrow a couple of hankies from Peter.

On the evening of the performance, as well as playing in the general ensemble Peter and I teamed up to do a short spot as a nyckelharpa (me) and flute (Peter) duet, playing a couple of tunes from Vicki Swan’s ‘24 Tunes in the Swedish Style’. Nana sang a beautiful Japanese song along with her compatriot Kazuhiro. Then as I limbered up for my morris ‘jig’, of course it started raining! I told the audience this was entirely appropriate as morris dancers often have to perform in the rain in England. But the rain was only light and the jig was warmly received! And Leif enjoyed it so much he asked me if I would do it again at the Byss-Calle festival on the Sunday.

Formal lessons continued until Saturday lunchtime, and from then on we were free. A trip was organized to a village (Strömsberg) that is now like an industrial and agricultural museum, wherconcerte you could watch charcoal being made or beer being brewed (and chat to the brewer), or visit the iron foundry museum or the museum of farm equipment which included over 600 elk antlers on display! A very pleasant fika in warm sunshine at the riverside café was the perfect conclusion to the afternoon.

Our last day was centred around the Byss-Calle festival in Älvkerleby. Byss-Calle was a native of the village, and the festival is an annual gathering of musicians and dancers in his honour, organised by Leif. It begins with a church service where nyckelharpa players and fiddlers play at various points. If you were good enough you could join them to play the likes of Eric Sahlström’s ‘Andakten’ or Byss-Calle’s ‘Byggnan’. Neither Peter nor I felt up to this, but Nana joined in, along with a young German called Johanna (who made her own instrument and is currently setting herself up as a professional nyckelharpa maker). The church ceiling is decorated with angels playing various instruments, including a nyckelharpa – the paintings are dated 1503.

After the service the festival goers moved to a field to play a few tunes around the Byss-Calle monument, and then the festival took place in a grassed courtyard surrounded by barns. You can put your name down to do a ten-minute spot and if you play a Byss-Calle tune you get a signed certificate! Peter and I, along with Swedes Susanne and Marianne from the course, did B-C 32 and a couple of other tunes and proudly accepted our certificates!

angelAnd I did the morris jig again. This time, the rain waited until five minutes after I’d finished, and then it lashed down for twenty minutes! As I said to my colleagues, that’s the power of the morris …

We had some lunch, and then wandered around the festival, where in every nook and cranny small groups of musicians could be seen having mini-sessions, with many nyckelharpas present. But all too soon it was time to say our goodbyes and head for Älvkarleby station to take us to Arlanda airport. Peter had made his harpa purchase and was delighted to discover that he could take his new acquisition in its soft case on the SAS flight as hand luggage. (Worth bearing in mind if you are planning a trip to Sweden with nyckelharpa!)

It was a lovely week, with many great memories, and much to work on when I got home. At first I was resistant to the idea of changing my left-hand thumb position, but I have persevered and now it is instinctive and I wonder how I ever played any other way. As well as the fine teaching, special mention must go to Marianne, who cooked the evening meals, and Per-Ulf, who dealt with any requests, including going into the village to find postage stamps! And to Peter, who, as a seasoned campaigner, was kind enough to arrange the flights and guide me through the complexities of air travel. Friendships were formed that will endure, and if it happens again next year I will be hoping to go. Only, this time, I’d better take my bells with me!

Summer 2014

If a Swede invites you to sample the fermented herring, I suggest you politely decline.

by admin

Autumnal NyckelNews

25/09/2014 in News

It's been another great year for the nyckelharpa in the UK. Our numbers continue to swell. So here is some news from the grapevine...

Autumn NyckelMoot 2014
Next weekend (4/5 October) there's a freebie weekend of DIY music making for nyckelharpa players at the Prince of Wales pub in Shippon, Oxon. It's a lovely rural pub with good beer and home-cooked food. The weekend kicks off at noon on Saturday and finishes at 4pm on Sunday. There's free camping in the field opposite and hard standing for camper vans. Come and teach your favourite tunes or learn some new ones. Then join in the Saturday night session from 7pm. All instruments welcome. As well as Scandi tunes, we'll be playing French, English, Scottish and Galician, anything goes… Details on the calendar.

International Days of Nyckelharpa
This is the biggest nyckelharpa weekend (probably in the world) and usually has somewhere between 70 - 90 nyckelharpa players from all over the globe. It takes place in Germany every year and is now in its 11th year. This year Vicki is one of the tutors teaching British tunes. There'll be a report with pictures! Visit the website.

'Harpas at Halsway - Nyckelharpa Festival
This weekend is building nicely, for two years it's been fully subscribed and next year we're expanding! 2015 is going to be an amazing year where we get to take over the whole manor.  A brand new date slightly earlier in the year, which means it'll be warmer  and nicer for camping! First weekend in September - 4th - 6th September 2015. There'll be three tutors of very different styles and lots going on so this means that we need as many people as possible to go along. Visit the website for details. Of course we've not had this years course yet but bookings are open for 2015.

Nine Dais Wonder
This wonderful show has dates between now and Christmas and features plenty of nyckelharpa, so check out their gig list. Clare is also going to be presenting another radio programme on BBC radio 3 in November, although not specifically nyckelharpa based it certainly will feature, so watch this space and listen in!

Nyckelharpa Four a Day
Vicki has been busy writing some daily exercises to help the budding nyckelharpa player with their technique. Currently aimed at the beginner there are plans for a more advanced section. Click here to visit the exercises.

Scandinavian Fiddle Tunes
A book/CD perfect for the nyckelharpa put together by Vicki. Click Here for details and to order your copy.

Have you got an event, a book, a website or anything that you'd like to report on? Just drop us a line and we'll post it up!

by admin

Spring News

27/02/2014 in News


It's been a long and dark winter, but the flowers are starting to spring in the garden and exciting things are happening in the nyckelharpa world here in the UK.

• After  Clare Salaman's appearance on Midweek a couple of weeks back she is presenting the Early Music show on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 2nd March. The show is dedicated entirely to the nyckelharpa. You can listen online for seven days after broadcast - Click here!

• Vicki Swan had an article published in the European String Teachers Asociation Magazine. Have a sneaky look at it here!
Booking is now open for the Halsway Manor Weekend on the 31st October - 2nd November 2014. Dates are also up for Halsway 2015. This is set to be a much larger weekend taking over the entire building with (hopefully) three tutors. The more people that are signed up early the better the chances are of three tutors!

• If you've found it hard to get hold of a case we now have our very own cases from the UK. Pete Rigg has cases for sale. Semi-rigid, they've got back straps and a lovely little protective sock for the bow.

There is plenty going on around the country, check out the gig lists* for these groups touring the country:

Bright Season (with Ella Sprung)
Nine Dais Wonder (with Clare Salaman)
Gavin Marwick Journeyman (with Ruth Morris)
Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer (with Vicki Swan)

*(if you're in a group and would like to be listed, drop us a line with a link to your gig list!)

If you have some news you'd like to share with the nyckelharpa scene, drop us a line!

by admin

Autumn News

30/08/2013 in News

The summer was great. Lots of nyckelharpa action over the country, new people taking up the instrument, welcome! Two major events are planned in the autumn.

The Third National Nyckelmoot is taking place in Oxford from Saturday 28th to Sunday 29th September. It's a free DIY weekend for nyckelharpa players. There should be a session on the Saturday evening open to all instruments. It takes place at the Prince of Wales Pub, 60 Barrow Road, Shippon, Abingdon, OX13 6JQ. For more details - click here!

The Second Nyckelharpas at Halsway is taking place at Halsway Manor from 1st - 3rd November. This is a full-on, fun packed workshop weekend for beginners as well as more experienced players.  Arrive from 4pm Friday and finishes 5pm Sunday. For more details - click here!

In the mean time - keep harping on!

by admin

Peter Puma Hedlund in the UK

29/01/2013 in News

Nyckelharpa Workshop by Peter Hedlund
Tuesday 26th March 2013 : 11:30 - 17:30

Peter Puma Hedlund is considered Sweden’s leading traditional player of the modern chromatic nyckelharpa, having won the title World Champion twice, in 1992 and 2000. He earned the title Riksspelman – Fiddler of the Realm – while still in his teens (1975). Peter and his nyckelharpa are a commanding presence whilst in the act of bringing forth music. Pure magic. His music is a powerful example of continuation – an unbroken thread linking past, present and future.

The great news is that Peter is over from Sweden on his first trip to perform in the UK. He's going to give a nyckelharpa workshop in London. The workshop will be aimed at nyckelharpas, but any chromatic instrument may attend.

Book your place now - contact Vicki: Click Here

The pub does great food and drink and we've promised the landlord that in exchange for a good deal on the room we will eat there (as much as possible).

Tuesday 26th March

11:30 - 17:30
Cost £30
Venue: The Horseshoe, 26 Melior Street London, Greater London SE1 3QP

The pub does great food and drink and we've promised the landlord that in exchange for a good deal on the room we will eat there (as much as possible).

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by admin

That was 2012

20/12/2012 in News

An overdue update for 2012!  It's been a great first year with two national meets, one in Essex and one in Oxford.  The first Nyckelharpas at Halsway weekend happened and this website was formed!  Hopefully 2013 will be even better!  Already we have some exciting events being planned for 2013:

Peter Hedlund is over from Sweden in March, concerts and workshops are being planned.  Get in touch if you'd like to host a house concert or book your own private lesson with him.

The second Nyckelharpas at Halsway weekend has been booked in, so get your name onto the list.  As before there are some spaces for people who wish to borrow an instrument.

Maybe next year we'll get our first proper newsletter out!
Have a great Christmas celebration and hope to meet everyone somewhere in the country soon!