Sharing Norwegian traditions: Unni Boksasp Ensemble traveled from Norway to Red Wing
The Unni Boksasp Ensemble from Norway toured Red Wing March 25-30 in partnership with the Sheldon Theatre. The four-member ensemble played traditional folk music at a variety of Red Wing locations, starting at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing at ending at Minnesota State College Southeast before the final performance at the Sheldon Theatre on Saturday, March 30.
When the four were not setting up, tearing down or performing, they stayed at the Anderson Center house.
The ensemble plays a variety of instruments, some that are traditional in Norway and others that have been introduced in the last few decades.
One traditional instrument is the hardanger fiddle. This instrument has the shape of a violin. However, instead of four strings, it has eight or nine; four for the musician to play on and four or five that run below the fingerboard and vibrate as music is played. This gives the music a louder, more vibrant sound.
The hardanger fiddle also has a flat bridge to make it easier for the musician to play more than one string at a time, this is called "double-stopping." The bridge is a small piece of wood that holds the strings up from resting on the instrument. On violins, it is curved. Violinists can double-stop with a curved bridge, but it is much easier to do when all of the strings are parallel.
The most noticeable difference between a hardanger fiddle and a violin is the decoration on the Norwegian instrument. It is covered in mother of pearl, floral designs and the scroll, the top part of the instrument, is often carved into the likeness or animal.
Guro Kvifte Nesheim, the hardanger fiddler in the ensemble, has a lion carved on her instrument.
Another traditional instrument is the harpeleik (also known as a zither). Unni Boksasp sang a couple of songs throughout the week with the accompaniment of only the harpeleik. According to Boksasp, Norwegian folk songs were often sung solo with only a harpeleik as accompaniment.
Drums in Norway were used to keep the beat in the military before they transitioned to being used in music, according to Boksasp. The ensemble's drummer, Kenneth Ekornes, therefore did not have a traditional Norwegian drum set. Instead, he had a collection of drums and rhythmic instruments from around the world. Ekornes buys an instrument from each country that he visits. So, his set included a tin hand drum, dried goat hooves, cocoons, dried pods, and, for when he gets homesick for Norway, goat bells.
While sharing the traditional folk songs of Norway, the ensemble also shared a little of the culture and memories from their home country.
Guitarist Gjermund Silset told the crowd at Deer Crest that in northwestern Norway where he grew up the autumn brings thunderstorms. Often, a storm causes the lake near his house to rise and sometimes flow into the house.
The morning after a heavy rain, his mother could collect fish that had washed onto shore to cook for dinner. Silset joked that when he lay in bed at night listening to the rain and thunder, he knew what he would have for dinner the following day.
Now that the band had completed their tour of Red Wing, they will spend two weeks in the Dakotas before returning to Norway.