About Karen Torkelson Solgård
Karen Torkelson Solgård plays the Norwegian hardingfele "Hardanger fiddle" in the traditional way, telling stories and singing songs connected to the fiddle tunes. She performs the familiar waltz, Reinlendar, and polka, and the lesser-known village dance music from deep in the mountains of Norway. Some listeners compare the constant drone of the hardingfele's sympathetic strings to bagpipes. The music is lively with fast moving rhythms, and foot tapping is an integral part of the tunes. The audience gets involved by singing, clapping, and dancing. Karen performs for festivals, school programs, and workshops, elderhostel classes, libraries, banquets, weddings, and concerts. Her performances include centuries-old dance tunes from the villages of Norway, as well as more recent gammeldans pieces that are popular in Norwegian American communities.
Karen learned Norwegian folk songs from her mother and grandmother. A favorite memory is the family Saturday-night song fests on the farm, singing, playing and dancing in the living room. Karen trained and worked as a cellist, immersed in classical music, traveled the world, and almost forgot her traditional roots. And then, a relic "Norwegian violin" in the attic piqued her curiosity and started her on a path to explore this forgotten music of the old country. Nearly 20 years ago, Karen traveled to Norway where she heard Hardanger fiddle played by Norwegian masters for the first time and began serious study of the instrument.
The Hardanger fiddle, often called the national instrument of Norway, is similar in shape to a violin. Its sound, however, is quite distinctive. The hardingfele has four or five additional strings that run beneath its fingerboard. When the fiddle is played, these strings echo and create a rich "drone" sound. These instruments are often elaborately decorated, with ornamental peg boxes in human or animal shapes, as well as detailed ink work and inlay. In Norway, the Hardanger fiddle has been enormously popular since at least the middle of the 18th century. In the United States, these instruments were played by many Norwegian immigrants and in the hands of committed players, the instrument is undergoing a revival. Karen Solgård hopes to reconnect younger Norwegian Americans with the hardingfele. In addition, she feels that because of historical connections with Baroque and Renaissance music, and because of the rising interest in world music, diverse audiences should have an interest in the hardingfele.
Karen has studied playing technique over the past 15 years by traveling to Norway, attending fiddle workshops in America with Norwegian master performers, and working from tapes and transcriptions. Through a Minnesota State Arts Board Apprenticeship grant, she studied the Vestland regional tradition with Andrea Een, a professor at St. Olaf College. Karen also was fortunate to study the Valdres tradition with Olav Hegge and the Telemark tradition with Vidar Lande, two Norwegian fiddlers who spent extensive time in the Twin Cities. Karen received a Jerome Foundation Travel Study grant to study with local master fiddler, Tarjei Romtveit of Vinje, Telemark, Norway, the community of her ancestors. She how has a repertoire of hundreds of tunes. Most of these are in the old traditional style of each local community, called bygdedans "village or community dance". These include springars "running dances", gangar "walking dances", and halling "a flashy male dance style". In addition, she performs bridal marches and wedding tunes, as well as the old-time styles such as vals, reinlender/schottische, polka, and mazurka, that are popular among Norwegian American audiences.
The Hardanger fiddle is a challenging instrument to play. Many Norwegian Americans treasure it as a symbol, but only a few have dedicated themselves to mastering this tradition. As a remedy, several years ago, Karen helped to start the Twin Cities Hardingfelelag "fiddler club", one of only two regional clubs in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to this instrument. She plays at many Norwegian American festivals and events, and at Scandinavian dances in the Twin Cities area. She also conducts workshops, performs in schools, and teaches Elderhostel classes. In her performances and classes, she tells stories and sings songs connected with the fiddle tunes, and encourages the audience to participate by singing, clapping, and dancing along with the music.
About the Norse Fiddle at the Wedding disk
"Norse Fiddle at the Wedding" is sweet listening, as well as a source for the wedding couple choosing music for their own celebration. The tunes--selected, arranged and composed with the American wedding in mind--do not always follow Norwegian conventions. For instance, Norwegian Hardanger fiddle music may sound moody and melancholy, whereas American couples look for a happy upbeat event. Karen's tempos and tune choices take those tastes into consideration.
This music disk is the result of thirty years of playing for weddings. Karen Torkelson Solgård regularly encounters couples who want an element of the wedding to acknowledge their national origin, even when everything else is characteristic of an "American" ceremony. This CD is a reflection of the wedding couples who bring creativity and thoughtfulness to their wedding day preparations. Karen's arrangements and compositions are a result of their requests.
"Karen's creative touch in forging an American Hardanger fiddle style is evident in her version of the Bridal March from Vang in which she sings a Bible passage from I Corinthians, Bestemor's Waltz in the style of Pachelbel Canon and two versions of Ole Bull's beloved Herding Girl's Sunday." -Hardanger Fiddle Association of America's "Sound Post"
Historically, Norwegian country weddings were elaborate affairs that lasted up to a week. Music of the Hardanger fiddle (called hardingfele in Norwegian) featured prominently at each point in the festivities, beginning with the initial church procession from the bride's home to the feasting and dancing afterwards.
Whether planning a wedding or not, you'll love the haunting sound of the Hardanger fiddle, Norway's national instrument. The drone of its extra resonating strings--four or five of which are strung under the fingerboard and cannot be touched by the bow--create a trancelike effect. Some tunes date back to medieval times. It even looks medieval. Instead of a scroll, as on a violin, a lion's head sits at the top of the peg box and the instrument is decorated with black ink flowers and mother-of-pearl inlay. The music swirls with flourishes and ornaments in ornate decoration of the melody and harmony notes.
A companion wedding sheet music book for Hardanger fiddle or violin is available is also available from NorseAmerica.
"Norse Fiddle at the Wedding" is a MUST-HAVE for your collection." - Loretta Kelley
"For a Norwegian-American couple searching for traditional music for their wedding, this is an extremely valuable and unique resource. Very carefully thought out and designed to be accessible for those with no previous exposure to Norwegian traditional music." -Mary
"I love your music. I listen to your CD ALL the time. You are wonderful! Unique Niche in the Hardanger Fiddle World" - Hardanger Fiddle Association of America "Sound Post"
Karen has found a truly unique niche in the Hardanger fiddle world. I really admire the time, thought and study she has put into her work. We love the sound of the Hardanger fiddle and Karen does it proud." Bill Laber
"My wife is from Bergen, Norway and always loved the traditions of her home country. Since our daughter will be getting married in a few weeks, this CD is perfect for the pre ceremony, bridal party coming down the isle, the bridal march to the alter, and even the cocktail party just after the ceremony. I know it will be a big hit with all our Sons of Norway guests and others as well." -Signe
This cd evokes the sounds I heard when a relative played the Hardanger fiddle when he came to visit. The Saturday Waltz is from that time. I think the sentiment "Love all, owe no-one, be free, that's the thing" is so true and I like the neat Pachelbel Cannon style setting. Good choices for weddings are on this cd. Rich and elegant texture of melodies with toe-tapping rhythym." -Kristina Gray
1 Telemark Bridal March ......2:24
2 Girl with the Farm ......2:17
3 I Corinthians 13:4-8 / Valdres Bridal March ......2:16
4 Now It Is Done ......1:28
5 Lohengrin Bridal March Medley ......4:26
6 Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring / Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee ......3:18
7 Herding Girl's Sunday (vocal) ......3:27
8 Nordfjord Bridal March ......2:02
9 Myllarguten's Bridal March ......3:03
10 Ancient Bridal Tune from Sogn ......2:18
11 Three Fiskestigen Bridal Marches ......5:51
12 Bestemor's Waltz in Pachelbel Canon style ......3:14
13 Hallingdal Traveling Tune ......1:33
14 Trøndelag Bridal Waltz ......1:32
15 Saturday Waltz ......2:10
16 Herding Girl's Sunday (fiddle) ......1:40