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Leif Rygg & Sjur Helgeland Print E-mail

During 2007 and 2008, I have had the honour of working with a gentleman from Voss, Norway named Leif Rygg on a special project celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Norwegian fiddle legend Sjur Helgeland.  One album and five performances later, this project has been an education for me with one of the biggest names in Norwegian fiddling.

Sjur Helgeland (1858-1924) was a Norwegian fiddler who not only won many contests in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but played for many weddings, dances and other social occasions between the locations of Voss and Bergen, Norway.  He was a contemporary of famous Norwegian classical composer Edvard Grieg and received many compliments from Grieg on his fiddling.  Sjur played hardanger fiddle, did some composing and enjoyed playing Norwegian hardanger fiddle tunes (sometimes known as "bygdedans") that were more for listening and "gammaldans" tunes (melodic old time fiddle tunes) for everyone.

Leif Rygg is a past Norwegian national fiddle champion, an active member of Voss Spelmannslag and a recording artist.  He is also an avid researcher of the Norwegian hardanger fiddle tradition, which led to me becoming a part of a dual CD project that was recorded in 2007 and was released March 1, 2008.  In his research, Leif discovered that Sjur Helgeland was one of a limited number of Norwegian fiddlers that used piano accompaniment in performance.  But when Leif asked about a pianist that would be available for the recording session to accurately represent the history of Sjur's performance practices, he spoke with two-time Norwegian national fiddle champion Håkon Høgemo (who teaches hardanger fiddle to our kids) and found out that I was available. I was also later told that use of the piano in the Norwegian fiddle tradtion has been seldom used. To a Canadian traditional folk musician, it sounded strange to me to hear this, but little did I realize that I would give me my second recording session in Norway and be able to enjoy being part of five concerts from January to October 2008 between Voss and Bergen, the route that Sjur Helgeland often took for his playing engagements.

My accompanying on five tunes has been placed as the opening sections of CD #2 of a dual CD set called "Budeiene på Vikefjell" (The Milk Maids of Vik Mountain) that has the first CD with tunes for your listening pleasure and the second CD containing dance tunes.

Sjur Helgeland played a lively fiddle that brought a strong musical reputation with it.  Leif Rygg has shown that same spirit in his playing, re-creating much of the same spirit and atmosphere shown in Sjur's music every time I have heard him play and when I hear his recordings.  In four of the five shows, old time dances have followed and I was invited by Leif and Voss Spelmannslag to play portions of the dance with them in January, March and October. The remaining concert was part of the Colombi Egg Folkemusikk concert series in Bergen this past September 8th with Leif, Håkon Høgemo and Voss fiddler Einar Mølsnes sharing the stage with their Sjur Helgeland repertoire.  I consider myself fortunate to be able to share in this re-creation of Sjur's music and be given a wider platform for my work here in Norway as a result.  Thank you, Leif, Håkon, Einar and all the members of Voss Spellmannslag for having me be part of this special celebration of Sjur Helgeland and his music.