If the Northern Lights played the fiddle

The text says: "A Listening tune should be like a wonderful day where everything is as fresh and clean as when the Shaper shaped it."

Today we went to the Santa Clara Valley Fiddlers Association to hear fiddler Sarah Kirton play her hardingfele. It was sheer magic.

The hardingfele, or hardanger fiddle, is a traditional instrument of Norway. It’s got 4 strings stretched across the top of the instrument, like a regular fiddle, but beneath those strings are 4 more strings that buzz and moan in sympathy when the top strings are played. The music is other-worldly. When I hear it, I think of ice goddesses, snow fields, midnight suns, birch trees in brilliant green meadows.

If the northern lights played music, it would be on the hardingfele.

In the Bay Area we gab ceaselessly about diversity, and yet, most people only really listen to music presented to them by mainstream radio; they don’t know that there is a whole world of music out there that isn’t just Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber.  It’s the musical equivalent of eating at only McDonalds when you live 2 blocks from a wonderful street where every restaurant serves food from a different country . If you never go down that street, you never even know that there are other foods.

If you want to taste some Norwegian hardingele music, you might start at the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America. There are some sound files to give you an idea of what this wonderful and mysterious music sounds like.  And there’s a radio show about the fiddle (Sarah’s in it!) here.

And you might want to explore some of the fabulous musical menus that the world has to offer. Who knows? There might be a hardingele fiddler living right next door to you!

The dreadful ghost

A comment by a friend reminded me of a song I’ve sung for years; The Dreadful Ghost. It’s a beautiful, spooky song of ghostly revenge. It’s a typical girl meets boy, boy leaves girls when she gets in trouble. But in this story, she comes back from her grave and gets him. Gets him good.

I fell in love with the song “The Dreadful Ghost” 11 years ago when I heard Debra Cowan sing it at a session in Boston. It’s not very well known; only a few singers have covered it. I eventually learned it from Dark Ships in the Forest by John Roberts & Tony Barrand, but the version I heard Debra sing is still my favorite.

I wish I could find the whole song somewhere to link to this blog. But here are the lyrics to The Dreadful Ghost, courtesy of Golden Hind Music. If you like old fashioned folk music of the English persuasion, I highly recommend you check them out.

Addendum: Last night Debra sent me a link to this song.

Thanks Debra!