There are many Scandinavian festivals, featuring food, dance and music, but in my opinion the Nisswa-stämman is the best Scandinavian music festival. It brought together the largest concentration of Scandinavian musicians I had ever seen in North America.
The festival brings in some of the very best musicians from Scandinavia, so the Friday before the actual festival, these musicians gave workshops to the American Scandinavian music enthusiasts attending. The workshop with Maarit Kyllönen was excellent. She is a professional violinist, a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, who plays Finnish folk music at a very high level. She is also a patient and articulate teacher. I truly enjoyed her instruction!
The opening concert, held in the cultural hall of a large Lutheran Church, included outstanding musicians from the United States, particularly the upper midwest, as well as the many Scandinavian masters. All the performances were first rate! The concert was followed by a dance at nearby Pequot Lakes, where many of the same great musicians provided live music for Scandinavian dancing.
Saturday began with a musician's parade through the village of Nisswa, to the Pioneer Village. All musicians were invited to join in the parade and in the "Allspel" at the beginning and end of the festival. This gave a visitor, such as me, a chance to play a few tunes with the locals and the outstanding guest musicians from Scandinavia. It was a thrill to play with such a great assembly of Scandinavian musicians.
The actual festival has continuous music for nearly six hours on five different stages. There is plenty of variety, and the opportunity to see and hear these musicians up close and personal. The only drawback is that you can't see every performance! Though the festival lasts just that one day, it will give the Scandinavian music enthusiast a fix that can last until the next year. I would definitely return and attend every year, if I could.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
I was going to send you a letter anyway in regards to
this very amazing event. I have heard about it for years from
you and some friends that have attended. I was finally able to
make some time to head up north and have a fabulous time. In a
nutshell, I felt as if I had traveled to Scandinavia. Having lived
in Sweden for 4.5 months in the fall of 2000, I had a very special
opportunity to learn about the music and dance at Malungs Folkhögskola.
In addition to that fine experience, I went to local festivals,
spent time with musicians from other areas of the country and
met some long lost distant relatives near Växjö.
Coming to this festival transported me back to Scandinavia.
Mary Allsopp, at one point during the weekend, said that she forgot
which country she was in for a moment or two! I have attended
several festival venues in the States and many workshop venues
as well. While all of those experiences were fabulous in one way
or another, none has given me such a strong feeling of actually
being in Sweden or Norway. The setting is certainly an important
part of the mix. The workshops and the festival itself were held
on the grounds of 'Pioneer Village' which resembled an open air
museum park in Sweden or Norway. The log buildings, and tall pine
trees were perfect.
The activities and performances were truly amazing. First
of all I greatly appreciated the music workshop opportunities.
I immersed myself in some Swedish fiddle music from Småland.
I spent some time with Magnus when I was in Sweden and was so
pleased that I could see him again and learn some new tunes from
him. I was equally impressed with Anders Svensson. I really wish
that there was another day of workshop opportunities, at this
relaxed pace. The Friday evening concert was amazing, a potpourri
of the tremendous number of high quality musicians that participated
in this event. I must emphasize my statement "high quality."
The quantity of the high quality musicians was fantastic. The
location in the church was also nice.
By Saturday evening I felt as if I had been away from
home for at least three weeks. The pace was very reasonable -
I just wish that it went on for another day!!! I actually very
much liked the schedule. I was able to see most of the musicians
and some that I really liked, twice. Having five venues happening
at the same time worked out well. They were spread out enough
so that there was no interference and with enough space for folks
to visit or play some tunes together. The dance workshops were
quite the treat!
The two evening dance parties were excellent, despite
having to drive a few miles for the Friday evening dance. It gave
me an opportunity to catch my breath, dance some, visit with friends
and to listen to more fabulous music. I was impressed that both
dances were well attended and that a large proportion of folks
were participating. I had a fabulous time at the Saturday evening
dance. The music was phenomenal. The musician scheduling worked
very well in my opinion. Every one stuck to the schedule and between
sets, there was a filler musician that played a couple of tunes
while the other musicians were getting set up. I think that this
made the evening flow very well!
The festival was special because it was not overrun with
commercial interests. I remember the music kiosk (an excellent
opportunity to get some fine recordings) and did not pay attention
to the other booths - perhaps there was an info booth and something
else. This lack of commercial booths kept the focus on the rich
music and dance traditions of Scandinavia. It also gave folks
a chance to just visit, hang out, and not be bombarded by low
quality junk food, junky products, etc. I also liked the dance
floor that was set up next to the main stage. You also produced
a very good program. It was organized and contained appropriate
and informative biographical information.
I thought that I was going to be overloaded (well I was
in a very good way), but I must say that everything went at a
very good pace and there was plenty of time to get from here to
there and to rest some. The smörgåsbord was excellent.
That meal really hit the spot.
I am appreciative of your efforts to keep the costs to
a minimum for the festival attendees and for those of us that
benefited from the workshops.
As far as improvements are concerned - hard to suggest things when it is going so well. Extending the workshop time would be nice, but extending the festival another day would also be great.
Byron Wiley, Lawrence, KS