First week of school

Our course has begun! Everyone was here in time for Wednesday lunch, right on schedule. The rest of Wednesday was orientation, mostly in Swedish but with some of the general info about staff & facilities in English. We opened with a slängpolska demo (Olov on fiddle, Ditte on ‘harpa, Ami and Andreas dancing), and later Ditte and Olov played another tune on ‘harpas — one of my favorites from the concert on Saturday, in fact, so I hope that means we’ll all be playing it soon too.

When we split up into our two courses, we musicians met with Ditte and Olov upstairs in the music room to talk about how the instrumental course will work. It got a little complicated while they were describing to us the details in a pair of schedule documents that only they had copies of so far, but I don’t think I missed any really big pieces of the proceedings. We got some gentle encouragement to stay in Swedish as much as possible to learn faster, and not to let our Swedish classmates switch over to English for us — we are advised to request, “Kan du tala svenska, s’il vous plaît?”

Altogether the instrumental course has 9 nyckelharpa players (several of whom also play fiddle) and 2 fiddlers. The dance course has 6 members. We have folks from Finland, Germany, England, the US (just me & Andrea), and of course Sweden. I’d like to write a little more about who’s here and introduce you to our classmates, but I haven’t talked with everyone yet about this whole blog idea.

Today was our first day of real class, so we finally got to play! We met all morning with Sonia Sahlström — we talked some and listened lots, did some exercises with posture and bow holds, talked about local and upcoming events, learned two tunes and recorded two more as extras. An action-packed session! Then, in the afternoon it was time for us to teach each other some tunes, so we added three more tunes and reviewed the whole collection to date.

After afternoon fika (coffee break, and yes there’s a morning one too), we went for a guided tour walking around Tobo with a local guide. It was a lovely sunny day and he pointed out places related to the local factory (originally an ironworks) and to famous musicians, and told what were probably really interesting stories. I am afraid that even with the translation help of one of our classmates, a whole lot of the content went right past me, but it was a very nice walk.

However, I was very pleased to discover during the morning that Sonia speaks so clearly, and I think must have a lot of practice at choosing simpler words for the benefit of language beginners, that I actually understood large swaths entirely! I just looked up the occasional word in google-translate from my phone as we went, and wasn’t lost at all. But then suddenly there’d be a flicker or something and I would discover that I no longer had any idea what we were talking about. I’m not sure whether that’s because we ventured too far outside my vocabulary, or my brain just got tired of focusing for too many consecutive minutes, or what. But it’s still very encouraging that at least some of the time, I feel like I’m kind of getting the hang of it! Or maybe only when we talk about music and playing nyckelharpa and local people/places I’ve learned about before?

Tomorrow both courses meet together all day to dance!

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