Notes from Norway!

Well, actually, the musical notes are from Sweden! But they have been sent in by Bryony Harris, who lives in Norway. Bryony and I were very actively involved in the British folk music revival of the 1970s, and now, in our later lives, have both joined other musical cultures. As well as two great tunes, Bryony has given us some comprehensive notes about them, which I quote below. Here’s the first – Donats glömda polska:


And the second – Johan vals:


Bryony writes:

. . . During lockdown here in Norway I have had plenty of opportunity to learn some new tunes on both fiddle and whistle. Here are a couple of them, from the Swedish tradition. Although they are actually fiddle tunes, I don’t ever feel truly confident playing my fiddle (taken up very late in life) on my own – so you will have to make do with the whistle!

In true Swedish tradition one always introduces a tune naming the fiddler whose playing one has learnt the tune from. I have learnt these 2 tunes from the playing of the excellent Swedish trio, Björnlert Hedin Pekkari who play music from Southern Sweden (look for them on Spotify and Youtube).  They play fiddle and viol d’amore, nyckelharpa and double row melodeon. If you don’t know the nyckelharpa, look it up. It looks like a cross between a fiddle and a crocodile and sounds wonderful.

[Editor: I couldn’t resist putting a picture of a nyckelharpa (courtesy Bengt Nyman from Vaxholm) at the top of this post. It so exactly fits Bryony’s description!]

The first tune is Donats glömda polska, which literally means the Forgotten Donat Polska (the Swedish ‘polska’ is not to be confused with ‘polka’ which is quite different). They have the tune from the notebooks of the Swedish musician and composer, Sven Donat (1755-1815).  Here is a video of Johan Hedin playing this tune on the nyckelharpa and explaining how it got its name . . .

. . . The second tune is called Johan vals (waltz) also from Björnlert Hedin Pekkari. I’m afraid I can’t find anything about it, but it’s another beautiful tune. Here is the waltz played by Pelle Björnlert, Johan Hedin and Erik Pekkari . . .

Many thanks, Bryony, for broadening our horizons! In the past, Ballydehob has had musical visitors from Scandinavia during the annual Fastnet Maritime and Folk Festival, which normally takes place in June. Sadly, this year’s festival has had to be cancelled because of the Coronavirus restrictions.

Let’s Get to The Music

Levis workshop group

Levis’s Corner Bar, Ballydehob – preparing for Wran Day 2019. Photo by Pól Ó Colmáin

It’s time to share the music! And the musicians (although you are all welcome to contribute – wherever in the world you come from). Don’t forget to tell us something about yourselves. First up: a little documentary well worth watching (note – any text in grey on this site will take you to a live link if you click on it), but who do think the young singer is…?

Of course! You’d recognise that high collar, bow tie and velvet jacket anywhere: it’s Dick Miles, now chief-of-staff of our Ballydehob sessions! This video was made a good few years ago, in the 1980s. And that’s when I first came across Dick, and the New Mexborough Concertina Quartet – at the Kendal Folk Festival, I think. Then, my wife Bryony and I were running a travelling shop which visited many of the UK festivals during the summers of the late seventies and early eighties. We sold books, records and musical instruments, and got to hear – and meet – many of the ‘folk’ stars of the day.

English concs

A selection of ‘English’ concertinas

Dick was the ‘frontman’ and principal vocalist for the Concertina Quartet, which was inspired by a concertina band which had been active in Yorkshire well into the twentieth century. In fact, some of the original band members were still around when the Quartet started to tour. Concertina bands were popular, playing music in harmonies often taken from brass band repertoires. The instruments were generally ‘English Concertinas’, as opposed to ‘Anglo’ or ‘Duet’ types. If you want to know more about concertinas, have a look at this post over on Roaringwater Journal. Now, here’s a track from the New Mexborough Concertina Quartet: I love the rich sounds coming out of those instruments! This is titled ‘Beauties of Ireland’ and is a rendering of Cuishlin Ma Chree / The Harp That Once Through Tara’s Hall and The Legacy:


Dick moved to Ireland in 1990 and has made his living from playing and singing in folk clubs, sessions and festivals ever since. He also founded and runs the annual Fastnet Maritime and Folk Festival, based in Ballydehob every summer.

Dick and Martin Maritime

Dick Miles and Martin Carthy in Levis’ Corner Bar, Maritime Festival 2018