From the Library: Luciafest

In cel­e­bra­tion of St Lucy’s Day, Decem­ber 13, From the Library marks a Swedish cus­tom dat­ing to the late 18th cen­tu­ry that has spread through­out Scan­di­navia. The hol­i­day tra­di­tion­al­ly includes the eldest daugh­ter in a fam­i­ly, robed in white, bring­ing cof­fee and saf­fron buns called lussekatt to her par­ents while wear­ing a crown of (lit!) can­dles. (At left: Lucia, 1908, by Carl Lars­son.) Mod­ern pub­lic pro­ces­sions of young women and girls are led by an elect­ed Lucia and include boys. The Neapoli­tan song “San­ta Lucia” is sung, with dif­fer­ent, nation­al vari­a­tions of the words. Among today’s tra­di­tion­al music you will hear humor­ous and unortho­dox ver­sions of sea­son­al nordic music by an Amer­i­can radio per­son­al­i­ty.

Most of this pro­gram’s selec­tions, how­ev­er, will be instru­men­tal tunes from Swe­den and Nor­way with a some­times hyp­not­ic qual­i­ty, attrib­ut­able to two fac­tors: the instru­ments used and the orig­i­nal pur­pose of the music.

nyckelharpa photo by Olov JohanssonThe fid­dle is the most com­mon instru­ment used, but there are two region­al vari­a­tions you will hear: the nyck­el­harpa, a keyed fid­dle from Swe­den (left, pho­to by Olov Johans­son); and the hard­ingfele, or Hardan­ger fid­dle from Nor­way. Both the nyck­el­harpa and hard­ingfele have sym­pa­thet­ic strings, adding almost a drone to the music. The accor­dion, säck­pi­pa or Swedish bag­pipes, hur­dy-gur­dy, and jaw harp make occa­sion­al appear­ances.

These instru­ments (and the com­posers of tra­di­tion­al tunes) have been placed at the ser­vice of dancers: vals, pol­s­ka, ham­bo, schot­tis, pol­ska­mazur­ka, and march­es. Whether 2/4, 3/4, or 4/4, the dom­i­nant style of scan­di­na­vian cou­ple dances is smooth rota­tion. Dips, turns, and even walk­ing are done with a lilt­ing, con­trolled pulse. Some­times known as “turn­ing dances,” these dances often alter­nate a trav­el­ing por­tion done in an open or var­sou­vi­enne posi­tion and a turn­ing por­tion done in a ball­room or bar­rel hold.

Radio Riel pro­duces this pro­gram in con­junc­tion with the Alexan­dri­an Free Library Con­sor­tium of Sec­ond Life. You can lis­ten to the pro­gram now at http://music.radioriel.org. Today’s music orig­i­nates from the music library of Otenth Pader­born.

For more infor­ma­tion on the Alexan­dri­an Free Library, cur­rent exhibits and the work of Con­sor­tium mem­bers in gen­er­al, please vis­it the Alexan­dri­an Free Library web­site, or one of their branch­es in-world.

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