Wow! What a weekend! For the last four years I've been teaching and organising and arranging and finally I reached my goal - to fill Halsway Manor with nyckelharpa players. When I started to play the nyckelharpa in 2007 we were around 20 in number and it was a distant dream to create something as big and amazing as this.
So we now have a new record for numbers of nyckelharpas all together in the UK - forty-two players. The previous record set last year was fourteen so as you can imagine I was delighted! Let me give you a run down of the weekend.
I had two other lovely tutors to help me this year Peter Hedlund and Didier Francois. Totally contrasting in their style of playing and teaching I wanted to try to give a well rounded view of the nyckelharpa. All the groups were split amongst the three of us - although I mostly kept hold of the less experienced players. I did find that I missed everyone else though, so I'll change that for next year. On the Friday night we had a lovely little session in the bar. Saturday everyone worked very hard in their groups and after lunch the wonderful Per-Ulf Allmo gave a talk on the history of the nyckelharpa and where current research shows its origins could be. Olle Plahn was our resident fettler and he fettled away on nyckelharpas with sticky keys and fixing other problems here and there.
In the afternoon I fulfilled another wish - to have an ensemble. With just over an hour to prepare our tunes for the concert, time was very tight, but everyone did a wonderful job of pulling together the music I'd selected. The concert was good fun and of course we performed my arrangement of The Halsway Schottische for nyckelharpa ensemble. After the concert we had a little ceilidh followed by more sessioning.
Sunday was a bit more informal with people selecting their groups and I got a session with the people I'd not seen, which was lovely. We had our traditional procession and because the weather was so good we managed to process throughout the grounds and have our photograph taken on the steps. We processed back into the manor for fika the music and our numbers filling the hall. I have to admit I did well up a little at this point. Luckily I managed to compose myself before having to speak to everyone again to organise the traditional harpa wheel.
This year because of the number of instruments and the shape of the hall we attempted a vague fan shaped pile of nyckelharpas on the floor. I wasn't very good at laying them down in a way that presented them well. Whether or not we attempt a proper wheel next year I'm not sure. It was quite nerve wracking trying to keep everyone away from it to protect the instruments - so it could be that this last 'shoal of harpas' is the last picture. Or maybe not...
To finish the weekend we all met in the Long Room and played at little of what we'd done for the weekend for everyone, the three makers all presented their instruments and finally it was time to say our farewells and go home.
I learnt a lot over the course of the weekend and since I've been back I've been debriefing and planning for next year. Can we beat 42 players? There are over 60 beds at the manor itself and with camping and caravans it should be possible to make the weekend bigger and better! I have a beginners/less experienced weekend in April at Halsway (numbers limited to 12) and then anot
her full on festival weekend on the first weekend in September. So I hereby pronounce bookings open for both weekends. We can set another record 12 months from now!
Below is a little video playlist from the weekend. For now I'm working hard on what I'm going to teach at Burg Fursteneck next month - more than 70 players at that weekend - now that's something for us to aspire to over here!