Long Boats & Nyckelharpa

This morning I wandered over to the Scandinavian Festival at the local college.  It was not big and noisy, but rather small and quaint, and probably not as busy today as yesterday.  As with every cultural fair, there were things worth looking at and things worth avoiding.  What I enjoyed most was a display of two boats, former fishing boats, rowed with oars and moved by square sails, and a wandering violinist playing a keyed Swedish violin, called a nyckelharpa.

The boats were built in the 1800s, the last of the long boats built in the traditional style of boats used in Norway, using methods and design handed down from the days of the Viking ships. If you want to learn more about them, the gentleman who provided the display is Olaf Engvig, the author of books on maritime history and the use of iron in ship building. Very interesting man!

The boats, of course, have new lines and oars and sails and rudders, but the planking and iron rivets are original.  Square-rigged ships are common throughout the world, but I think that nobody used them better than the Vikings or the designers of the clipper ships.  These two boats were particularly interesting as there is no boom on the sail, so the boat is easily maneuvered by line and rudder, and no one needs worry about a cracked skull!

I next met the violinist, a pleasant and talented man who was obliging in every way, from answering questions and playing tunes and posing for a portrait.

I have never heard of a keyed violin, but according the link to Wikipedia, the keyed violin has a long history. Take a look at it to get a better idea of the keys along the violin’s neck.

My first look at the nyckelharpa made me think it was a very simple instrument, something like a guitar played with a bow. It is most definitely not! Just constructing one must be painstaking. There are keys, three in a row, throughout the length of the instrument’s neck.  I wonder if this is an easier-to-play instrument than a traditional violin, but as I have never played a stringed instrument (other than a piano, if that counts!), I wonder if talent is needed to handle the bow as well.  Whatever, the musician played beautifully, and kindly posed for his picture as well.


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