Swedish Band Väsen Performs in York, PA February 19

By John Hope

Based in the rural Swedish tradition but with a contemporary attitude and an almost telepathic intensity, the acoustic musical trio Väsen comes to Central Pennsylvania for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Sunday, February 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street.

Väsen is a unique ensemble that transcends barriers and delights listeners with their music and personality. It consists of three great Swedish musicians: Olov Johansson on the nyckelharpa (a keyed fiddle unique to Sweden), Mikael Marin on viola, and Roger Tallroth on guitar. Together they create more electricity on their acoustic instruments than most rock bands can generate with their amps turned all the way up. John Paul Jones of the rock band Led Zeppelin has said, “In Sweden you have Väsen. It’s a traditional folk band based on the Nyckelharpa — and it’s really good music, very exciting, you must listen, it’s fantastic music.”

In 1990 Olov Johansson became the first world champion of the nyckelharpa. Of the tens of thousands of nyckelharpa players now in Sweden, he is regarded as one of the country’s most prominent players. Apart from his association with Väsen, Johannson has also played and made recordings with groups such as Kronos Quartet and the Nyckelharpa Orchestra. Mikael Marin is a violist who isn’t satisfied with merely playing “second fiddle.” His influences are literally unlimited in their scope, and oscillate between Schöenberg and the Beatles. He became a national fiddler in 1983, and was chosen to play in a world orchestra under the direction of Leonard Bernstein in 1989. Roger Tallroth, with his specially tuned guitar (A-D-A-D-A-D), has developed a distinctive sound of his own. In addition to the guitar, he plays the Swedish bouzoki and octave mandolin. During a National Public Radio “All Things Considered” story on Väsen, it was noted that “The absurdly broad term ‘world music’ is rendered useless in the face of these musicians who play with such genuine passion and glee that everything on the globe seems to disappear except their hometown fires. This is ‘local music’ in the best sense of the word—believable, human-scaled and fluent in the international language of musical interplay.”

Vasen carries its virtuosic acoustic interplay to new levels with a contemporary energy and attitude that is rarely found in acoustic bands. The combination of nyckelharpa and viola is propelled by guitar with tunes that are irresistible and unforgettable. This is acoustic ensemble playing at its best, with sounds that can connote classical string quartets at one moment and upbeat folk/pop another. This is music that is irresistible and unforgettable. This is Väsen.

Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3 to 22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. This event is made possible in part by a grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation, with additional funding from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, administered locally by the Cultural Alliance of York County, and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site at http://www.sfmsfolk.org