Fossegrimen is a dans orkester dedicated to performing folk dance music from
Norway and Sweden. The group plays for monthly dances in Salem and occasionally in the Portland and Seattle areas. The group was founded by David and Claire Elliker-Vågsberg. David leads the group and performs on fiddle, hardanger fiddle and
nyckelharpa. Claire plays fiddle and nyckelharpa. The other members are:
Kurt Elliker, fiddle; Brian Wood, guitar & nyckelharpa; John Blunk, bass. All of the folk music the group plays originates directly from Norway and Sweden and is
performed in the authentic style of the area of origin. Fossegrimen plays both
gammaldans music (vals, schottis/reinlender, masurka & polkas) and bygdedans
music (springars, gangars, polskar, & polsdans) as well as runddansere
(turdans - also known "set dances", usually choreographed), and various "mixers". The group wears bunader from Norway for special occasions.
The CD "Vals til Claire" is Fossegrimen's debut CD and features four dance tunes written by the group's director. The title tune, "Vals til Claire" is a tune written for David's wife, Claire during a drive back from a nyckelharpa workshop in Seattle, Washington. Another tune called "Truklrak" is dedicated to David's two sons: Karl and Kurt.
Most of the tunes featured on the recording came from the rote tradition of fiddlers from Norway and Sweden. A few of the tunes were more recent, having been written during the twentieth century, but most have come from the 1800s and some from the 1700s. These are tunes which have been passed down from one generation to another. Some music can be traced to old musicians notebooks, such as the tune called "Slängpolska efter Magnus Theorin". Magnus Theorin lived in Växjö, Sweden and wrote the tune down in 1792. Many of the tunes we play have no composer since the tunes have been handed down so many times that their only identification is the fact that they are "from" the playing of the last musician to teach the tune to another musician. In that way the name of the tune can change from one era to another.
Some of the instruments heard on this recording are also derived from older instruments. Many of the tunes have the instrumentation of three fiddles, guitar and double bass.
Two of the tunes demonstrate the sound of the Hardanger fiddle, an instrument which originated sometime during the 1500s to 1600s in the Hardanger Fjord region of Norway. The modern versions of these instruments have changed quite a bit since the 1600s however the music has kept the flavor of the older times. The modern Hardanger fiddle has 4 or 5 sympathetic strings and is tuned differently from a modern violin.
Some of the Fossegrimen tunes also feature the nyckelharpa, a Swedish instruments with four top strings and 12 sympathetic strings. This is an instrument which has origins going back to the mid 1300s. The nyckelharpa is played very differently from a fiddle, since it is held by a strap over the shoulders and the bow is moved up and down over the top strings. The pitches are produced by moving the keys in to stop the string with a tangent while a very short bow is drawn over the top strings. One of the tunes on this CD called "Lugumleik i hallingtakt" illustrates the sound of the Norwegian "munnharpe" or mouth harp.