Saturday 14th December in St Mary's Church at 7.30pm
SOCIETY OF STRANGE AND ANCIENT INSTRUMENTS
This duality lies at the centre of Lussinatten - a night of extremes in which darkness and light, good and evil, reward and punishment and Protestant and Catholic rituals are all explored. The lighter of these celebrations commemorates Saint Lucy or Lucia, a third-century martyr who brought food and aid to Christians hiding in the catacombs, using a candle to light her way. St Lucia’s day coincides with the Julian winter solstice and has become a Christian festival of light. For many Scandinavians it signals the arrival of Christmas and the light to come. However, alongside this well-established, and relatively benign Catholic celebration, another tradition, established over hundreds of years, still endures.
Legend has it that on the longest night, Lussi, a terrifying enchantress and devilish overseer, flies through the sky, surrounded by smoke and flames, looking for and punishing those who haven’t made adequate preparations for Christmas. If she isn’t treated with respect, she will put her long arms through the chimney, blow out all the candles and hit people with her hand, causing immediate paralysis. She enlists the help of spirits, gnomes and trolls with whom she roams the earth in pursuit of the lazy and work-shy. Lussi is also a kidnapper and there are still people who will not venture outside on this night. This extraordinary legend, which reflects a Protestant work ethic, serves as an incentive for people to get ready in good time for Christmas.
In this concert we will be playing a mixture of traditional Norwegian music associated with Lussinatten, St. Lucia and Christmas; Hardanger fiddle tunes, Irish tunes and carols, an ancient troubadour Alba or dawn song, and music by Purcell and Marais. Benedicte, Jean and I hail from different and distinct musical backgrounds. In creating this programme we have tried to stay true to our roots while finding a common resonance in the rich vein of stories and tunes that are associated with this time of year.
Claire Salaman writes her biography in the first person:
"I was brought up in a house with no TV. It was full of musical instruments though and playing music seemed a great way to pass the time. Old habits die hard. I have always been drawn to interesting sounds, especially those which include plenty of jangle and scrape. A holiday job, cataloging the instruments in the Pitt Rivers ethnographic museum fed my curiosity and one thing led to another - first baroque violin, then hurdy gurdy, nyckelharpa, Hardanger violin and medieval vielle. These instruments introduced me to new worlds of musical repertoire. My first job - a position in The English Concert Ð instigated five years of touring the world with period instrument orchestras but since then my work has become increasingly diverse. I have played accordion with a contemporary dance theatre company, been a member of the Dufay Collective and The Ian McMillan Orchestra, and have made a music theatre piece involving boa constrictors with Tanzanian street kids. I have also composed music for theatre, led projects in the Royal Academy of Music and other conservatoires and enjoyed many exciting collaborations with musicians from different musical traditions. This year I have written and presented a couple of programmes for BBC Radio 3Õs Early Music Show which I have found immensely enjoyable and satisfying.
I founded The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments in 2010 and this is now my main focus. The organisation includes a forum for discussion through social media and an active performance group. Through it, I am able to share my love for the colourful world of strange and ancient instruments and play with some of the most imaginative and creative musicians I know."
Benedicte Maurseth is a well-established and esteemed performer and composer on Norway’s folk music scene. While born in the beautiful Hardanger Fjord region in Western Norway, today her home is in the city of Bergen where she works as a freelance musician. Maurseth studied with Hardanger fiddle master Knut Hamre for more then 20 years, and has traditional music from Hardanger as her specialty. She is an alumna of the prestigious Ole Bull Academy for Norwegian Folk Music, and in recent years, Maurseth has expanded her work to include Norwegian traditional folk singing (kveding). In 2007 she came to wider attention as Norway’s ‘Young Folk Musician of the Year. Maurseth has toured extensively as a soloist and in collaboration with others both in Norway and internationally. She works closely with many of the leading artists across genres, especially within early music and improvised music. She has also focused on work with writers and actors including Jon Fosse, Svein Tindberg and Anne Marit Jacobsen as well as musicians Knut Hamre, Nils Økland and Berit Opheim.
Maurseth has a deep interest in baroque instruments and has for several years worked with fiddles dating back to the 1700s. She uses gut strings and baroque bows and has lately also begun to explore the viola d’amore. Maurseth has also for many years composed new material for the Hardanger fiddle, both for solo performances, solo-recordings, and for he stage version of Jon Fosse's Andvake at Norwegian Theater in 2009 and Morgon og kveld at The National Theater, in 2015. Her latest commissioned work titled Tidekverv, was premiered at Oslo International Church Music festival in 2017, together with Berit Opheim, Rolf Lislevand and Håkon Mørch Stene. 2014 saw the international release of her new album Over Tones with singer Åsne Valland Nordli, on Germany’s ECM Records label. Same year Maurseth debuted also as author on Samlaget, with the book: Å vera ingenting – Samtalar med spelemannen Knut Hamre (To be nothing. Conversations with fiddle player Knut Hamre).
"I grew up in Cork City, in a lively Irish household full of musical instruments. My parents and my three siblings are professional musicians; we used to call ourselves the 'Von Trapped' Family. We constantly attended folk, jazz and classical music concerts. I was drawn to the harp as a versatile instrument on which I could play many different styles of music. I play a variety of harps, and enjoy an eclectic and nomadic career - from playing Mozart Concertos in posh concert halls with my Classical Flute and Harp Duo, to extemporising harp accompaniments to Silent Films, or Folk Festivals on rainy, muddy days with my Electric Celtic Harp. I particularly enjoy early music concerts - for the freedom to improvise within a group and to extend beyond the printed notes, and also because I feel it is here that I can draw on all of my past musical influences."
Jean Kelly harp
The Longest Night
'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks.
John Donne (1572-1631)
In Scandinavia, there are two enduring traditions that celebrate the longest night or Lussinatten according to the Julian calendar. Although the date for the winter solstice moved from the 13th to the 21st of December in the mid-eighteenth century, these firmly established traditions are still celebrated on the earlier date. The name Lussi is associated with Lucia, meaning ‘light’, and also with Lucifer.
Clare Salaman director, nyckelharpa, hurdy gurdy, Hardanger fiddle, medieval vielle
Benedicte Maurseth Hardanger fiddle and vocals