ST. PAUL, MN (October 24, 2012) – Jennifer Christiansen, a member of First Covenant Church of Saint Paul, says she was honored to perform with a fiddle group for the king and queen of Sweden during their recent visit to the Twin Cities.
“It was especially enjoyable to watch the queen listen as she really appeared to appreciate the music,” says Christiansen.
King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia spent three days in the Twin Cities, where they participated in the dedication of a new cultural center at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. The monarchs also attended the 150th anniversary of the founding of Gustavus Adolphus College by Swedish immigrants.
Christiansen performed with American Swedish Institute Spelmanslag, a fiddling group of 25 to 30 members. The group did a combined performance with Twin Cities Nyckelharpalag, named for the nyckelharpa, a traditional Swedish stringed instrument.
Christiansen says she had been encouraged many times by a former teacher who volunteered at the institute to join the group. “She knew that I had played in a Finnish folk group while in high school and suggested many times that I might enjoy playing with the Spelmanslag.”
Performing with the group presented several challenges for Christiansen. First, she had to learn to play the fiddle.
“I decided to take a beginning fiddle class and see how it went,” Christiansen says. “It also was challenging simply because I was used to playing from written music, and traditional Swedish fiddle music is learned and played by ear.”
And the group plays a lot of songs. “They have hundreds of tunes in their repertoire, which can be a little overwhelming to learn, especially without relying on written music, and it has taken many hours of listening to the music on CD or recordings of rehearsals to start to get a handle on the tunes,” Christiansen says.
Fortunately, Christiansen says, she only had to learn three tunes for the monarchs’ visit.