Young fiddler thrills Chicago-area audience

Skogen Sällström is a talent not to be missed

Photo: Arthur Andersen  Sällström entertains the audience at Buik Recital Hall, completely immersed in the music.

Photo: Arthur Andersen
Sällström entertains the audience at Buik Recital Hall, completely immersed in the music.

Nancy Andersen

The richly evocative tones of his Hardanger fiddle first came to the listeners from the rear of the hall as fiddler Skogen Sällström slowly made his way forward toward the stage, stepping in time to the music of “The Miller Boy’s Bridal March.” The music painted a wistful picture of the youth who traveled over mountains and fjords to watch the bridal procession of his beloved, who was to marry another. As the wedding celebration continued with dancing, the tempo of the fiddle music picked up, and Sällström’s foot tapped, and then stomped with the rhythm. The listeners unconsciously moved with the magnetic beat of the music. The story was as clearly illustrated with the changing tones and tempo, and the intensity of the artist, as if it had been painted.

Thus Skogen Sällström began his concert in Buik Recital Hall of Elmhurst College, west of Chicago, on August 16, 2015. With his violin and Hardanger fiddle, Skogen continued with many types of Norwegian dance music: vals, polka, halling, reinlender, and hoppvals. His immersion in the music was so complete that his fiddle seemed to be an extension of his body, as his fingers and bow flew, and the strongly accented portions flowed out through the rhythm of his foot on the floor boards. His sure touch on the strings produced delicate trills and cadences, along with the melancholy minor key chord progressions immediately recognizable as Norwegian. With one of the pieces written by his teacher, Sturla Eide, “Ants in Your Pants,” Skogen showed how he could play with a fast and rollicking bluegrass sound. Another by Eide, “The Farmer and the Gypsy Girl,” contrasted a traditional Norwegian country dance with a complex and captivating gypsy motif. The popular and charming gammeldans, “Bergrosa,” or Mountain Rose, by fiddler/composer Sven Nyhus, was played with lilting nuances.

Sällström concluded the concert with two of his own compositions: a halling played on the Hardanger fiddle, beginning with a slow pace that gradually picks up in rhythm, and a waltz with a melancholic tone played on the violin that evokes nostalgia for Norway. Both pieces were delightful, and showed how he is totally steeped in Norwegian folk music and its interpretation. Whatever Sällström plays, he conveys deep feelings through his masterful technique and his complete involvement in the music.

Skogen Sällström originally comes from Fairbanks, Alaska, but much of his life has been spent in Trondheim, Norway, immersed in music. His self-designed Master’s degree program at the music conservatory of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim spanned classical, traditional folk, and contemporary music. He has performed the Hardanger Fiddle Concerto No. 2: Tri Fjordar (Three Fjords) by twentieth century composer Geirr Tveitt with the Sør-Trøndelag Orchestra, and he has also performed with the well-known Norwegian folk-rock band, Vamp.

This ambitious and talented young musician is considering returning to the Chicago area for another concert in October of this year, with an accompanist to enable a broader range of program. Wherever you have opportunity to hear him, you will not be disappointed.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 28, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.