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Concert Preview: EMG presents Draumkvedet on First Tuesdays

November 25, 2009

Heaven, Hell, and In Between

The King of the Dead rides with his minions

EMG’s First Tuesdays presents:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 7:30 pm

Trinity Episcopal Church Sanctuary at 609 8th Avenue

Tickets: $25 general/$20 senior/$10 student

Call (206) 325-7066 or click here to order online

The Middle Ages were invented around 1800. All across Europe, from Ireland to Serbia, Finland to Catalonia, people whose cultures had been suppressed for centuries began to fight back. Their weapon was language: Gaelic, South Slavic, Suomi, Occitan, as preserved among common and country people in their sayings, stories, and songs.  Out of these materials, passionate nationalists built up whole epics to serve as a literary past for nations never allowed to have a literature.

In Norway, it was Magnus Landstad and Jørgen Moe, scouring the countryside of Telemark for folklore, who began to suspect that behind the bits and pieces of ancient ballads their found lay a coherent story, of a youth who went to sleep beside a church on Christmas Eve and awoke 13 days later, on Twelfth Night, after a visionary journey through the realms of Hell, Purgatory, and heaven.

Draumkvedet (The Dream Song) didn’t take shape all at once. The first attempt at a reconstruction emerged in the mid-19th century, but it was not until almost fifty years later that it began to be accepted as one of the central treasures of Norwegian culture. Unlike Finland’s Kalevala and Germany’s Nibelungenlied, it never took a final “literary” form but has remained flexible, like the anonymous ballads it derives from, open to re-interpretation and re-configuration by the artists inspired to perform it.

Although the December performance in Seattle is “multimedia” in nature, the means employed are completely traditional, with balladeers Beth Kollé and Richard Hill accompanied by a Norse “consort” of Hardanger fiddle, keyed fiddle, hurdy-gurdy, and harp, with director Nancy Quensé providing English narration.  Join them and dream-traveler Olav Åsteson as he crosses the perilous bridge of Hell to the world beyond.  – Roger Downey

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