Tuesday, April 1, 2014

More With the Hemsing Sisters

In the April 2014 issue of Viking, we highlight talented Norwegian violinists Ragnhild and Eldbjørg Hemsing. The sisters hail from Valdres, Norway, and have been playing violin since the age of 5. Here’s more from our interview.

Q: How did you become interested in playing the violin?
A: We grew up with music all around us. Our mom is a violinist. She plays both classical violin as well as the Hardanger fiddle, and we got introduced to both musical worlds at an early stage. Our father was a very keen Langeleik player, the other national folk music instrument in Norway. The violin is such a beautiful instrument with a very wide range, in which you can really create your own personal voice. Both of us started to play the classical violin and folk music on the Hardanger fiddle at age 5, so it has been natural to combine these two musical worlds.

Q: What was it like playing for Norway’s Royal Family?
A: In 1996, when we were 6 and 8 years old, we were asked to play at the celebration for May 17th, The National Day in Norway, which was held at the National Theatre in Oslo. The whole Royal Family was present, and it was a very special occasion. I remember we thought the scariest thing was not to play wrong notes, but to bow and curtsey the right way for the Royal Family. Since then, we've played for The Royal Family many times, both in Norway and abroad. And we are now very good at bowing correctly.

Q: What do you enjoy about playing the Hardanger fiddle, Norway’s national folk instrument?
A: We are both very grateful to have grown up with traditional Norwegian folk music, and especially the folk music from our home region, Valdres. In this form of music, there is such a freedom and a versatility, which gives us strength and advantage as classical violinists. The traditional tunes are advanced and complex with a very specific rhythm, which tells us from which part in Norway you come from. It's like a musical dialects. We are both very proud and feel honored to be a part of this tradition and to be able to bring it to further generations.

For more on the Hemsing sisters, check out their website and be sure to their watch performance videos.

Anya Britzius is associate managing editor of Viking magazine. She lives in Minneapolis, Minn., and enjoys baking, reading and keeping up on modern Norwegian trends.

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