Welcome to Brian's Bits, where Brian gets to share at length about various topics stirring inside of him.
1 September 2011
A couple of evenings ago I was fortunate enough to see and hear Väsen — in a rare Oregon appearance — at the Majestic Theatre in Corvallis, sponsored by the Corvallis Folklore Society. The 300-seat auditorium was packed with an enthusiastic crowd for this sold-out concert. Fans came from all over Oregon for a chance to see this Swedish folk-music trio in person. Because my teenage children both have an interest in acoustic and folk music, I treated them to a night on the town.
The seating was general admission, so we arrived quite early in order to get a good seat. And boy did we! Second row, center of the stage. We could have sat in the front row, but that seemed a bit too close. Because it's a small auditorium, even the second row is quite close to the performers. Therefore we had a great view of the strange-looking nyckelharpa which band member Olov Johansson plays with such amazing skill.
For each song Väsen played, one of the three musicians would explain a little bit of the motivation behind why the song was written. Their dry Scandinavian humor kept the audience in stitches the entire evening — very entertaining! The first set passed all too quickly, and before we knew it, it was intermission time. The following video, shot in Berkeley, California, about six months ago, will give you a pretty good idea of what their music sounds like — only it's much more impressive to see them in person. Tatiana Hargreaves — an award-winning fiddler a year younger than my daughter, whom she became acquainted with while they were part of the Corvallis Youth Symphony together last year. It was quite a sight to see three towering, middle-aged Swedes performing with young, petite Tatiana from Oregon! Väsen and Tatiana played three or four pieces together before she bowed out and the trio carried on. You can see the full-length concert Tatiana gave earlier this year in Corvallis here on YouTube.
Before we knew it, they were announcing the last song, to everyone's disappointment. With the closing notes, Väsen received a standing ovation, and loud calls for "encore!" They returned, with Tatiana, and played one last piece, Josefin's Waltz — a beautiful melody and one of my favorites. You can listen to them play it below — again, shot in Berkeley, California, about six months ago. Fourteen years ago I had purchased Väsen's third album, Essence, in a music store in Uddevalla, Sweden. Hoping to get some autographs, I had brought the CD booklet with me to the concert. Sure enough, as we slowly made our way into the lobby, I saw the three band members in different corners of the room, pens in hand. Squeezing through the crowd, I eventually reached all three. Each musician had the same reaction when they saw the 18-year-old booklet — "Wow! That's rare! This CD is going for $100 on the Internet!"
Olov, Mikael and Roger — each one was gracious and humble as I talked with them, explaining that I had actually purchased that CD in their home country. I'm sure I was the only one there that night who could make such a claim! The next day, I checked on the Web, and sure enough, at the time of this writing, there are two used copies of Essence on Amazon.com going for just about $100! But I'll bet that neither of them have been personally signed by all three band members! That ought to put my copy at least in the $200 range!
Besides picking up a few of their latest CDs, I also bought my daughter the Väsen Tune Book, containing the sheet music for 18 of their songs. At this very moment that I am writing, she is in her room practicing these pieces — and very happy doing so! While in Switzerland, she learned some Swiss folk music on her violin. Now she is excited to add some Swedish tunes to her répertoire.
If you take a look at Väsen's touring schedule, you will see that, with all of the locations around the world where they are giving concerts, we were very fortunate to have them stop in Corvallis. I believe that we have Tatiana to thank for that — so, "Thank you, Tatiana!" It was truly an enchanted evening, and for me, as a long-time Väsen fan, a dream come true. If you ever get a chance to see them in concert, don't you dare let that opportunity slip through your fingers — you will be richly rewarded!
For more information about Väsen and their music, be sure to check out the following links:
SPECIAL NOTE: I didn't feel comfortable taking any pictures or video during the concert, so NONE of the photos and videos on this page (except for the Essence CD booklet) are my own. Disappointing but true!
For reviews of other concerts I have had the privilege of attending while living in Oregon, be sure to check out:
This article is 7th a series of articles on this Web site related to Literature, Music and Photography which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
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