Music of the north heads south

Ingrid and her nyckelharpa...  Pining for the Fjord is performing over the June long weekend at the Peak Festival.

Ingrid and her nyckelharpa… Pining for the Fjord is performing over the June long weekend at the Peak Festival.

IF you heard the phrase, “pining for the fjords”, what would come first to mind – Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot” skit or Scandinavian music?

I’m betting it’s the first, but it’s also the name given by Adelaide physician and musician, Ingrid Wangel, to the band specialising in music of northern climes which will be heard over the June long weekend at the coming Peak Festival, formerly the Snowy Mountains of Music.

Wangel is an exponent of the ancient 16 string Swedish instrument the nyckelharpa, known by some as “the Frankenstein fiddle” or “the instrument you play when you’d not sure what you want to play”. She bought hers from a fine instrument-maker in Brisbane and testifies to its “very exotic” quality.

A descendant of Finland’s most celebrated composer, Jean Sibelius, Wangel enjoys a quirky sense of humour and tells me that when she and her musician friends decided to form a band concentrating on Scandinavian music they toyed with calling themselves The Danish Tarts.

Classically trained, with some periods of musical study in her father’s homeland Finland and a decade-long interest in Celtic and world music, she was given a CD of Scandinavian music and “immediately looked, it was so different,” as she tells “CityNews”. She formed the group about three years ago with a view to broadening Australians perceptions of folk music, and it’s taken the folk scene by storm.

“People think of Britain as being the primary source of musical culture,” she says, but she and her fellow band members, Jeri Foreman on fiddle, Gage Stead on double bass and Doug Loudon on guitar, are more eclectic in their tastes, throwing in some bush music and Quebecois tunes, too.

Wangel acknowledges that fjords are somewhat lacking in Finland, but says, “We’re not racist, so we also cover Norway and Sweden.” To her, the unusual chords and the general feel of this music is “very peculiar,” “amazing” and even “funny”.

The Peak Festival, directed by Illawarra musical identity, Dave de Santi, is only too happy to tap into the popularity of Pining for the Fjords, who have been recently seen at Woodford Folk Festival, Tamworth Music Festival and IKEA concerts. With references to “pine forests, lakes, reindeer and blond gods”, the Peak can hardly go wrong.

The Festival now in its sixth year, has been exceedingly innovative in finding music that either goes with the snow theme or contrasts with it, as with a Caribbean band we interviewed a couple of years ago.

Designed to celebrate the opening weekend of the NSW snow season, the festival presents non-stop music from June 6-9. There are 130 concerts this year, from familiar Anglo Celtic folk performances to an African band and poetry slams. Even to the most jaded of Canberrans the closeness of the alpine region and the reasonable accommodation, chairlift and festival packages make this an alluring way to herald in the winter.

And the final enticement from Pining for the Fjords – “At the end, you can even learn a 20 second Swedish drinking song,” Wangel concludes, “and if you do, you get to drink vodka.”

The Peak music festival, June long weekend, Perisher Valley, for all program and ticketing details visit


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