Bára Grímsdóttir and Chris Foster
Icelandic folk music with traditional Icelandic langspil, guitar, kantele and Icelandic fiðla
Traditional Icelandic langspil and fiðla, plus more besides
Between us, we play several instruments, including the traditional Icelandic langspil and fidla (fiðla) that you don't see around much these days.
The Langspil is a simple member of the fretted zither family, examples of which are found all over Europe. Its closest cousin is the hummel, which originated in northern Germany and southern Scandinavia. Later on it was taken to Pennsylvania in the USA by German settlers and subsequently made its way down to Appalachia where it evolved into the Appalachian or mountain dulcimer. There are many variations in the numbers of strings and the ways that they are a layed out and attached to the instrument. Our langspils have a fairly typical set up of just three strings, two of which are drones, while the third one is positioned over a fret board and is used to play melody. The langspil is usually played with a bow.
The Icelandic fiðla (pronounced fithla with the ith pronounced the same as in the word with) is a rather strange beast. Very little is known about the instrument, because it died out and almost disappeared by the middle of the 19th century. Our instrument is a copy of an instrument that was made just over a hundred years ago, by a carpenter called Stefán Erlendsson who lived in the north of Iceland. His instrument is a copy, made from memory, of an instrument his uncle had played some fifty years before.
The Kantele not a traditional instrument in Iceland. It is most commonly found in Finland and the Baltic countries. We think it suits our Icelandic folk music very well so we are happy to make use of it.
Our langspils, fiðla and and kantele were made by Michael King, who specialises in making old and unusual instruments. You can see examples of his work on his web site at:
Bára also plays fifteen string and a five string kanteles, made by our friend Billy Horne in Turku, Finland.
Guitar Chris has been playing acoustic guitar to accompany his English songs for many years. When he first heard Bára singing her Icelandic songs he could see how his style, using altered tunings, would be a great way to accompany the often modal melodies of her Icelandic songs.
Chris' guitars are made by Roger Bucknell of Fylde Guitars. You can see examples of his splendid work on the Fylde Guitars web site at: