The Twin Cities Hardingfelelag includes five to nine players. Above, left to right: Sarah Pradt, Jan Ulvin, Marybeth Stull, Rachel Ulvin Jensen, and Curt Stull. We lost Marybeth in 2021 and miss her every time we play.
Some are newer to this instrument and some are advanced players, some are long-time folk music players, and some have decades of classical violin training. While it’s not strictly traditional, we sometimes also have a guitarist playing with us.
Many of us have Norwegian heritage, and for most performances we wear bunad (Norwegian traditional festive costume) and other traditional clothing from the regions of our heritage or from places in Norway with special meaning for us.
Our group was founded in the 1990s by the master fiddler Olav Jørgen Hegge of Valdres, Norway. He was regarded by many as the leading tradition bearer of the Hardanger fiddle and the dance style from the Valdres valley. He played and danced for more than 40 years. He had many fiddle students on both sides of the Atlantic. Two of his best-known students, Tore Bolstad and Jan Beitohaugen Granli, have both won the Landskappleiken, the Norwegian national hardanger fiddle competition that has been going on since 1896. Olav himself didn’t play in competitions but often served as a judge. He was a sought-after dance fiddler, and was featured on Norwegian radio and television. With his wife, Mary, of St. Paul, Minnesota, Olav taught dance of the Valdres region at numerous workshops in the United States, Sweden, and Norway.
Olav Jørgen Hegge’s untimely death in August 2005 strengthened our resolve to continue the Hardanger fiddle tradition he so lovingly taught. After his death, in June 2006 the group carried out Olav’s request that we travel to Beitostølen, Norway. In Olav’s beloved Valdres, the Twin Cities Hardingfelelag became the first U.S.-based hardanger fiddle group to compete in the annual Landskappleiken.
On other occasions, members of the group have traveled to Norway to learn and hear music of other traditions. Some of us studied with Dr. Andrea Een at St. Olaf College, the first faculty member in the U.S. to bring hardanger fiddle to an academic institution’s music curriculum. Over the years, all of us have studied with Loretta Kelley and the many other wonderful players and teachers who travel within or come to the U.S. as part of the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America’s annual workshops and the Nisswa-stämman music festival.
At those workshops and elsewhere, our teachers have included:
Bernt Balchen, Jr.
Britt Pernille Frøholm
Lars Erik Øygarden