Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Beer and Roaming in Little Burgundy: Part Two


Part Two: 

A Tale of Two Tickets


As part one came to an end, I was headed up a steeply inclined snowy street in Montreal. I had a healthy glow, thanks to a liquid lunch and a wicked case of windburn. Only a few blocks lay between me and a free solo show from Einar Selvik, front man of the Norwegian band Wardruna.

Scarlet faced, sweating profusely and swiftly running out of steam, I trudged on through the snow. Every time my pace slowed, I thought of the line to get in, sped up again and leaned into the hill. Soon, I could see the Grey Nun residence peeking over the top of the hill. No line around the block and time to spare. Again, I had made it. 

Side entrance of the Grey Nun Residence

Inside, there was a line of about 30 or 40 people stretching down a long set of stairs into a tiny stiflingly hot foyer. Attempting to catch my breath I suddenly caught my reflection in a window. Dripping sweat, face bright red with eyes looking more than a little crazed. I tried to blend into the walls and not think of all the people and the fact we were crammed like sardines into the foyer. 

The crowd was fairly uniform, dark clothes, leather, some in full garb and even some with faces painted with runes. The line grew, past the inner door, then the outer door and soon around the block. Groups of students would crowd down the stairs occasionally on their way outside, nervously eyeing the growing horde of hairy leather clad fanatics and doing their best to ignore us. Then, mercifully, the line began to move.

After shuffling up the stairs and into the hall I managed to grab an aisle seat with a decent view. I had my project bag with me and brought out my lucet, I figured working on a cord would relax me; it didn’t. Stuffing the snapped cord back into my bag I saw some people changing seats in the second row. There was a vacant seat; no one jumped up to grab it so I pounced. Then we all waited and waited some more. A hush came upon the room as the man of the hour made his way up to the front. He was introduced and the talk began.

Having seen several videos of similar events I was anticipating the music, but more excited to hear the stories he had to tell. Growing up in Bergen, learning about history, the Sagas and of course, how he came to the music. He explained how it wasn't enough to simply re-create, or re-enact a musical tradition lost to history, but to breathe fresh life into it and create something wholly original and new.I tend to go on about this group and its members. I do listen to other music that’s similar, but Wardruna has always had a special resonance for me. 

 
My father’s side of the family comes from a town called Bodø, it’s just north of the arctic circle in the Nordland region of Norway. My own Norwegian heritage has been something I’ve always been proud of, but my knowledge of the culture and people is lacking. Listening to Wardruna influenced me to start reading the sagas and to learn more about my ancestry. It was the push that started a chain of events that led me to the SCA and to Montreal.

I sat enthralled, as a man only a year older than myself described how he had to build his own instruments, or have them built because they didn't exist outside of a museum; if at all. He described some early attempts, which in his words ‘sounded like shit.’ He was friendly, humble, often made jokes and the audience was giddy for it. We were treated to some bukkehorn playing, which was of particular interest to me as I had brought my own along. I had wanted to have it with me as a sort of moral support along the way.  
 
In the foreground, a bukkehorn used in the concert. Background birch lur.
The talk continued. Conversation veered toward modern difficulties with publicly displaying runes and Norse symbols and then quickly back to early Scandinavian adopters of Christianity.  Then he picked up a Kravik lyre and asked if we wanted to hear a song. People cheered and he performed Fehu, I’d only heard the album version with the entire band, but the solo version gave me gooseflesh. It was magical(the clips can't do it justice), there’s no other word for it and I know how that sounds, but it was just magical. Later, we were treated to a beautiful rendition of Voluspa  that left me and the rest of the crowd speechless. 

Time seemed to evaporate and soon the talk was wrapping up. There was thunderous applause, the first of many standing ovations that would happen that evening. People were making their way up to the front so they could talk to Einar, but I was far too shy to try anything like that and made for the exit.

Now I had to head back the way I came, thankfully downhill, and then several more blocks to the Corona theater. Pulling a tunic out of my bag I quickly changed into garb and patted the inside pocket of my jacket to check that my second ticket was still there; it was. I struck out into the cold dark night to begin the two kilometer trek to the Corona theater.

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