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Tradition, culture take center stage in Sheffield

Swedish folk band Jaerv. (Photo contributed)

SHEFFIELD — Swedish folk band Jaerv has shared its music in Japan, Scotland, Ireland, Japan and Spain. And on Thursday, June 27, the band will perform for a crowd in Sheffield.
The concert, sponsored by Egremont-based wood supplier Berkshire Veneer and Berkshire Strings, a musical instruction school located in North Egremont, will provide patrons with a unique cultural experience, said Beth Carlson, Dewey Hall board member and co-producer of the event. Much of the programming offered at the locale has a historic element, she added.
“I think the programming happening at Dewey Hall is really unique. The venue is built for music and community events,” said Carlson.
Maggie MacRae, curator of this traditional music series, brought the band to Carlson’s attention. Jaerv first performed in Sheffield last winter and the attendance and feedback from the event was resoundingly successful, said Carlson.
“Their music just feeds the soul in a unique way,” she said. “The harmonies really speak to people on a physical and emotional way.”
The five-man band is comprised of Joel Hagen who plays flute, whistles, soprano saxophone and vocals; Anders Bergsten on double bass; Harald Nilsson on guitar; Markus Gustavsson on fiddle; and Tobias Hedlund supplies percussion. All five members supply vocals.
Hagen also plays the ewi, which stands for electronic wind instrument.
Bergsten also plays the nyckelharpa, which is sometimes called the Swedish key fiddle. The nyckelharpa is a traditional Swedish instrument that has been incorporated in Scandinavian folk music for more than 600 years , according to the American Nyckelharpa Association, a nonprofit dedicated to the instrument. The instrument has 16 strings — three melody strings, one drone string and 12 sympathetic resonance strings — and 37 wooden keys arranged to slide beneath the strings.
Unlike their first time in Sheffield, though, members of Jaerv had trouble getting through immigration after new guidelines for the permitting process for performers were established, said Hagen. The concert at Dewey Hall will be the sixth time Jaerv will be in the U.S. The U.S., he said, requested additional evidence from the bandmates proving Jaerv would not be competing for jobs with U.S. citizens.
“The truth is, you can’t hire a group like us that are U.S. citizens, as we represent the Scandinavian tradition,” he said.
While the additional requirements might have been enacted to better protect U.S. jobs, when it comes to musical and cultural exchanges, Hagen said the stricter guidelines from his perspective has a more negative effect on the audience and venue.
Fortunately, all five band members have been permitted to enter and play in the U.S. Jaerv’s 2019 tour begins this weekend, starting in Philadelphia and will loop to Iowa before their arrival at Dewey Hall. Between the natural landscape of mountains and forest as well as the downtown areas and its people, Hagen said Jaerv is really looking forward to performing in Sheffield.
“People (in Berkshire County) really enjoy learning and experiencing different cultures. They’re more open-minded,” he said. “I think people will really enjoy our live experience and hear something new. Something, perhaps, they’ve never heard before. … Maybe (we can give people) a new image, perspective, of what traditional music should sound like.
“Det kommer bli grymt bra (It will be great).”
Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 day of show and can be purchased at https://bit.ly/2ZuUxo2.
For additional information, call 413-429-1176 or email mcraemb7@gmail.com.

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