Harald Haugaard and Morten Alfred Høirup are well known faces in the Danish folk music market - Harald Haugaard is one of the finest young fiddlers in Denmark, he plays with the magic group Serras as well as with Sorten Muld etc. Morten Alfred Høirup is an exceptional fine guitarist and singer. Since some time they have joined forces, and their live appearance is breathtaking, with the sound of the duo carrying the Danish tradition amazingly fresh into today's generation.
Both Harald and Morten have the tradtional music in their family. Harald's grandfather is a fiddler, playing traditional dance music. Morten's father is carrying the Copenhagen tradition of singing, with Morten having learned a lot from him. "My father wanted to play with someone who can play bass-guitar and guitar and drums at the same time. So I played with him..." He still plays together with his father.
Morten met some people from Denmark playing Irish music, French Canadian and American music, and later he met some people from those countries who play that music. He liked it and so played a lot of French Candian music internationally. Some time later he played some Danish dance music together with his father - and he got more interested in Danish music. "Because of many reasons, one is that it is nice to play some music from where you live, to play your own music, and also this is something I can talk about to my family and my friends. But still I had a lot of fun to play music from other countries and many different kind of contemporary and all traditional music. One of the reasons that I am so interested in my own culture is because I have been traveling a lot in other countries - I think when you start to understand your own culture, then you will be also much more tolerant to other cultures."
Today he only plays together with his father and in this duo with Harald.
Harald is influenced by his grandfather - but he has also been playing classical music, jazzrock, etc. "I thing it is really important for musicians to be open minded as much as possible, to play a lot of stuff - I can't get deep enough in all different kind of rock and jazz and classical, I can't do that, but I can try. And I can carry those elements from Jazz and classical and rock music to my own style to my folk style - I think that is really important. Now I play with this band Serras, and I play with Sorten Muld - and that is very experimental music, compared to the more acoustic music of the duo. So I've been playing a lot of kinds of music, and I have this grandfather with traditional music..."
Their repertoire as a duo contains both traditional Danish material and own compositions. Morten says "Special about this duo is that we play a lot of traditional Danish material and a lot of our own compositions. And the Danish material that we play is partly melodies that we learned from the masters - both of us have been playing with many good old musicians, older than I am. And the other part of the traditional music we play we have from the old music books - Harald is checking them out - I don't read music." Both Harald and Morten are composing tunes themselves, and these tunes find its way into the duo's repertoire.
Tunes they play include Schottische, Polka, Danish Hopsa, Waltzes, some tunes in 6/8 like jigs, and reels - all these tunes are part of the Danish music tradition, some found their way from other European regions to Denmark a long time ago...
Apart from the tunes Morten contributes some singing. And they want to add some more songs to their repertoire. Morten says. "At the moment there is a movement in Denmark, people want to sing more, especially young people in folk music want to sing more - often they sing songs about trolls and elfs and swords and fights and Vikings, that's good, too. But we want to include also other songs, which are not that old, like love songs and more romantic things. Denmark has one of the biggest collection of songs (including their melodies) in the world - so we are very lucky."
Their music is made for listeners, not for dancers. Harald says: "We arrange the music the way we want it. If you are dance musicians you arrange it one way, if you want to be listened to in a concert you arrange it in another. I think one of the things that is special about our duo in Denmark, is that, while of course having respect for the tradition and the old masters, we arrange music in a way respectless. If we play an old tune that everybody knows, and we think it needs a second part, then we compose a second part... I think the old masters would be happy to know that we do our best to make their music survive."
Still they both can play for dances, and also do it at parties like birthdays and weddings - but not as the duo...
In Denmark Danish folk music is something to "use" - Morten says: "They dance to it, or they play it, so if you are a danceband, or you are teaching much at workshops, it is good. They also use it for dancing on Saturday night, just moving, you know. But there is not a big tradition in folk music in Denmark as music to sit down and listen to. Maybe if it's Irish music or something like that it is possible - but not for Danish music. And that's one of the reasons we want so much to come to Germany, you have a very well educated audience, who really wants to listen, and that is very good for our music."
Danish folk music in Denmark does not have a big revival - it is more like a little wave; more young people seem to be interested in Danish music. Morten says: "If you want to sit down and wait until they talk about Danish folk music on Danish television, you would get old. On the radio we have two hours every week with contempory folk music, and 40 minutes with mostly folk songs - and that is all. On the other hand something is certainly happening, we have the Danish Folk Music Council (FMS), to do practical administry work with bands, both professional and amateur, they help to expose the music abroad. They are supporting people and folk music in many ways, we now have more Danish folk music getting abroad than ever. There is no reason to be completely pessimistic about the Danish scene, it is looking kind of good I think, in many ways - but still, it could be miles better. Still things are happening, it is much better now than it was 5 or 10 years ago."
There once was a big revival of Danish music; Morten: "When my father was young there was a revival - suddenly all folk musicians were on television, even if they couldn't play very much. But it all disappeared very soon again. So I think today's way is the better way to build it up slowly, to educate people. I think to educate young people in folk music is very important, it is more important than television, because these people go out and teach and play folk music."
In Denmark there are some bands that have quite a name, both in and outside the folk music scene, like Sorten Muld or Serras. These bands bring young people to folk music. Harald: "I know that for many young people Sorten Muld has been kind of an entrance to folk music, to more traditional kind of folk music. You know, we (Harald with Sorten Muld) played last weekend at Roskilde festival (international known rock music festival), and a lot of festivals like that, and world music festivals as well. I think it is very important to go around, because folk music is very good live music - often it is very much physical, it is dance music. I think it is a good way to expose the music at those festivals." Morten adds: "I work as a radio journalist, and I can see when Sorten Muld is touring, we get letters from young people who say 'we heard Sorten Muld and they played a song, where does that come from, how did it really sound?' You know, and then we can play one of the old recordings together with Sorten Muld's new one - and that is how it works."
In Denmark at the moment a discussion about more the negative sense of "Danishness" takes place. Harald says: "We have a sick discussion about this in Denmark right now, people are very scared about other countries' cultures - they want to be in the old Danish way, as we used to be..." Harald adds "But Denmark has always been influenced by other cultures...", Morten continues, "Many things are part of other cultures - for example we Danish play Polkas coming from Poland, and we play Schottisch - from Scotland..."
This discussion has no direct influence on the folk scene. Morten: "When I play traditional music in Denmark, I have not yet met people who come because they want to have their own culture and want to sing the old danish songs. I have not met these. When I do that I will get scared..." Harald adds: "I think folk music in Denmark is - like in many other countries - related to the left wing." At least at the more progressive end of the folk music spectrum. At the more traditional end "you can have people like they come and they dance a little, slowly, and they eat some bread and sugar and drink some coffee and go home. We have not the radical right wing..."
All the German readers are lucky because this excellent duo is coming to Germany in february 2001. For more information you can contact their Agent Anker Hintze.
Latest published CD: Haugaard & H°irup "Duo for Violin & Guitar", Label: Danish Folk Music Production, read the review in this issue.
Further contact: e-mail Morten Alfred Høirup.
Photo Credit: All photos by the Mollis, taken at Rudolstadt Festival, Germany
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