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This is a letter originally sent to nyckelharpa players in 1995 with the goal of starting an organization supporting nyckelharpa in the United States. Obviously, the endeavor was a success! We’re happy to provide this to the public to show our humble beginnings. Please note that membership pricing and contacts are different now, so refer to other areas on the site for current information.

Charter Membership Letter

The International Nyckelharpa Association

Hello, lovers of Swedish folk music, and especially the nyckelharpa,

We invite you to join us in forming a Nyckelharpa Association to foster the playing of this unique instrument (sometimes called the key fiddle) outside of its native Sweden. Leif Alpsjö, a riksspelman (master fiddler) from Uppland, estimates that there are about 75 nyckelharpa players in the U.S., and has been instrumental in organizing us to get this project off the ground. He has traveled to the U.S. many times, and met most American nyckelharpa players at least once.

The nyckelharpa is a traditional Swedish instrument that has been played, in one form or another as it evolved, for more than 500 years. At least four different versions of the nyckelharpa, corresponding to the dominant form in the 1500’s, 1700’s, 1800’s and 1900’s, are still played today, an uncommon situation for most folk instruments. Leif estimates that about 8000 Swedes currently play the nyckelharpa, although about 25,000 have been made since the 60’s. Most play the “three-row chromatic nyckelharpa”, which was designed in the 1920’s as an extension to the then-current “silver-bass nyckelharpa”.

The purpose of this association is to support the players and fans of the nyckelharpa by arranging and advertising meetings and workshops; publishing a newsletter; facilitating the purchase of nyckelharpas, strings, bows, etc. from Sweden and among each other; providing a bridge to associations in Sweden; promoting contact between North American nyckelharpa players; and generally to promote the instrument and the music and dance associated with it.

Any association requires a board or officers to handle planning, mailing, financing, newsletter editing, organizing workshops and meetings, etc. It also depends on the willingness of its members to do these tasks, so please indicate on the enclosed application form whether you would like to help and your areas of interest, as well as what you would like a nyckelharpa association to do for you.

Enclosed is a flier for our first event, the Nyckelharpa Stämma, as an example of the kind of event we support. The Stämma will serve to inaugurate the Association as well. Sture Hogmark, a riksspelman from Sweden, will be on hand to teach and play. If you have Internet access, check out our WWW page: http://www.nyckelharpa.org.

Membership dues are $10 for individuals, $25 for institutions. You will receive a quarterly newsletter, starting in the fall of 1995 (send submissions to Bart!).*

We hope you will join us in our endeavor and support us. Please distribute this letter to anyone that might be interested!

Sincerely,

Leif Alpsjö, Bart Brashers, Bruce Sagan, Gail Halverson, Sheila Morris

* Membership dues have increased slightly since 1995