In my master’s thesis Signifyin’ Vigdal: Aspects of the Ragnar Vigdal tradition and the revival of Norwegian vocal folk music which I finished in 2003 my main point of focus was the Ragnar Vigdal tradition and how vocalists today interpret him (his style is known for it’s nasal timbre, ornamentals and special tonality). As a part of my field work I visited Klaus Vigdal, Ragnar Vigdal’s son, in Luster 2002 and interviewed him. I also met his two sons, Erling and Ragnar Jr. The visit was a minor culture shock – a small town up in the fjords (at least seen from Bergen, where I’m from), but very interesting and the Vigdal family were very open and friendly. Klaus worked (and probably still works) with concrete (the first thing he said in the interview was “Jeg jobber med betong” – implying he is not a singer), but also sings – continuing his father’s tradition of religious tunes in the Haugianer tradition (the family is also religious). After the interview with Klaus, Erling who had just purchased a 12 string guitar and drove a huge SUV with “In God We Trust” (in English) written on the side took me over to his brother’s house. There they jammed over their grandfather’s (religious) tunes – using a country/blues idiom. Everything seemed informal and they were having fun. The next day I returned to Bergen and during the rest of the thesis writing project I did not have any direct contact with them (and then I left Norway and lost all contact).
So when Anne, a good friend and colleague from Norway, came to visit last October she brought a very cool surprise – a CD called “ Tonereise – arven“: The jam had matured into a project using Ragnar Vigdal’s songs sung mainly by his son Klaus in Ragnar’s style accompanied by Erling, Ragnar Jr. and other musicians. The instrumentation draws on country/blues using i.a. dobro, mandolin and (slide) guitar which produces an interesting mix between Norwegian religious vocal folk music and country/blues. Here is one example:
As a reference, listen to Ragnar Vigdal’s interpretation on the album “Tonereise Til En Gamal Samtid“, released 1979 by Kirkelig Kulturverksted.
The CD is a pleasant surprise since it is a good example on how to pass on the tradition by both keeping the main traits of the tradition alive while at the same time creating something new.