Western Europe and the Nordic Countries (Intro)

Welcome, friends, to the first week of the next amazing season of All Around This World's online class. Today we start our journey Western Europe and the Nordic Countries, a region of the world that has the distinction of being home to the most popular music-makers of all time, from the almost super-human classical composers Beethoven, Bach and Mozart to the (arguably?) equally brilliant Lennon and McCartney. For centuries Western European music accompanied Western European colonial powers on their march around the globe, often fusing with indigenous musics to form hybrids that over time became "indigenous" genres of their own.

In the meantime, Western Europe and the Nordic countries originated and nourished their own local and regional musical forms, from foot-stomping Irish-Celtic dance to Swedish hambo-polka, from mesmerizing Spanish flamenco to mystifying Finnish Sámi voik, from bounding German oom-pah to passionate Portuguese fado (which in and of itself is a mix of many Iberian, African and Brazilian influences), from Basque trikitrixa to the multi-facted Ottoman-influenced sound of Greece. The artists who create in these genres may not necessarily dominate the global recording industry, but they do appreciate the power of music that has cultural resonance far beyond the time even the most popular song takes to race up and down the charts.    
  We're going to explore Western European music in all its glory...and it will be glorious. 

We sing "We Are Happy," a hello song from Uganda, to open every All Around This World class. This week we sing hello in Catalan:  "Benvinguts!"  

 “Olafur” is an Icelandic epic, taking us to a battle between our children and a no-nonsense elf. (More.)  

Flickorna” is a Swedish folk song that takes us to the magical forest of Smaland where see the happy children dancing. (More.)  

Tra La La” is a German “landler,” a happy dance song in ¾ time. (1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 . . . ) (More.)  

"Douce Dame Jolie” is a Medieval French love song – an ars nova song from the 14th century. (More.)  


In class this season we dance the Schuhplattler, a style of traditional German folk dancing in which dancers stomp their feet, clap their hands and slap the soles of their shoes (Schuhe), their thighs and their knees with their hands flat (platt). The dance is playful and acrobatic, full of colorful costumes, jumping, leaping, kicking and fun.    

Bavaria is a German state located in the southeast of Germany that borders Austria and Switzerland and encompasses many picturesque Alps. Some of Germany's most stereotypically identifiable folk culture comes from Bavaria--traditional Bavarian shorts known as lederhosen and, of course, yodeling! While today most expressions of Bavarian folk dress, dance and music are just for show, at the turn of the 19th century Bavarian folk culture was very much alive. From the 1880s until the 1920s Bavarian Volkssängers (people's singers) would present shows consisting of folks songs that were often full of rambunctious humor. After the first World War Volkssängers like Barry Prell, the "Beauty Queen of Schneizlreuth," sang folk songs as well as light opera. Watch Bally Prell perform in Munich in 1922.

One more Bavarian treat. Oom-pah is a form of brass band music popular in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and around Eastern Europe, though it is most widely identified with Germany's Bavarian folk music and the yearly beer-hall celebration, Oktoberfest. Watch Bavaria's Jungen Riederinger Musikanten perform "Munti Polka."