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Sören Åhker builds some mighty fine nyckelharpas. I asked him if he would consent to building one under the watchful scrutiny of my video camera. He hemmed and hawed a while and then agreed. As a result, I spent September 2001 in Ilsbo, Hälsingland following him around with my camera.

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Jag är en nyligen pensionerad familjeläkare som sedan ett år har fyllt min tid med en meningsfull sysselsättning—jag har byggt en nyckelharpa efter Sören Åhkers utmärkta instruktionshäfte och med hjälp av den fina DVD:n du tagit. Det har tagit mig ett år (jag är ingen slöjdare), men med ledning av filmen och med täta telefonkontakter med Sören tycker jag det gått bra faktiskt

—Gunnar Öberg, Ronneby, Sweden

I am a recently retired family doctor who had put his time to good use building a nyckelharpa using Sören Åhker's book and your excellent DVD to guide me. It has taken me a year (I am not a woodworker) and with the help of your film and frequent phone calls to Sören, it's gone very well.

—Gunnar Öberg, Ronneby, Sweden

Great, I have received the book and DVD. Very interesting to see a master maker in action in house. So many details, tips, tricks. What a long interview too. Wonderful. Congratulation for this very patient and well realized work. Thank you so much.

—Francis Giraudeau, Melbourne

Wow! I watched much of Disk 1 in a couple of sittings, then assorted moments of Disk 2 including the entire stringing up and playing segments. What a neat thing!

One notices, in order, how harmoniously Sören works with his tools. His knife is just as much an extension of his arm as Peter's [Hedlund} bow is of his. How quietly confident he is, bringing decisive force to whatever he's doing— never hesitant or tentative, but never going too far or breaking things. That whatever is going on, we just happen to be seeing exactly the right thing, a tribute to the skill of your production. That Sören goes about his work and his description easily and relaxedly, oblivious to the madwoman with the camera hovering over him. A great job.

—Matt Fichtenbaum

Jag har nogsamt tittat igenom DVD:n. Jättebra! Bra klippning i avsnitten med blandade still och rörliga bilder. Ljudet är bra. Sören har en lugn och bra röst som lämpar sig för detta ändamål. Det syns att han har gjort ett par harpor. Sedan är det ju så att detta är hans sätt att bygga ... det finns ett par guldkorn, tycker jag, bl. a. om verktygsslipning och lackering. Alla kan nog finna sina.

—Björn Berglund, Bromma, Sweden

 

I have carefully looked through the dvd. Excellent! The editing is very good with a mix of still images within the video. The sound is good. Sören has a calm voice that lends itself perfectly to the narration. It is clear that he has made many nyckelharpas before. This is HIS manner of building ... there are a number of choice nuggets, for example in the segment about sharpening tools and lacquering. Each person can find his own choice nuggets.

—Björn Berglund

Build a Nyckelharpa with Sören Åhker
Reviewed by Matt Fichtenbaum

Those who’ve seen Peter “Puma” Hedlund’s instructional nyckelharpa videos are familiar with Rita Leydon’s work. In her latest project, she watched and filmed while master builder Sören Åhker brought forth a nyckelharpa, then edited her copious raw material down to just over four hours of concise, flowing story. Sören’s own calm, wise narration complements what we see. As the instrument takes shape, one notices how harmoniously Sören works with his tools. His knife is just as much an extension of his arm as Peter Hedlund's bow is of his. How quietly confident Sören is, bringing decisive force to whatever he's doing—never hesitant or tentative, but never going too far or breaking things. That whatever is going on, we just happen to be seeing exactly the right thing, a tribute to Rita’s skill as a videographer and editor. That Sören goes about his work and his description easily and calmly, oblivious to the filmmaker hovering over him with her camera, so it’s just “Sören and us” in the room. At the end, Sören’s longtime friend Puma comes over, plays the newly-finished harpa, and pronounces it worthy. But after watching it take shape, we had no doubt it would be.

If you’ve ever wondered how the instrument you play got to be this way, this film provides the answer. If you have Sören Åhker’s book Chromatic Nyckelharpa and want the action as well as the text, this is it. And if you’re thinking about building an instrument, you absolutely need this film—it provides the answers, it divulges the secrets, it will keep you from missteps and wrong turns. Just be forewarned: Sören is so completely at home with his tools that the mere mortal, watching, might conclude “If that’s what it takes, I might as well stop now.” There’s just one problem. Sören, Swede that he is, speaks Swedish. For his opening segment, in which he presents himself and his background, there’s an English translation in the form of an Acrobat file on the disk. There’s also a translation of the segment in which Sören stands in the forest and discusses choosing and cutting wood for his instruments. But for the actual construction, the non-Swedish-speaking viewer must follow along in Sören’s book or let Sören’s actions speak for themselves.

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