David Lias

David Lias

The musical instrument being played at the 151st Midsommar held at Dalesburg Lutheran Church north of Vermillion on June 25 looked like one of those crazy instruments played by the kids of Whoville in Dr. Seuss’ “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”

“Is it a Whowona?” I asked myself, “or could it be a Blumbloopa? Actually, it sounds like it could be a Gardooka, but it looks more like a Floofloover.”

A conversation with the musician who owns and plays the instrument set me straight.

Tom Carlson, who lives in the Spink area, discovered the unique instrument about seven years when he witnessed it being performed at, you guessed it, that year’s Midsommar at Dalesburg.

“This woman to up on stage with this guy, he played the button accordion and she played the nyckelharpa,” he said. “I had never seen or heard a nyckelharpa before, but I immediately fell in love with both – both the instrument and the woman.”

There’s no story of love at first sight about to come from this – at least not between a man and woman. No budding romance between Carlson and female musician ensued, but he did fall in love with the nyckelharpa.

“So, I ordered my first one and at least at that time, no one was making them in the United States,” he said. “Even in Sweden, you can’t walk into a store and buy one like you could buy, say, a guitar here. They are all pretty much made to order because there’s not that big of a demand and they’re quite expensive, being dutifully hand-carved like they are.”

I’m hardly fluent in Swedish, but the instrument’s name – nyckelharpa – means, roughly “keyed fiddle” or “keyed harp.” It sort of hard to describe its appearance. It’s like one of those small toy pianos you had a kid collided with a violin so you end up with a violin with keys.

An easier description is it looks like something Dr. Suess would dream up.

He waited six months to a year for his first nyckelharpa to arrive, trusting that the Swedish craftsman that he ordered to build the instrument knew what he was doing.”Lo and behold, a package finally arrives from Sweden and you open it up and there’s a new baby in there,” Carlson said, “and I’ve done that three times.”

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