Here is a 3 part slide show with a text tour diary made by Catriona McKay while on tour in Sweden October 2010 with Olov Johansson playing music from their latest cd. ‘Foogy’ is a CD by Olov Johansson and Catriona McKay exploring the combination of the Swedish nyckelharpa and the Scottish harp.

foogy tour 2010 part 1

foogy tour 2010 part 2

foogy tour 2010 part 3

All music written and arranged by Catriona McKay& Olov Johansson(except Spelmansglädje by Eric Sahlström arr. McKay/Johansson) © Catriona McKay & Olov Johansson 2010

The music on this video is a live recording. © Catriona McKay & Olov Johansson 2008


‘Foogy’ is a CD by Olov Johansson and Catriona McKay exploring the combination of the Swedish nyckelharpa and the Scottish harp. The cd is available to buy from Here is a diary of our Swedish Tour in October 2010 made by Catriona while on the road.

Upplands Väsby/ Apoteket / Picchus Cafe

The tour got off to a great start. We played an acoustic gig in an old pharmacy shop, now a restaurant, instrument workshop and art gallery where a famous Swedish murder took place on the old staircase in 1913. It is yet unsolved. The building is now called The Picchus Cafe, and is owned by Ola and Birgitta who are a luthier and chef respectively. They made us very welcome and it was an intimate gig with around 30 or so people. We felt we had made friends and really got to know the audience.

Uppsala / Konserthuset / Oktoberstämman

The next day was a birthday, 10 years old for the eldest child of Olov. His wife made the most fantastic birthday cake and we played tunes and had some dancing in the kitchen before leaving for the big event in the Uppsala Concert House, the Octoberstammen. This was the yearly meeting and festival of nychelharpers and fiddlers with some accordionists and guitarists-since 1947. They meet and play and swop tunes, play for dancing.

The Uppsala concert house is a new building that has won several awards for its design. Every corner of the building resonated with the ringing strings of the nyckelharpa and the swish of the polska dancers! It was FANTASTIsKT!!! (that's Swedish for amazing).

It was a special day for Olov because he was awarded the 'old guy's badge' otherwise known as the “Uplands Spelmansförbunds Spelmansmärke e Guld”. Olov remembers that when he was young he looked up to the old guys that played the nyckelharpa who proudly wore those badges, and now he is the owner of one! There was a ceremony of tunes and Olov played a solo of a polska he wrote for his former teacher Curt Tallroth called 'Fullträffen' which relates to a story of him fending off some burglars who entered his house - he got his boxing gloves on and at the ripe old age of 75 sent them running off into the night!

After a quick soundcheck (as quick as you can be with a Scottish harp plus Olov's 3 different types of nyckelharpa), the audience packed in to see and hear their hero nychelharper Olov Johansson! We mixed up the music in the gig so Olov could play his 3-rowed chromatic nyckelharpa, the kontrabass harpa, and the octave nyckelharpa. Olov's wife said we played our best performance yet of 'Harper's Dismissal', this is when we use the harp plus the octave nyckelharpa and she said it was deeply moving - high praise indeed from someone who has heard every step from the start of this musical combination of Scottish and Swedish harps. Also playing in the concert was trio NOMO featuring the African harp- the kora and a 5-piece outfit with the flutist from Groupa (who I heard in Edinburgh's Queenshall a few years ago playing great music).

As soon as we got off the stage, Roger Tallroth (co member of Olov's band Våsen) came to congratulate us, and pull Olov's leg about a dodgy note or something!! He brought me a tin of beer! I took a wander through the building experiencing the music, some crazy sessions with players just going for it, and then in the next corner a duo of nychelharpas playing beautifully.

Hunger brought me down the escalator (even tunes going on up and down here!!) and I found myself a lovely tattie and herring dish on delicious wholemeal bread with a beer from the performers token I was given. I sat down to watch the wonderful variety of beautiful Polska dancing to the brilliant sounds of Hoven Droven. I loved it! I was in heaven! Great music. Olov introduced me to the whole band and they gave me a cd. What a great bunch. We plan to listen to then in the car on the road for the rest of the tour when we travel from Uppsala again.

Umeå / Norrlands Operan / Black Box

An early flight took us from Arlanda airport to Umeå where Markus met us and took us to lead a workshop for 9 young local musicians. 7 fiddlers, 1 nychelharper and one box player. We taught them 4 tunes so that they could come and join us on stage at the end if our gig in the Nordlands Opera House 'Black Box' stage. We had a visit from a TV camera for the local news. It was nice to see some of Olov's former students from Tobo whom I had met at the Eric Sahlstrom Institute when we played there and did a workshop last year.

The gig was great, with fantastic sound engineer Andreas. It was recorded for Swedish radio broadcast and we did an interview with a good man who was really interested in many aspects of our collaboration between Scottish harp and Swedish harp.

After the gig there was a dance with the local Umeå spelmanslag musicians playing. A kind man called Hakon from the audience took me for a waltz and a schottische. Then I made Olov do a Polska with me so I could practice my - three one - three one - three one!

Örnsköldsvik / Thule Teatern

We left Umeå after Olov did some shopping in shops that make clothes for tall people. The journey was spent diddling tunes so I could learn them for the concert next weekend.

Our Monday night gig was an acoustic gig in an old church- now set out as a theatre in Örnsköldsvik. Olov and I did a sound check and it was good but I suggested using some things on the stage to help push our sound out to the audience. Olov found some tables and suggested we use our cases to make a solid backdrop to go behind us. Our ‘acoustic wall’ really worked and looked interesting!

We went had dinner in an Italian restaurant that was decorated in signed ice hockey shirts by successful Swedish athletes. Their national team is called the Three Crowns. We played our hearts out as it was really enjoyable and the audience was very enthusiastic. It was a beautiful night with a big full moon.

An early start to get back to the airport and a journey spent discussing teaching methods. Poor Olov was charged double on his credit card for our parking and there was no one or at Arlanda airport to help rectify the situation. The next excitement was a patch of black ice which sent the car heading for the ditch. Some fine driving by Olov kept us safe but then we slid towards a car that appeared from round the corner coming towards us- a close shave but the fast reactions of the maestro nychelharper saved the day! AH, life on the road!

Stockholm / Stallet

On Wednesday we played a concert in the very room we first played a tune together! Our journey has now gone full circle- via a cd, filming for tv, festivals and a few tours.

After the soundcheck we took a walk up to the hill with the castle on it. Here it contrasts with modern city Stockholm as it has old narrow winding streets with beautiful buildings and interesting wee shops.

The gig at Stallet in Stockholm was great and I got a real shiver when the audience joined in clapping along with our encore of Eric Sahstrom's Spelmansglasje because that was the very tune through which we had found a connection those years back during a shared concert by Våsen and Fiddlers' bid. To my amusement, they clapped 'three-one, three-one, three-one!'

Köping / Köpings Kyrka

The next day we did some more work on the equipment we use and Olov spent some time in his shed, oops- he prefers to call it his 'workshop'- to fix a lead for me.

We drove to Köping (pronounced 'shopping' - easy for me to remember!) to play in a church. It had a great energy and a very fine acoustic for us. It's a nice town and we had good food in the pub afterwards, I had fried herring with lingen berries and mashed tatties! Braw! Olov was happy because the bar had some really tasty microbrewery beers for him to try.

Linköping / Valla Folkhögskola

I woke to the most beautiful sunny morning and my room had a small balcony so I spent some time appreciating all of the recent experiences. Then I learnt a couple of new tunes that we will play on Saturday with Alm Nils & Kungs Levi, two very fine local fiddlers from Siljansnäs.

We did some shopping in Köping! I bought a beautiful crochet tablecloth from the Red Cross and a special edition winter 2010 Moomin mug for my collection as a memento of our 2010 Sweden tour. There was an old fashioned cobbler opposite the hotel with lots of interesting tools and leather in the window.

We drove to Linköping where we found the PA didn't have enough leads for our needs! So Olov sent home the PA and we got to work making our acoustic wall again, this time using the back of 2 pianos, a projector screen and a podium. It worked really well and the audience loved hearing us playing acoustically. Then there was a dance. Also playing were nychelharpers Eric, Ida and Rune. Eric and Ida are former Tobo students of Olov and Ida was just awarded the status of National Fiddler.

I was taken to dance by expert Swedish folk dancer Sivert who guided me through some dances. After a few polskas he said to me 'GOOD' and I was very happy with myself.

Avesta / Sjöviks Folkhögskola

We had an early breakfast made by Lotta who was impressed with our discipline on tour, getting up early to travel to the next location. She told us her husband works nights and is from the north of Sweden so he is very quiet in the mornings and if she talks to him before midday he can't talk yet and says 'Oh, so many words!'

We arrived at Sjöviks in time for lunch and then we presented a workshop on composing. It was really interesting hearing Olov speak about his composing and his unique ideas. The students were starting a project on composing so we hoped to inspire them and share some of our methods and tricks!

A Celtic harp player called Olle came along and played the Scottish song melody Wild Mountain Thyme for me on his Finnish harp. I took a closer look at his harp and noticed a tube running up the back of the harp, along the neck towards the levers. He told me he'd developed a mechanism for moving one of the levers during a piece he played. We decided it could also be useful as a drinking tube, like on a backpack for your energy drink when climbing a mountain- but I suggested Olle had his connect to a bottle of whisky instead. He thought I was on to something.

Kersten is the music course leader and is an inspirational lady and very fine singer.  She took me on a guided walk through the school grounds while Olov was teaching a nychelharpa lesson. They have tipi village where some students live close to nature for the whole year. They make everything they need. They were also building canoes based on a Canadian design. The campus has some beautiful old style wooden buildings.

We played acoustic again and the gig was great. We were privileged to have local musician Eva Engdahl in the audience. She is a charismatic lady and performed as Sweden’s top concert pianist for many years. She plays both classical and jazz but during the late 1940s when she was making her radio recitals in both genres it was deemed inappropriate for a woman to play both styles so she played jazz under the pseudonym of 'Mary Adams'.

Also in the audience was artist Helen Ersbacken who made some paintings of us and added to the creative atmosphere.

During the interval Eva Engdahl spoke with Olov and me and suggested we came to her house after the concert because she understood how us musicians needed to wind down after a performance. It was great; we sat round the table by candlelight having cheese and wine with the company of 'charley' her grand piano in the corner. It was a really old Swedish house from round about 1750. The room we were in was the old 'ben' room and no people had lived in it before she had the house- only chickens and pigs. It was a magical evening hearing her stories and view on life, what a force! I was in awe! Eva's son is the internationally renowned guitarist Jojje Wadenius.

Some great things were said round the table that night, Eva brought such energy to us and said many wise words that I want to remember, including '...why don't people do more fun things like dance, look at art, listen to music!' We tore ourselves away from this fascinating lady's company and were greeted by some scary Halloween characters on the way home.

Siljansnäs / Sockenstugan

You wouldn't think that the tour could stay so good with meetings of such amazing people, but it did! We drove to beautiful Siljansnäs (stopping for a quick lunch with Mikael Marin, 3rd member of Våsen) to be welcomed by Alm Nils and Kungs Levi, two of the finest Swedish fiddlers. Wow. It was just like home, some food and talk then some tunes and laughs, some stories and some rest and then more food and a soundcheck and more tunes and stories, this time with an audience! It was amazing, all strings, two traditional Swedish fiddlers, Olov on nychelharpa and me on the Scottish harp! What an honor to play tunes with these musicians!

Youtube video of our concert with Alm Nils and Kungs Levi playing Eric Sahlström's Spelmansglädje!

Olov had been on a tour some 20 years ago with Alm Nils and Kungs Levi to Libya but Olov hadn't seen much of them since. Alm Nils and Kungs Levi remind me of the lads in Fiddlers' Bid, that familiarity and connection in their music and fun. Levi told us before the gig 'There's an 11th commandment, Thou Shalt Not Worry'. It was a great night when they told some of the old stories with wine and Swedish food and then we played some more tunes. Levi came appeared at the door when we were at breakfast with a cd and book for us, he signed my book and wrote some lovely words, I will cherish it!

It's been an incredible tour playing great music, experiencing many new Swedish things, allowing myself to further absorb the irresistible Swedish 'three-one, three-one, three-one' and meeting great characters and interesting people. Olov has taken me into the heart of his home tradition, his unique connection to the past nychelharpers with their way of doing things and approaching music. It's special to discover connections between the strange and unusual instruments we play - Well that's a good way to live.

Catriona McKay 2020