Kappleiks and House Parties: Norwegian Folk Fiddle in North American Contexts, 1910-1970

Project leader:
Laura Ellestad

Project period:
2014 –

Research centre:


Fiddle, Nordic folk music

Fellowship project
Ph.D in Performance Practice

How did Norwegian-American traditional fiddle players adapt their performance practices to cultural contexts in their new homeland, and how can Ph.D. student Laura Ellestad use her musical praxis to investigate and recreate performance practices from this period?

This project will investigate performance practices among Norwegian immigrant traditional fiddlers in North America during the period between 1900 and 1970. In their new homeland, Norwegian immigrant fiddlers responded to unfamiliar cultural contexts by finding various ways to adapt their performance practices.

While some fiddlers established venues for performance, competition, and the informal exchange of traditional bygdedans tunes, others played an influential role in the rise of a new, creolized Norwegian-American “old-time” music.

Performances of bygdedans music in the context of competitions (“kappleiks”) arranged by a national organization for Hardanger fiddlers, Hardanger Violinist Forbundet af Amerika, will be a central focus in this project. In addition, performance practices associated with the Norwegian-American old-time music tradition will be examined.

Old photo of participants at kappleik
Participants at a "kappleik" in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 1920. Picture from private collection.

This tradition, which became immensely popular during the first decades of the 20th century, existed parallel to the kappleiks, largely in its own domain, yet a considerable amount of contact also took place between the two spheres. Finally, I will study these performance practices from a contemporary performer’s perspective, using my position as a performer of traditional Hardanger fiddle music to investigate, recreate, and renew bygdedans and old-time traditions from this period.

The main ethnographic setting for this study is the American Upper Midwest, a region which includes the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and North and South Dakota.

Project leader

Laura Ellestad

Laura Ellestad

Research Fellow

Performance Practice

Last updated: 2. September 2014