If you’re planning to chill out in Sweden this summer, don’t forget to spend a few hours at the Festival of Music that’s held every year at Lake Siljan, Dalarna
That tropical Chennai hosts an annual Festival of Music is well-known in India and abroad. But how many know about the Festival of Music at Lake Siljan, Dalarna, close to the Arctic Circle in Sweden?
Lake Siljan was created by a meteoroid 377 million years ago and is the largest crater in Europe. The lake and its surrounding area are very picturesque with flowing meadows and fir trees covering the mountains in the distance.
During the first week of July each year, the Summer Festival of Music at Lake Siljan beckons music lovers. Concerts interspersed with folk music are presented in a variety of environments. I have visited this music festival for several years and have enjoyed it more each time.
The county of Dalarna (Dalicarlia) is situated approximately 250 km northwest of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. You can take a train or bus to the town of Rättvik, but most convenient is to rent a self-driven car in Stockholm, as you need one anyway to move from event to event in Dalarna.
Presenting original folk music.
A few kilometres east of Rättvik is located the small village of Bingsjö.
The first time I visited the folk music festival at Bingsjö I was taken aback at the number of people who had assembled there for the love of traditional Swedish country music. One day and night in the first week of July every year, folk musicians meet in the open air at Bingsjö to play together.
We drove through dense forests of fir trees on a warm summer afternoon. Not a farm or house was in sight. We suddenly came across a lone man directing us further to a small mud road that led to the village of Bingsjö.
Navigating cars, tents, house wagons and people, we found a parking space at the top of a hill. There we found a farm house surrounded by barns and in the centre someone had set up stands selling coffee and hotdogs, biscuits and buns.
From the old farm house we could look down the slope on a massive crowd of 2000 people sitting on benches, chairs or blankets on the grass. Some of them were spectators having a picnic and enjoying the music. The rest were young and older music enthusiasts stringing their fiddles or practising on the harmonium or guitars in groups behind the bushes and barns. Eventually the small groups played together.
The village also has a stage where groups of musicians and singers perform. Everything happens outdoors, so you have to hope for a warm, rain-free summer night as the music goes on till the morning. Further North, above the Polar Circle, the sun just touched the horizon to rise again. We listened to music resting on blankets in the twilight right through the night.
Music and drama in nature.
Situated between Rättvik and Bingsjö, this site has an innate attraction. Dalhalla has undergone a transformation from an abandoned quarry to an international festival scene.
We arrived at the very well organised parking place where we left our car. You can also come by bus from the nearby town of Rättvik. From the parking place it is a fairly long walk down to the bottom of the quarry. The walk is, however, made interesting by signboards on the way telling the history of the quarry and the different types of minerals and fossils found while quarrying. For the disabled, there is a bus to transport them down the quarry. What struck me when I arrived at the top of the quarry was its depth and size.
Like a huge amphitheatre with an emerald green lake at the bottom, Dalhalla is one of the world’s most beautiful outdoor scenes in the middle of the woods with incomparable acoustics, no disturbing echoes and with silence all around. It is the perfect place to listen to music.
If you wish you can have a drink and food at the restaurant at the bottom of the quarry or buy snacks and refreshments in small stalls before you take your seat. We preferred to bring our own picnic which we enjoyed in the interval.
Dalhalla was inaugurated in 1993 and has grown in popularity through the years. It holds programmes through the summer consisting of opera, musical theatres, symphonies, choirs, ballet, jazz and big bands.
We had a lovely evening listening to the Ten Tenors from Australia.
You will never forget the experience at Dalhalla. But bring something warm as the night gets chilly sometimes at the bottom of the quarry. You are not allowed to use umbrellas, so a raincoat is useful in case the weather gods are not on your side. If you have forgotten it, you can purchase a cheap one at the site.
A composer’s house at Tibble.
At the southern tip of Lake Siljan we stayed in the small town of Leksand. From there we drove to the village of Tibble on Lake Insjön which is connected to Siljan by a canal.
Hugo Alfven, one of Sweden’s favourite composer and conductor, used to live here. One of Alfven’s best-known pieces is ‘Midsummer Vigil,’ also called Swedish Rhapsody.
During the Festival of Music at Siljan, there is a celebration at Alfven’s house in the open under the birch trees. Typical long boats of Dalarna rowed by six to ten oarsmen and women dressed in traditional folk dresses drew closer on the glittering water. When they reached the landing place at Alfven’s house they walked up the slope in pairs playing their fiddles.
The Alfven Foundation gives a grant to two young promising folk musicians every year at this function. After the ceremony, a choir sang some of Alfven’s compositions while the wind whispered through the birch trees and the leaves glittered in the sun.
Before leaving Leksand, we visited the town fair. There we found a variety of traditional handmade curios as well as farmer’s products on display.
As we started our drive back to Stockholm the clouds gathered and there was a chill in the air. Till then we had experienced a warm and sunny time in Dalarna.
When you visit temperate Sweden do not miss the “cool” Siljan Festival.
Several airlines fly to Stockholm from India (For e.g. BA, Lufthansa, Finnair)
Language: Swedish, but most Swedes speak English
Currency: Swedish Krona
Siljan Festival: First week of July every year.
Bingsjö Festival: First Wednesday of July every year.
Here you can find programmes, accommodation, and local transport.
Sweden has very good youth hostels and B&B
www.sj.se has information about Swedish Railways
Car rental: Search car rental Stockholm Arlanda
Websites of interest:
(Some might have to be translated.)