top of page

HALLINGDAL FREYLEKHS (2024) - for violin, viola, violoncello, and piano

Premiere: Atlanta Chamber Players, High Museum of Art, April 2024


Duration:  ca. 6'00"


Program Note:


Hallingdal Freylekhs is a fantastical meeting of musical worlds. My father’s side of the family is Ashkenazi Jewish, and my mother’s part Norwegian. Both settled in the US in the early 20th century. My Ashkenazi great-great grandfather, Louis Morris, owned a dry goods store in Rapid City, South Dakota and was one of the first few Jewish settlers in the region. Rapid City was also a site of many Norwegian settlers, and many living there today trace their heritage to Norway. A thriving culture of Norwegian-American folk music exists in the Dakotas and other Midwest states. 


On the other side of my family, my Norwegian great-grandfather, Edvard Johannsen, traveled to Brooklyn, which had (and has) one of the largest populations of Jewish descendants and is a global center for Klezmer music and jazz. The two sides of my family never interacted during this time, nor were they particularly interested in their respective folk music traditions. Norway is also known for having an issue with anti-Semitism, and is home to only 2000 Jews, making this meeting even less likely. But like for many Americans of mixed European descent, these cultures coexist in my heritage. What if they had musically met a century before my parents did?


This piece blends American Klezmer and Norwegian-American dance music in an imaginary combination of my family’s musical cultures. Both traditions weave in and out of each other seamlessly with respective ornaments, rhythms, and modes from each musical tradition, creating a third newly invented folk music with flavors of modern jazz influence. The opening music takes one back into the mists of time before settling into an 8/8 groove that blends traits from halling (from the Hallingdal region of Norway) and klezmer freylekhs dances. 

"Ben’s composition, Hallingdal Freylekhs, imagined a folk music fusion drawn from his father’s Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and his mother’s Norwegian cultural background. The result was a lyrical essay in a classical style that subtly shifted from themes reminiscent of Grieg- and Sibelius-flavored Norwegian-American folk dance to rhythms evoking Klezmer bands and Yiddishkeit at their height. The two worlds truly did unite in a marriage of styles that complemented each other joyously and expressed something greater than either could on its own." — Howard Wershil, EarRelevant

bottom of page