Tove de Fries:
a Danish treat

An interview by Tom Knapp,
October 2002

It's just a short boat trip from Denmark to the British Isles.

Hence, the Celts and the Danes have interacted quite a lot over the years. Sometimes, they didn't get along so well (Can anyone say "vikings"?) but there's no question they've had an influence on each other's musical traditions.

In an age when Celtic music is everywhere, Tove de Fries is a lone voice for its Danish counterpart. I met Tove when she brought her nation's music to a hotbed of Scots-Irish traditions: the 2002 Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton.

OK, so maybe Cape Bretoners have trouble pronouncing her name. That didn't stop Tove from feeling at ease among the Celtic music lovers in North River, where she performed with her musical partner, keyboardist Malene Beck.

"About 30 percent of the tunes I know from home," Tove said, after a session with local fiddlers. "The old music from up here is very familiar." But while she plays a lot of the local jigs and reels, Tove's repertoire also includes Danish mazurkas and polkas.

Tove, a native of western Jutland, began learning the fiddle at age 16. With her famous father, fiddler Niels de Fries, one might have expected her to start sooner.

"My father learned to play from his father," Tove explained. But her dad sent her first to music school to learn "properly."

"I was there for one hour and I left," she remembered. "I didn't get to play polkas and waltzes or anything. So I stopped and I was afraid to start again." But several years later, her father came home and found her toying with a fiddle. He suggested a gig, and her future was set.

Now, at age 30, Tove considers herself something of a musical ambassador for Denmark.

"My father is dead, and nobody else is playing this music," she said. "It means more and more for me to play it now. Besides, these are good tunes, they shouldn't just be thrown away."

Tove discovered Cape Breton music -- and began noticing the similarities -- when Jerry Holland and Marion Dewar performed at a workshop in Denmark.

While Danish music hasn't swept the world like Celtic music has in recent years, Tove said the tradition is spreading among young Danes.

"Cape Breton, Scotland and Ireland have developed fiddle music much more than Denmark has," she said. "But it's growing."

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 9 November 2002