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Second Stop: Rice Lake, Wisconsin

This post by Anna Wegelius of Kardemimmit continues a series of reflections on the ensemble’s experience during their fall 2017 tour with Arts Midwest Folkefest.

The next week started in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Being a little more South, we got to enjoy the fall colors one more week! The workshops for the week were mostly for the elementary, middle and high school students. We got to meet more than a thousand young people from 4 to 19 -year-olds from more than ten schools from several towns in the area! There were not as many Finnish heritage people in the Rice Lake area but many with Swedish or especially Norwegian roots.

Kardemimmit performs at an evening welcome reception at the University of Wisconsin-Barron County, WI.
Kardemimmit performs at an evening welcome reception at the University of Wisconsin-Barron County, WI. Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Barron County.

As good acoustically as a concert hall or an auditorium is for music, we had a feeling that the smaller rooms with no high stage brought us closer to the students, more than just physically. The students were more eager to ask questions and interact with us when we were on the same level and so close to them. This felt rewarding to us, as many times in the normal concert setting stage lights are so bright it’s impossible to see the impressions of audience members. A school workshop setting is different: there are no stage lights, all the audience impressions are visible. We got feedback on being good readers of the audience’s needs and adapting the workshops based on that. We haven’t thought about that before, but it is true that we adapt each concert and workshop on the base of audience. We don’t really have a script for the speeches but we go with the flow. Usually, we have to do that on base of the feeling from the audience – how they react to our jokes, how fast is the feedback when a song ends and so on. This time we got this feedback straight from the impressions on the faces of the students, which was a different but very rewarding experience! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to always see straight away when the audience is enjoying the arrangement’s little twists, the beginning of base or the comp!

The final concert for Rice Lake was in the Fine Arts Center at the University of Wisconsin, Barron County’s theatre. The hall was full, audience excited and we had an opportunity to meet again some of the students from the past week’s workshops. It was always especially nice when some young student had brought their parents and friends with them to hear us!