Following on from the Myrkur show, next day was Runagaderung itself. After going to Valhalla for coffee, wandering around the stalls of sharp implements surrounded by costumed visitors of varying degrees of authenticity and spying Sean Parry plying his tattooing trade (shame he looked booked up otherwise I would have had my first done..) I arrived at the Fulford Arms.

It’s a cosy venue but well laid out and a terrific sound system for the size. Wristband provided I grabbed a drink and watched the early arrivals wander in. It was always going to be in intriguing evening, laced as the bill was with acoustic folk and mediaeval styles and genuinely educational slots so I was interested in how it would go down.

First to grace us, to a sparse but friendly crowd was one man act Fyrnafolc , who also provides the ancient instruments for Wyrdstaef. Each song was introduced with a few words on the instrument he used in a genuinely warm, amusing and confident way, a little history before the horsehair fiddle or the lyre accompanied his fine, controlled voice. His was also was the first mention of many of Wardruna as he did a fine cover of ‘Helvegen’ and ended with a stirring cover of Burzum’s ‘Heill Odinn’. (Giz)

The crowd was beginning to really fill out nicely by the time the next presence appeared on stage. Dominated by towering man in face paint and his stern looking cowled companion the stage and crowd became hushed as the members of the Asatru UK performed the blot for the festival. Incense burned, mead was sprinkled to bring the inspiration and the blessing turned to a call and repeat chant which was embraced with enthusiasm and respect by the audience. A little chill ran through me I admit as i raised my horn. Perfect. (Giz)

Work commitments meant missing the first act Fyrnafolc but arrived in time to listen to final year PhD student Helen Diggle deliver a 30 minute talk covering her final year thesis which covered essentially the roots of Nordic music, that spanned millennia leading up to the current wave of interest in the style. The talk was very detailed outlining the cultural, geographical and historical contexts within the styles development and influences, interspersed with a couple of sound snippets to emphasise the points she made. The talk was well received by everybody that had attended early enough to catch it and I am sure plenty of those listening were intrigued enough to pursue further investigations themselves, with Helen offering to chat to people about her work and provide references. (MH)

After the weighty thoughts had been digested a little, Solfyr took to the stage. A petite blonde lady in period dress, she was clearly very nervous before the gathering but her unaccompanied singing was quite lovely. Powerful and dexterous in her singing the crowd stood respectfully quiet (save for when a large gent had to tell a tiny ignorant clump to shush) and the applause was warm. (Giz)

Elvendale followed with a more upbeat set of songs that began with one guy playing a brief intro on a bone flute that lead into a track called “A Song Blood And Mead”, as the bands instrumentation consisted of a lyre and a percussive hand held drum whilst lead from the front by Grace on vocals for the majority of the time. Their confidence was evident as her vocals layered into the crowd beautifully. “Of Wisdom, The Well And The Tree” followed after band introductions ensued and the relaxed nature of the band’s music was felt in the audience as male vocals, whose name I didn’t quite catch, contrasted with the female ones nicely. There was plenty of banter and it was clear there was some experimentation going on in their songs, with varying levels of success I’m sure the band will admit as “A Great Man Returns To The Sea” possessed a tribal like chant after the songs initial sombre opening. Asking for a jig on one of the songs was honoured by a few in the crowd as their set culminated in a doublet beginning with “The Last Huscar”, prior to which they explained the background of the song relating to the The Battle Of Hastings as Grace really had come into her own by now and left only “Wayland’s Saga”. There was some chat about re-enactments the band is involved as the song had a couple of hiccups I felt but all in all Elvendale set the rest of the evening up wonderfully as people downed their beers. (MH)

The Lords Of Misrule surpassed all my expectations, consisting of a drama group within the University of York that has been in existence for 40 years. With five vocalists stood at the back and a few musicians playing various instruments, including a harp, violin and percussion, the band’s harmoniousness was faultless as the opening two songs possessed rich choral vocals that married up smoothly with the music. Within those five vocalists we had four female and one male and the differences they produced was excellent as each song was explained by the different members taking turns, as it felt like a history lesson as well as a music performance. The confidence was excellent, with each vocalist offering their own tone in the songs covering topics such as Agincourt, Red Book Of Montserrat and from the Henry VIII era, and were supremely sang and played. As their closing song was energised with a more dance like focus, due to the upbeat percussion I, like everyone else, thoroughly enjoyed their show. (MH)

“We don’t get an audience response like that at the university” one of the Lords Of Misrule singers said to me clearly and justifiably pleased.

Fyrnafolc then returns to the stage, just to perform his two covers to a larger crowd and gets a mighty and glorious singalong of “Heill Odinn” for his trouble. Marvellous.

Ah, the exquisite YYLVA took her seat next. Having seen the lady perform at Warhorns 2018 I knew what to hope for and it was beautifully given. In a black gown, accompanied by her harp, the lady’s fingers wove a spell of gentle, melancholy rain and shadows through ‘Waterwings’ and ‘Sunwheel’. Her voice is rich and her range impressive but the emotional content is more important and it is delivered with a deftness that amazes me. ‘Nienor’ is such a tragic and haunting song. Amongst her original compositions there is also a passionate Wardruna cover ‘Voluspa’, which works well on the harp i am pleased to say. Her breathing technique seems flawless, her fingers amazing. Just think; to keep a room of metalheads quiet and intrigued by harp and voice alone is quite some talent. Lovely. (Giz)

Headliners Bruni are a York based acoustic four piece who span the stage with themselves and their assorted instruments. They perform interpretations of traditional Norse folk songs and, in keeping with the day, a little introduction to each. They are such good musicians and clearly a tight crew. Tall Dylan, the drummer, drives things on with a variety of drums and Amie, Sarah-Helen and Alana move flawlessly between their required instruments and it turns into a super, friendly set. Definitely a band of two halves, they begin with atmospheric, even melancholy numbers but shift a gear for the second half when the hurdy gurdy player in particular seems let off the leash and the jigging begins. Beer has flowed, lectures delivered and blessings received the audience flings themselves into it for a rousing end to the day. Also the first act with any merchandise so…CD acquired. (Giz)

A strange but frankly amazing day. Blessings, lectures, informative acts and outright fun which went down amazingly well. Who says you can’t do this sort of thing in the UK, eh? A little courage to try it amply rewarded. (Giz)

Words: Gizmo and Martin Harris

Pictures: Andy Pountney

Part 2