Coole Music’s Sonic Strings Cultural Exchange with Swedish Group DalaViolinisterna

Coole Music & Arts was recently awarded EU Erasmus+ funding for an exchange visit between their teenage string orchestra Sonic Strings and Swedish group DalaViolinisterna. Sonic Strings travelled to Dalarna in Sweden in mid-February and will welcome a return visit by the Swedes in 2019.

The exchange programme has been in place for a number of years and presents a wonderful opportunity for both groups to learn about each other’s cultures, environment and, of course, music!

Let’s see what Sonic Strings member Sophia Waseem-Khan had to say about her experience in Sweden: “Recently I had the opportunity as a player in Coole Music’s Sonic Strings group to go on a cultural and musical exchange to Sweden and play with a Swedish musical group called DalaViolinisterna. We spent six wonderful days absorbing the Swedish culture, Swedish school life, skiing, staying with wonderful host families, and performing music in the most beautiful venues in Mockfjärd, Mora and Leksand.

DalaViolinisterna are a group of musicians who, like Sonic Strings, play from memory and perform with choreographed movement. They wore costumes that reflected the period or theme of each piece of music and they really told stories with their choreography and truly engaged with the audience.

I learned a lot on this trip, both as a musician and as an individual: I learned how appreciative different people are of music and how it can be such a big part of a country’s culture, in a different way from the way that Irish music is important in our culture. The audience listened attentively and we really connected with them. I believe they really truly loved music. The audience were very open, kind people and very welcoming and accepting.

I observed and was impressed by how diligent and professional DalaViolinisterna and their symphony orchestra were in their musical practices. They used every second of their two-hour practice to improve and perfect. It was clear they were very serious about producing super performances and they really were there to play music and do the best job they could do. Music is very engraved in Swedish society, with the government investing heavily in funding music education so that all children get the opportunity to learn music from a young age. It certainly appears that this funding is not being wasted!

The Swedish people were extremely kind, generous, open to meeting new people and really made such an effort to make us all feel so welcome. It was obvious from staying with a Swedish host family that they have a strong sense of community. I also liked the way they got up one hour earlier than they needed to, to allow for a calm, stress-free morning.
Attending Swedish secondary school for a day was an equally phenomenal experience for me. It really put school life in perspective and showed me that children our age have the maturity and the responsibility to act as adults and to really make school life a good thing. The school environment is informal, relaxed, with teachers and students on a first-name basis and generally a spirit of both parties wanting to be present, to learn, engage and be responsible.

All in all the whole trip was such an enlightening experience, from playing to such attentive audiences, to meeting young people our own age in their cultural setting, experiencing a new culture and seeing a new country. I’m so looking forward to hosting our Swedish friends in 2019 and returning to Sweden again for another musical exchange.”