The trio Veselba consists of (left to right) Chris Rietz, Bruce Sagan, and Nan Nelson. They specialize in Scandinavian and Bulgarian music, but they can play selections from the full range of Balkan folk music also. "Veselba" means "merriment" in Bulgarian.

Bruce Sagan started playing classical violin under his mother's influence when he was a kid. He fell in love with international folk dancing in college and then started to play the music, eventually concentrating on traditions from Scandinavia and the Balkans. Bruce makes regular trips to Europe to work with musicians there and is much sought after as a teacher and performer throughout the US, both on fiddle and gûdulka (Bulgarian rebec, shown above). His recording with Andrea Hoag, Spelstundarna, has found critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Bruce has been music director for various events, including Nordic Fiddles and Feet (formerly Scandinavian Week at Buffalo Gap) and the Stockton Folk Dance Camp.

Nan Nelson started playing American folk music as a teenager in Urbana-Champaign. She discovered Russian folk music in the late 70s, playing with the University of Illinois Russian Folk Orchestra and the Balalaika Orchestra of Detroit. Nan and Bruce first met in the late 80s through their mutual interest in Klezmer music. But it was not until 1998 that they started to play together in Veselba, where her talent for plucked strings was applied to the Bulgarian tambura (long-necked lute). The trio's more recent foray into Scandinavian music has given her a chance to develop her bass playing and connect with her own Swedish heritage. She also plays with the groups Ethnic Connection and Klezmer Fusion.

Chris Rietz and Bruce have been good friends since 1981 and, during the times they've lived within driving distance of each other, have been playing music together all that time. Chris enjoys a certain reputation as a guitarist, often in demand as a session player; but what really brought them together was a long-standing love of Bulgarian music. He has been an ardent player of the Bulgarian kaval (end-blown flute) for more than two decades, and continues to be a serious student of the grand Thracian style. More often than not during that period, Chris could be found on the teaching staff of the East European Folklife Center's Balkan Music and Dance Camps, as an instructor for kaval, Bulgarian tambura or directing an ensemble of Bulgarian folk instruments.

Image and musician descriptions ©2002 Bruce Sagan; used by permission and lightly edited.

Document custodian: Nancy Morrison

Page last modified: 9/27/05