Downtown Provo gets strung out with Spencer Rainer and his nyckelharpa

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As downtown Provo is becoming a culturally evolving place—often attracting artists, romantics and hipsters—there is a unique musician who is livening up the street every Friday night playing an instrument that many of us have never seen before.

It’s called a Nyckelharpa; a Scandinavian instrument that originated in Sweden around 1350.  How does an Orem, Utah native such as Spencer Rainer come across such a medieval musical mechanism?

Rainer is a man of many musical talents. Having grown up with a lot of musical influence and playing a variety of other instruments—such as the guitar, drums, mandolin, and bass guitar—Rainer found himself discovering diverse music from around the globe.

For an unexplainable reason, he was particularly drawn to Scandinavian music. Before he knew it he had over 200 albums of traditional and folk music from all over Scandinavia. The next step would obviously be to start playing Scandinavian music himself.


Being familiar with a range of instruments that reign from Northern Europe, Rainer chose to learn the Nyckelharpa. He is a self-taught musician who says he loves to experiment with instruments. This Swedish violin—as it is often nicknamed—is a very complex-looking instrument, but because of Rainer’s experience playing the mandolin it really helped him with learning the Nyckelharpa.

He is one of those street performers that immediately draw you into his music by the way he sways so melodically along with the sweet sounds of his Swedish violin. The mystery of the instrument as well as the performer’s somewhat mysterious aura adds to the allure of the Danish and Swedish minuets that resonate from his beautiful stringed instrument.

As a passerby it’s hard not to become transfixed by his music. His music is transformative; hearing Rainer and his old-world instrument while walking down the maturing streets of downtown Provo, it almost feels like one is lost in the urban sprawls of Europe.

Rainer loves to perform, and the fact that he can be found performing almost everywhere from The River Woods to farmer’s markets to any given street corner, has landed him opportunities to share his talent and perform at a couple of concerts at BYU and other intimate settings.

Here is just another example of how much talent we have here in the valley, and it’s artists like Rainer that add to the character and mystic of downtown Provo.

More information about Spencer Rainer and his music can be found at: