The Great Nordic Night/Band

Womex '09: With the arrival of Womex in Copenhagen, one has decided to make the opening concert a show of Nordic folk-musical élan. Created and directed by the Danish fiddler Harald Haugaard, The Great Nordic Night features an all-star ensemble comprised of some of the leading traditional performers form Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Faroe Islands, The Sámi areas of the north as well as Greenland. Backed by this Great Nordic Band, a number of outstanding Nordic soloists will give a display of their unique musical art.

Annbjørg Lien 2009 (foto: Erik Holand)

In advance of Womex we had a talk with two of the Norwegians travelling to Copenhagen to join ranks with their fellow musicians for The Great Nordic Night.

Ragnhild Furebotten is one of Norway’s foremost young folk musicians. As a member of the vanguard fiddle ensemble Majorstuen she was at the forefront of the revival of Norwegian folk music that commenced a few years back, and which is still growing in strength. Now focusing on her own projects, Furebotten continues to be at the centre of the surge of traditional Norwegian music in its modern day, genre-expanding form, which reinvents the tradition whilst at the same time upholding the age-old musical idioms of rural Norway. Last year saw the debut of her solo project the Ragnhild Furebotten Trio and their record Finally Waltz was hailed as a masterpiece of imaginative folk music. Most recently she has released a record with her old friend and collaborator guitarist Tore Bruvoll. Currently on tour in Ireland with their project Hekla Stålstrenga, Furebotten reveals that she is full of anticipation for The Great Nordic Night in Copenhagen:

-I have worked extensively with Harald Haugaard, so naturally we know each other very well musically. I guess that is why he wanted me in this band; he knows my music and what I can contribute. The band is made up of great musicians, many of which I know, so it is a great privilege to be asked. I am really looking forward to playing with all of them, especially the ones that I have not worked with previously.

The idea behind the Great Nordic Night is that a group of top musicians will be the backing band for a string of soloist from the same Nordic countries, so that together the band and the soloists will deliver an ultimate presentation of Nordic folk music; in terms of instruments, sound and genres and individual skills. However, the musicians in the band are also brilliant soloists, so there are likely to be overlaps.

–We have scheduled a week of preparations for this production, says Furebotten. We will rehearse in Copenhagen and on the island of Fyn, and then meet up with the soloists before the show in Copenhagen.

As for her own projects Furebotten reveals that she is working on a new solo record, which will be featuring a sextet of horns. A celebrated musical innovator, she has been one to explore and expand her North-Norwegian folk musical roots. The horns will constitute another new dimension added to the traditional idiom by Furebotten.

–It will be a kind of sequel to Finally Waltz, says Furebotten, with my own songs and my northern tradition as the basis. But I also hope to get back to the trio soon, which is really my dream constellation. And I’m sure there will be another trio record in the not too distant future, but the others will have to stop having so many babies, its interrupting our work, laughs Furebotten.

The other Norwegian musician we spoke to in conjunction with The Great Nordic Night is the renowned Hardanger fiddler Annbjørg Lien. After more than twenty years as a profiled folk musician and with a number of records to her name, she is one of the true international stars of traditional Norwegian culture. As one of the selected soloists she will be showcasing the unique instruments she uses and her personal musical signature.

–It is just fantastic that Womex is coming to Copenhagen, exclaims Lien. And the great Nordic Night is a brilliant idea I think. I know almost everyone, and it is such a great collection of musicians.

Lien will be doing two separate solo performances:

-One spot will be just me alone, without any backing, which means that focus is on the instruments, the sound and details. The other spot I will be doing is together with the Swede Johan Edin on key harp.

This typically Swedish kind of chordophone is unique in sound and technique, and as such it is something of a national instrument; an equivalent to the Annbjørg Lien’s Hardanger Fiddle. However, the Norwegian also masters the key harp, an instrument that has been with her for quite some years, she relates. On her soon to be released new record Coming Home the key harp is there, along with the other instruments she calls her own: the Hardanger fiddle and the standard fiddle. On the record Lien also makes a rare, but convincing vocal performance.

–It is a song that I have inherited form Kristen Bråten Berg, a beautiful tune called Coming Home, says Lien. But it is not because of the song we chose give the record that name. Coming Home is duo record; my husband Ole Bjørn Rasch and I made it in our home studio. The title reflects the place we find ourselves mentally.

Six years ago the couple moved to from Kristiansand and set up a studio in their home by the sea.

–It felt like settling down, says Lien; like having arrived, with time to pause and feel at home.

On the record Ole Bjørn Rasch, who is a professor at the University in Kristiansand, plays the foot bellow organ.

–It is a very organic and slow moving instrument with a lot of physical presence to in terms of the actual work and noise of playing it. Together with my acoustic instruments, it creates a very intimate and naked atmosphere. In a way this record feels like we’re inviting the listener a lot closer than what I am used to with bigger more complex productions. It felt very good doing it this way, as a contrast, and as a way of giving a musical expression to the sense of having settled down.

Coming Home will be released on in Norway on October 12th and sometime later in the rest of Europe and America. As a folk musician of international renown, Lien’s records are in demand across the world, even when they express the most domestic of airs, or perhaps especially then.


The Great Nordic Night also features renowned dancer Hallgrim Hansegård of Frikar Dance Company fame


Womex Showcase/Concert.
Wed 28 October 8pm
Copenhagen Concert Center / Studio 1


Annbjørg Lien's MySpace site


Annbjørg Lien's Last.fm site


Annbjørg Lien on Spotify

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