MIC's Listen to Norway series continues with Ophelia Orchestra's 'Sound and smoke - The Music of the Berlin Cabaret Era'
Sound and Smoke is a record quite out of the ordinary. The first step in describing it is to make a swift presentation of the musicians behind it, for only a very special ensemble could come up with, and execute, such a project. Ophelia Orchestra is such a rare ensemble.
Founded by Norwegian pianist Morten Gunnar Larsen in 1977 the orchestra has since then continuously expanded its repertoire, which nevertheless is based on ragtime music. The band has also risen steadily in excellence and fame, touring extensively in Europe and America, and achieving, in 1999, the title “best ragtime orchestra in the world”. The ten members have different backgrounds, but are all elite musicians and bring with them impressive authority to this project, which is a demanding one.
Sound and Smoke takes its name from a particular cabaret-form, “Schall und Rauch”; popular in Berlin in the twenties. The songs are all favourites from that city in that era. And to a large extent the record is a tribute to the general cultural context of Berlin in that particular period, a scene that was unprecedented in its frivolousness, diversity and volume.
Although the scene included some personae of eternal fame such as Bertold Brecht, Kurt Weill and Marlene Dietrich, most of its characters –huge stars in their time, and unique artists- are forgotten. Therefore this project is uniquely valuable in bringing this great period, its music and its performers to new knowledge and new listeners.
On this record Ophelia Orchestra has engaged some of Norway’s strongest vocalist personalities, all of whom contribute with their distinct individuality, something essential in interpreting this material.