Jaerv at Ware Center in Lancaster on September 1st, performing folk and jazz from Sweden

Jaerv, a young group of five Swedish musicians whose folk music style draws from jazz, pop, and other musical genres come to Central Pennsylvania for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Friday, September 1, 2017, at 6 p.m., at Ware Center’s Steinman Auditorium, 42 N. Prince Street, Lancaster, PA. The event is free and part of Lancaster’s First Friday.

This concert is presented with support from the Barbro Osher Prosuecia Foundation. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

A Jaerv performance features songs performed in beautiful five-part harmony, lively traditional dance numbers and jazz improvisation. Their instrumentation includes the nyckelharpa, a Swedish instrument also known as a keyed fiddle. During a recent appearance in the Harrisburg area, Jaerv appeared on WITF radio’s “Arts and Culture Desk”.

Below is an interview with Jaerv member Joel Hagen:

_______________________________________________

FOLKMAMA: Describe your music. How much is traditional and how much is composed?

JOEL: I would say 50/50. However, all traditional songs that we do are also very much arranged by Jaerv so in a way they sometimes feel like own composed songs. Someone described it as: “The Swedish folk group Jaerv takes the elements of traditional Scandinavian music and reflects them through a modern prism, with an all-acoustic sound that nonetheless takes a bevy of tricky turns in rhythm and harmony that makes the pleasant rural melodies ring with a contemporary complexity.”

FOLKMAMA: What about folk dancing in Sweden. Is the dancing all couple dancing? What are the different styles called?

JOEL: Most of the dances are couple dancing but we also have what we call “long dances” that you typically dance in circles of four. The most common styles are polska, waltz and schottis.

Photo by Robert Yahn

FOLKMAMA: Where does Swedish music come from? Is it Celtic? Nordic?

JOEL: Swedish folk music has been influenced by a great number of countries such as Poland, Germany, Ireland and England. Also the Swedish church music tradition has affected the folk music.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about the instrumentation in your band. Which instruments were played traditionally and which instruments have you added?

JOEL: The fiddle, nyckelharpa and flute are the only instruments that were played traditionally. We have added all the other instruments. However, folk music is in a constant progress so almost all of the instruments that we play are nowadays recognized as folk instruments.

Our lineup is: JOEL HAGEN: flute, whistles, soprano saxophone, ewi, vocals, ANDERS BERGSTEN: double bass, keyfiddle, vocals, HARALD NILSSON: guitars, vocals, MARKUS GUSTAVSSON: fiddle, lead vocals, and TOBIAS HEDLUND: percussion

FOLKMAMA: This is your fourth US tour. Where will you be playing?

JOEL: Yes, this is our fourth tour and also the most extensive. Our full schedule can be found on http://www.jaerv.com but the highlights of the tour would be the House of Sweden in Washington, DC, the Swedish-American Museum in Chicago, and Scandinavian Fest in New Jersey.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about the nyckelharpa. What is it and how is it played? Is it very common in Sweden today?

JOEL: The nyckelharpa is a very old instrument. It is a mix of a fiddle and a piano, a fiddle with keys to be more exact. It is a difficult instrument to master and not compatible with so many other styles than folk music, so very few people today play or have even heard the instrument. A little bit sad because it is a nice instrument.

Photo by Robert Yahn

FOLKMAMA: How did you all meet?

JOEL: We met 12 years ago at the University in Göteborg. We started out as a quartet but after a year or so, Tobias, the percussionist, was added to the group.

FOLKMAMA: How long have you played together? Is it your full time jobs, or do you do other things?

JOEL: For us, Jaerv is probably one third of a full time. Two thirds are teaching and other musical commitments.

FOLKMAMA: Can you describe what people should expect at your concert?

 

JOEL: Hopefully they will discover new sides of Swedish folk, maybe as one woman in the audience expressed: “The same glorious vitality and the feeling that the audience is constantly being surprised-there are five amazing musicians who handle the instruments in a completely brilliant way-in all kinds of music – from polkas to free improvisations, with both simple and more -intricate rhythms. The joy of playing/skill completely knocks me out, and the audience!!”

 

 

Advertisements

August 20, 2017 Laura Cortese and the Dance cards in Harrisburg, PA

Fresh from an appearance at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards come to Harrisburg on Sunday, August 20, for a 7:30 p.m. Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg.

The band features cellist Valerie Thompson, fiddler Jenna Moynihan, bassist Natalie Bohrn and band leader Laura Cortese. During the course of a live performance the band switches up their sound—first sounding like a string band and then morphing into a string quartet, female a cappella group, or indie band, while still remaining true to their identity as folk instrumentalists.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at www.sfmsfolk.org.

Recently we had an opportunity to speak to band leader Laura Cortese about the band’s involvement with “American Music Abroad,” how they got their name, and their exciting new signing with Compass Records!

______________________________________________________

FOLKMAMA: I know that you spend a lot of time abroad abroad and Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards has done a lot of overseas touring. Tell me a little bit about some of the band’s travels.

LAURA: As touring musicians, we like to take our music to other parts of the world where we can share all the genres that we do and also meet musicians who are doing similar things. With this band specifically, we’ve done work with the State Department with a program called “American Music Abroad.” The program is all about cultural diplomacy. We’ve had the opportunity to share American culture while at the same time learning about the culture of the country that we were visiting.

With “American Music Abroad,” we have been to India, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Greece, Montenegro, Ukraine, and Estonia. But we also have toured to Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Canada, Italy, and Sicily. We’re always trying to connect with people who love acoustic music and are interested in breaking down any barriers that might exist between the stage and the listener.

FOLKMAMA: As a group that is so vocal heavy, do you have trouble getting your message across to people who speak a different language?

LAURA: When we visit a country, we learn a few phrases of the native language and will often translate the chorus of a song into that language, too. That’s been fun to do but, in general, I think the spirit of the music, the grooves, the melodies, and the emotion of each song is conveyed even without specific understanding of the words.

But we are also sort of lucky with speaking English in that English is the current spoken language which people around the world use to communicate with each other when they don’t have the same native language. So we run into a lot of people who understand our lyrics no matter what country we are in.

FOLKMAMA: When did state department tours actually occur?

LAURA: We did one in 2014 and one in 2016. Most often we were part of an International Women’s Day, at least in one of the countries. That has given us a chance to meet female artists in many countries.

In Ukraine, for example, we met the mothers and the wives of a lot of the men who lost their lives in their revolution which happened in 2014. Actually we were on our first cultural diplomacy tour when the Euromaidan Revolution began to unfold, and two years later we were there in Kiev witnessing the three year anniversary. And we got to meet the mother of Nadiya Savchenko, she’s the helicopter pilot who went down in Crimea and was a prisoner of war for two years. And we got a chance to meet the woman who led the medical station during the Euromaidan Revolution in the Ukraine.

FOLKMAMA: When you started the group, was it your intention to form an all women group?

LAURA: That came about really by chance. When formed the band in 2010, I had decided to do an all-string project that showcased the unique sound that came out of pairing my songs with the music of some friends of mine who I grew up with at fiddle camps. It was a much different style than other singer-songwriter friends of mine, and certainly my Indie-rock friends, but it felt true to my journey and my experience.

The first generation of this sound included fellow campmates Hanneke Cassel and Natalie and Brittany Haas, but it felt so comfortable to me that I began to shore up the concept and widen the circle of string players. By chance,  most of the professional players from my fiddle camp days happen to be women.

FOLKMAMA: Where did the band’s name come from?

LAURA: We wanted to come up with something that reflected the feeling of the band so we held a Facebook Contest. At the end of the contest, we put out every name that had been suggested and the name “The Dance Cards” came up on all of our lists.

It has really felt likes it’s a good fit. All of us that are in the band are drawn to some form of dance, either as a player or a dancer. Also, the name is reminiscent of all the dances in the past when the women had dance cards that partners could sign to reserve a dance. My mom had a dance card; it was part of youth. It’s an older tradition but so much of our music is so influenced by older dance forms so it fits.

FOLKMAMA: What will people hear when they come to your concerts?

LAURA: We’ll play a couple of traditional tunes but we play mostly original songs composed by me and arranged by the band. Our music is influenced by Appalachian traditional music, modern music, and indie rock. But it’s all within this acoustic string concept–so groves, as well as texture. It’s not just a listening show. We consistently ask the audience to engage in some way.

FOLKMAMA: I understand that you just signed with Compass Record. That’s a great label!

LAURA: Yes, we just signed with Compass Record for our new album which comes out October 6th. We’ve released one song and video so far and more to come soon. We are just so pleased to be on a label that has a curated group of artists who are making music that is truly unique and not just cookie cutter. When we look at the musicians on the roster, we see that they are not only all excellent but they are also adventurous and all authentic to themselves. Our new album is called California Calling.