On Center: Dreamers’ Circus will share reimagined Nordic folk music at Penn State
Last April, a Schwab Auditorium crowd responded enthusiastically to the Danish String Quartet’s performance of classical music. But audience members got especially excited when violinist Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen led the foursome in arrangements of half a dozen Nordic folk tunes.
Sørensen will return to Schwab April 3 with Dreamers’ Circus, his trio that draws inspiration from the traditions of Nordic folk songs and morphs them into novel and enticing soundscapes.
In 2009, Sørensen and Ale Carr, who plays the Nordic cittern, were in a Copenhagen, Denmark, pub jamming together on some folk tunes. In came Nikolaj Busk, who sat down at the piano and began playing along. The three wound up performing together all night, and Dreamers’ Circus was born.
The musicians display inventiveness in their approach to music from Denmark, Sweden, and Iceland – plus the far reaches of Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
The trio’s third album, 2018’s Rooftop Sessions, is the ensemble’s first recording released outside of Denmark.
“Between them, Swede Ale Carr and Danes Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen and Nikolaj Busk play a music shopful of instruments, including cittern, violin, accordion, piano, harmonium, and the zither-like kokle,” “and they draw on their native folk traditions to create music that is haunting, gently mysterious, gorgeously atmospheric, and always superbly considered,” writes critic Rob Adams in his review of Rooftop Sessions for the Scottish newspaper The Herald.
“The opening ‘City Gardens’ paints a vivid scene by stealth, with Sørensen’s violin initially cutting a lonely figure before the others’ cittern and accordion arrive with the lightest of touches, and the collectively written ‘Rooftop Sessions Part I and II’ are almost symphonic with a simple melody corkscrewing off into the distance,” Adams writes. “Busk’s ‘Then We Waltzed’ lives up to its name and Carr’s ‘Mormor’ dances charmingly between Nordic and oriental leanings before ‘Afterwards’ keening reflection has the listener’s index finger hovering over ‘replay.’”
The trio, making its North American debut on this tour, has won five Danish Folk Music Awards for its previous two albums and has toured across Europe, Japan, and Australia.
“Recently Folk Radio premiered the video for ‘Then We Waltzed,’ from Danish/Swedish trio Dreamers’ Circus. … Aside from the quite dazzlingly impressive musicianship they displayed, it was the way that they managed to stay firmly rooted in Scandinavian folk and classical music while, at the same time, refusing to be restricted by it, that made their performance so memorable,” writes Neil McFadyen of the website FolkRadio.co.uk.
“… Rooftop Sessions sees the band enjoy a worldwide release at last,” McFadyen continues. “The album itself matches this extending of their horizons, with a collection of self-written instrumental pieces that move a few degrees more towards the conceptual; in a series of intricate musical narratives on the spaces that provide respite from an ever more demanding and fast-paced world.”
Eileen Leibowitz sponsors the presentation. For tickets or information, go to cpa.psu.edu or call (814) 863-0255.
John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State.