“Nordic Sounds” in focus at the 2017 Førde Festival

Aslak Brimi and Karl-Johan Ankarblom. Photo: Knut Utler

Aslak Brimi and Karl-Johan Ankarblom. Photo: Knut Utler

“This has never been done before,” said Festival Director Hilde Bjørkum, when she presented the theme of “Nordic Sounds” as the major focus of the Førde Festival 2017. The main element is the project “The Nordic Sound Folk Orchestra” an all-Nordic string orchestra of forty musicians and soloists who will play music specially written by four Nordic composers.

“We want to present the sound of the Nordic countries anno 2017,” said Bjørkum. That means that the Nordic world music scene will also have its place in our programme. And even though the festival will focus strongly on Nordic music, there will be many performers from other parts of the world in 2017 as well,” promised Bjørkum.


Nordic Sound Folk Orchestra: folk music on a big scale

Forty folk musicians, four composers and eight soloists will make up the “Nordic Sound Folk Orchestra”, the first project of its kind, aiming to highlight soloist traditions in an orchestral format and grounded in folk music.

The core of the project is an all-Nordic orchestra composed of the fiddlers of Gudbrandsdølenes Spelemannslag (Norway), members of the Folk All-in Band (Sweden), Baltic Crossing (Finland/Denmark) and the Harald Haugaard Quintet (Denmark). The soloists are Olav Luksengård Mjelva on Hardanger fiddle (Norway), Olov Johansson on nyckelharpa (Sweden) and star vocalists Ulla Pirttijärvi (Sapmi/Finland), Lena Willemark (Sweden) and Berit Opheim (Norway). The composers will also be soloists in the project.


Premiere at the Opening Concert 2017

Four leading Nordic folk music composers will create new music for the project: these are Antti Järvelä (Finland), Mia Marin (Sweden), Harald Haugaard (Denmark) and Jorun Marie Kvernberg (Norway).  In addition to new compositions, traditional music from the Nordic countries will also be performed in a new guise.  

To lead the project, the festival has managed to secure the Swede Karl-Johan Ankarblom, one of the hottest names in Scandinavia in arranging and orchestration. He has projects with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Stockholm on his CV, but even for him, the Førde project is one of the greatest!

“We quite often call a concert ‘unique’, but this time it’s really true! It will be several decades before the next time someone manages to bring together so much talent in the Nordic folk music tradition on the same scene,” said Ankarblom.

“We quite often call a concert ‘unique’, but this time it’s really true! It will be several decades before the next time someone manages to bring together so much talent in the Nordic folk music tradition on the same scene,” said Ankarblom.

The leader of Gudbrandsdølenes Spelemannslag, Aslak Brimi, who was recently voted Norwegian Folk Musician of the Year, shares the enthusiasm. “This will be a melting pot of some of the best talent that Nordic folk music has to offer. It will be amazing,” he said, adding that his fiddlers are really excited about taking part in this huge project.

“This is one of the biggest projects we’ve ever undertaken,” said Festival Director Hilde Bjørkum. Riksscenen in Oslo is a partner, and the concert will also be performed there in the autumn. “We’re also pleased that both the Nordic Culture Point and the Nordic Culture Fund wholeheartedly support our project,” she added.


Baltic Crossing (Finland) will perform in Førde in 2017.

Baltic Crossing (Finland) will perform in Førde in 2017.

Many of the Nordic artists, such as Baltic Crossing, the Harald Haugaard Quintet and the Folk All-in Band will also offer their own concerts during the festival. Dance fans can look forward to vibrant dance music by Gudbrandsdølenes Spelemannslag, who have won the national folk music contest Landskappleiken eight times, and have been almost unbeatable at the top of the folk music hit lists in recent years.  


Music Norway launches “Nordic Folk”

In collaboration with folk music organisations and export offices in the Nordic countries, Music Norway has taken an initiative to establish the brand “Nordic Folk”. “Our aim is to make Nordic folk music more visible in the world outside Scandinavia, and to enhance the joint Nordic market for our own performers,” said Kathrine Synnes-Finnskog, director of Music Norway. The initiative aims to provide more work for musicians and a better framework for all those involved in folk music.  

The fact that Music Norway, a long-time close partner of the Førde Festival, is launching “Nordic Folk” at the same time as the festival’s focus on the Nordic countries, is a win-win situation, according to Bjørkum: “We want the same thing: to get Nordic folk music up, forward and out!” 


New Nordic sounds

The folk music landscape in the Nordic countries in 2017 also has strong elements of music from other parts of the world. Over several decades, musicians with roots in other traditions have established themselves here in the north, and enriched us with their music,” said Hilde Bjørkum, who is looking forward to hearing the group ComboNations in Førde in the summer. In ComboNations, the Norwegian-Iranian musician Javid Afsari Rad has brought together leading immigrant musicians in Norway: Jai Shankar, Aissa Tobi, Harpreet Bansal, Diom de Kossa and Solo Cissokho. Javid Afsari Rad was awarded a government fellowship this year, one of the greatest acknowledgements for a Norwegian musician. “We are very pleased to be able to present Afsari Rad and his fellow musicians in Førde next summer,” said Bjørkum.


The Førde Conference

“The Førde Conference is also going to discuss issues with a Nordic perspective; this will also include some views of us Nordic people from outside,” said Bjørkum. In connection with Norway assuming the chairmanship of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2017, Minister of Culture Linda Hofstad Helleland has launched integration and inclusion, media economics and creative businesses as focus areas within Nordic cultural cooperation. The Førde Conference programme will also include these areas.  


Festival artists from the whole world

Although the festival is focusing strongly on Nordic music this year, Bjørkum confirmed that the programme will still have its usual international profile. She is currently working intensely on the programme of the 28th Forde Festival; as always, it will take place in Week 27, more precisely from 5 to 9 July 2017.  

Torill Faleide