Richmond, VA – Every journey starts somewhere. On the evening of March 4, 2020, at Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond, the nordic folk trio, Dreamers’ Circus took the awaiting audience on a folk journey of the ages.
Before departure, the Circus crew, consisting of Ale Carr (cittern, ukulele, clog-fiddle)
Nikolaj Busk (piano, accordion), and Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen (violin), sat down with passengers to talk about all things Dreamers’ Circus. They talked of many things, including the evolution of their music. Their first album, A Little Symphony, was quite traditional, their second, Second Movement, was a little more poppy, and their third, Rooftop Sessions, evolved with a cinematic feel. Their soon to be released fourth album, Blue White Gold, will continue to showcase the evolution of their musical journey.
At the end of the session, they opened up the floor for questions. One question that has always intrigued me, especially with groups that cross genre borders, is “As a piece or song evolves, how do you know when it is ready for an audience?”. Their initial answer implied that they never feel it is ready, but there comes a time when they know it has to be shared with an audience. The music never stops evolving, in many respects, they listen to what the music tells them to do. Performance in front of an audience helps that process. No two shows are ever the same, every audience is different and the sets are adjusted to the audience. Their devotion to their music and desire to take the audience on a melodic journey was obvious is all their responses. The pre-journey session gave a greater meaning to their chosen name, Dreamers’ Circus. We were ready for the show.
The journey commenced with two pieces, the first being called “Wednesday Afternoon“, with Nikolaj opening with a piano solo and later joined by Ale on cittern (a traditional folk instrument dating back to at least the Renaissance) and Rune on violin. The second piece was one called “Pantomime” and saw Nikolaj transition to accordion and Ale to ukulele. It was obvious from the beginning that they were taking in all this leg of their voyage had to offer.
To fully understand any journey, it is important to understand some history. One piece, which they translated to mean, “Couch Piece” actually evolved out of a desire to sit on the couch and enjoy music. It was written so it could be played on the couch. I admit it was hard to imagine them all sitting around the television playing this piece, but it was fun to try.
We learned that two of the members, Rune and Nikolaj, were of Danish heritage, while Ale, also born in Denmark, was of Swedish descent. Having grown up in a household with grandparents of both Swedish and Norwegian backgrounds, the fun Swedish / Danish rivalry that evolved on stage was very familiar. Ale joked about the fact they were similar in many ways, however, insinuated that Swedish quality was superior. Rune and Nikolaj got even, however, when Ale was tuning a folk instrument, sometimes known as a ‘clog fiddle‘ (in older times in various areas of Scandinavia, people would turn very traditional items into musical instruments) and, well, it did not sound crisp, Rune quipped, “That is Swedish quality”, to which Ale joked back, “Direct from IKEA.” It was a fun exchange. The piece played using the clog fiddle included music based on a style from an island between Sweden and Denmark with a little Appalachian flare.
Going into the intermission we were given the title track of their soon to be released album, Blue White Gold.
The second half was much like the first. We continued on a journey that took us through many Nordic folk traditions. This next part of the journey was just as, if not more, entertaining as the first. One noticeable change was a little more electric music in the second half. What was interesting about this was the obvious unification of new music with traditional. We were not only being taken on a musical journey from one genre to another, but we were also being transported through time, from traditional to 2020.
One region Dreamers’ focused on was called the Faroe Islands, a series of islands located between Denmark and Ireland. Known for their special music, their sound influenced much of the second half.
As the show drew to a close, we went way back in time with a piece called “Prelude to the Sun” which included a large Bach influence. Of all the pieces on this night, this was the one that allowed Rune to showcase his ability.
As the journey came to a close, we were all awakened from the dream. We had been taken back in time and returned to the present, we had experienced musical Nordic folk arrangements from many different regions. In the end what we had witnessed and heard was a wonderful trio, listening to their music as it led them to the next stop on this melodic journey.