The longstanding tradition of Nordic folk music has its historic roots in the sound of nature and in the celebration of community — a projection of the raw and spectacular motifs of the Scandinavian outback accompanied by the cheerful ritual of circle dancing found across the region, from small archipelagic islands to the expanses of the mainland.
But what does Nordic folk music sound like in 2019?
This is the pressing question fiddle player Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen, cittern player Ale Carr and piano & accordion player Nikolaj Busk are exploring and challenging with their music. Collectively known as Dreamers’ Circus, the young and successful Danish trio has become a driving force of new Nordic folk music not only in Scandinavia but throughout the world.
For the first time, the ensemble is now gracing the US music scene, performing in concerts throughout the country. On April 11, Dreamers’ Circus will arrive in New York for a one-off performance at Merkin Hall.
Denmark In New York caught up with Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen ahead of their Big Apple debut to talk about the art of performing Nordic folk music in a contemporary context and the daring directions he and his bandmates have taken.
Denmark In New York: Your music is inspired by the tradition of Nordic folk music. Why did you choose to engage with this tradition?
Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen: For us, it wasn’t really a choice. We all grew up with Nordic folk music. We have been playing it since we were kids and it was also Nordic music that brought us together as a band. We love it and it’s the foundation for all that we do.
In your words, what does Nordic folk music sound like in 2019?
Nordic folk music has evolved quite a bit within the last couple of decades. It’s almost like being in a golden age of folk music — the level of playing is higher than ever and lots of young bands are emerging on the scene. Common for most of them are an urge to experiment and refresh the traditions. This results in an incredibly diverse and rich world of music that is hard to put under one roof.
You are educated as a classical musician. In which way does that affect the music of Dreamers’ Circus?
I guess the many hours of practicing have given me a good base technique that I can apply to the music of Dreamers’ Circus. We are also very inspired by classical composers in our compositions and when working with dynamics, colours and the attention to detail in general. These are maybe some of the things that sets us apart from other folk bands in Scandinavia.
This is your NYC debut! What reactions do you hope to receive from the American audience?
So far on this tour the reactions have been overwhelming. It seems like many people can relate to our music one way or the other, and that feels really good.
After this tour, what are your upcoming projects?
First off, is the recording of our fourth studio album coming up in May and June.
In October, we’re going back to Japan on a two-week tour. We will be playing a Hans Christian Andersen-themed concert in Nagano — the host city of the Danish athletes in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Johanne Guttman Andersen is the Culture Intern at Denmark In New York.