Folk music

Irish and Scandinavian folks meet and mix well


Runa Cara – Bonnie Stewart (drums, guitar) and Freya Schack-Arnott (cello, nyckelharpa) – perform at the Utzon Hall of the Sydney Opera House on May 28, 2021. Cassandre Hannagan

Ireland and Scandinavia have transported music to each other on trade routes for centuries, and the austere emotionality of Swedish music Jag vet in dejli rosa or Danish Langt ud i Skoven, both sung with sweet conviction by Schack-Arnott, highlighted cross-pollination.

Shared traditions were also evident in instrumentation, with a market value of folk music on stage between guitar, mandolin, banjo, violin, cello, shakers, drums, and nyckelharpa – a traditional Swedish instrument that is a kind of violin-piano hybrid, with the pitch altered by pegs and underlying “sympathetic strings” producing a humming effect that added substance to generally gossamer sounds.

It’s a tribute to the writing pieces of the two main ones that Stewarts Olive oil and Push and pull, and Schack-Arnott Little girl, did not suffer compared to the tunes which, in some cases, have been transmitted for centuries.

The only improvement Runa Cara could make for future shows (and hopefully they get them) is pacing. Slow and radiant were certainly the order of the day, though a little shrill was injected by a third Finnish walking song, the Appalachian Banjo Bounce from Katie Cruel, and later a creepy-sounding Norwegian folk tale that resulted in beheading – screaming cello strings.

However Jack Lattin, an Irish reel, sent us jumping in the evening, and reflecting that our musical world is really rich.

Runa Cara – Bonnie Stewart (drums, guitar) and Freya Schack-Arnott (cello, nyckelharpa) – perform at the Utzon Hall of the Sydney Opera House on May 28, 2021. Cassandra Hannagan



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