Bringing together their Scandinavian influence with some brand new compositions, A Singular Path showcases the many dimensions of Elysian Fields as an ensemble and as talented individuals. Including features from each performer and their instrument, the program placed them all in the spotlight.
Opening with some Swedish folk songs, the concert immediately transports the audience to a Northern world. “När som jag var på mitt adertonde år (When I was in my eighteenth year)” was a slow and beseeching song about a young woman heartbroken over the betrayal of her lover. In Elysian Fields’s styles, the piece was atmospheric and narratively inclined with Susie Bishop’s voice as the focal point. Other Swedish songs included two favourites from the ensemble’s repertoire “Frid på jord (Peace on Earth)” written by Sofia Karlsson and arranged by Matt McMahon and “Vi ska ställa till en roliger dans” arranged by Susie Bishop based on the original song sung at springtime, perhaps while weaving the maypole.
Matt McMahon treated the audience to a long textual solo piece on piano entitled “Ellipsis” and another original composition “Cantus” later in the program. This second piece took more of a conventional song structure but featured McMahon’s dynamic and versatile playing style all the same.
A Singular Path included two other premieres with a composition by Gordon Kerry perhaps taking pride of place. Using a poem by Edna St Vincent Millay as the lyrics, Kerry composed a dreamy piece titled appropriately “I dreamed I moved among the Elysian Fields”. With the piano twinkling in the background and Jennifer Eriksson on the resonating electric viola da gamba, Bishop’s voice developed a nearly operatic quality while constructing a haunting narrative dreamscape.
The second half of the concert comprised a selection of compositions from the Elysian Fields ensemble including “The Tragedy” by Siebe Pogson and “Cold Soul” by Matt Keegan, both also featured at the “Times & Seasons” concert last May. Additionally, the group played Keegan’s “Fjord Line”, a unique piece with an underlying tension as instruments fall in and out of focus like the shifting chaos of a jam session. For the final number, Jenny Eriksson introduced her arrangement of Jan Gunnar Hoff’s “Meditatus”, a movement from a formal mass that Eriksson was inspired to adapt for Elysian Fields. With repetitive lyrics, this piece certainly had a choral quality balanced with plenty of saxophone from Keegan to create a sound more inline with the ensemble’s discordant and experimental style.
As demonstrated in the range of pieces included in A Singular Path, from choral to folk and with classical and jazz inspirations, Elysian Fields never fails to bring their unique touch whether in their original arrangements or that particular quality of being a rare viola da gamba ensemble.
A Singular Path was played at the Independent Theatre on February 23rd