FIKA, the critically-acclaimed new release by Elysian Fields (Australia’s only electric viola da gamba band) will have its official live launch with two performances on Sunday 1 November at Mary’s Underground, Circular Quay (formerly The Basement) as a proud participant in the Sydney Women’s International Jazz Festival.
The ten-day festival starting 30 October also features live music from Mahalia Barnes, Gai Bryant, Melody Riviera and many more, as well as Brazilian bossa-nova singer and nylon string guitarist Anna Setton streaming in from São Paulo.
Other festival venues include Foundry616, Joynton Ave Creative Centre, the Australian Institute of Music and Venue 505.
At the launch concert, Elysian Fields will also give the first public performance of “Shadows” by celebrated young Australian composer Alice Chance – highlighting the classical-jazz crossover as well as women composers at a women’s jazz festival.
Alice, group leader Jenny Eriksson and singer/violinist Susie Bishop are all classically trained and Jenny is doubtless the only viola da gambist to perform at a major jazz festival in Australia,
The warm, light-filled album weaves together family history, music, art, and friendships from the Northern and Southern hemispheres.And, with easing of restrictions, the 1 November concert is the band’s opportunity to finally launch it in style, with a live audience in an atmospheric (while COVID-safe) venue!
The project has deep roots in viola da gambist and artistic director, Jenny Eriksson’s Swedish ancestry. Her grandfather arrived in Melbourne from Stockholm in the 1920s – and inspired her love of Scandinavian jazz and folk music.
Titled FIKA (pron. ‘fee-ka’), the recording takes its name from the Swedish practice of fika: sitting down for coffee, conversation and pastries with friends and family. Long before the COVID crisis, the band wanted to create a beautiful recording that would bring people together, just as fika does.
However, as gigs and concerts cancelled and cashflow quickly dried up, Eriksson (who had lost some 60 professional performances during the lockdown) made the difficult decision to dig deep and underwrite the completion of the recording.
With a parallel acoustic viola da gamba career as a nationally celebrated performer of French baroque music, it nevertheless has become one the most important projects she’s ever been involved in.
“I felt such a drive for this album to be heard, no matter what. This is music for our times. As an ensemble we have such a great vibe and work together so well; you can hear it when we play. These musicians have awe-inspiring talent, but everyone leaves any ego at the door and plays because they adore it.”
By good fortune, Elysian Fields was uniquely well-placed to breathe life into such a cross-hemispheres project.
In addition to Eriksson’s experience of making and recording Swedish baroque and folk music, singer/violinist Susie Bishop has links to Sweden via her partner and visits often. She speaks Swedish and sings all but two songs in the language.
Saxophonist/composer Matt Keegan – who also produced the album – spent a year studying the saxophone in Sweden and his composition, “Cold Soul”, takes its inspiration from the frozen landscapes of northern Europe.
Finally, bass guitarist Siebe Pogson is Swedish on his mother’s side and has visited on several occasions.
In addition to several stunning folk song arrangements by pianist Matt McMahon and Susie Bishop, Fika presents Australian-first recordings of music by renowned Norwegian jazz pianist and composer, Jan Gunnar Hoff, and Swedish jazz greats, e.s.t..
Bass player Dave Ellis introduced Eriksson to Hoff’s music and the composer proved both collaborative and supportive of the project.
The album opens with his piece “Living” and closes with a heart-felt cover of the e.s.t. ballad, “Believe Beleft Below”.
The CD booklet also features paintings (see left and CD cover) by Swedish artist Nils Gunnar Zander, another friend of Jenny Eriksson’s. For 25 years Zander has divided his time between Australia and Stockholm, drawing inspiration from the landscapes of the Australian outback.
The live launch takes place with two performances – at 3pm and 6pm and tickets are $40 / $35 concession.
Elysian Fields: FIKA album launch
Mary’s Underground, 29 Reiby Place Circular Quay
Sunday 1 November 3pm and 6pm
Tickets $40/$35 conc.
FIKA is available from MOVE, Buywell Records, streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, downloads via iTunes and Bandcamp.
Also visit www.maraisproject.com.au/elysian-fields
Featured image: Elysian Fields