Førde 2010: Draumkvedet

Performing the epic medieval ballad Draumkvedet is a not a task to be taken upon lightly. Vocalist Berit Opheim Versto and saxophonist Karl Seglem’s interpretation of the work offers a challenging but utterly rewarding exploration of Olav Åsteson’s strong, mind-shattering and emotionally complex dreams. Stylistically simplistic and intimate, visionary and fantastic- enjoy a highly gripping rendition of Norwegian folklore’s most important medieval ballad.

Opheim Versto and Seglem are both musicians who are known to search new expressions and challenge the established. They have moved within a range of different genres, but always with the folk music of the projects they are working with.

Norway has spawned quite a plethora of distinctive musicians that have made it their enterprise to merge musical traditions, often from their respective homesteads, with contemporary expressions, world music and improvisational jazz. Karl Seglem looms prominently among these and he is unquestionably one of the great innovators and visionaries of Norwegian music; reinvigorating both Norwegian traditional genres and jazz with his unwavering will to fuse expressions, pursue crossover ventures and embrace new instruments, sounds and perspectives. His trademark has become the use of rams’ horns as a wind instrument. This has great symbolic power of course, but it is no mere gimmick. The horns present a sound which is both ancient –it was a common thing to play rams horns in Norway in older times- and at the same time avant-garde, due to the musical contexts in which he lets the instrument feature.

Berit Opheim Versto is one of the strongest and most distinct voices on the Norwegian folk scene. She has carved out a niche for herself with a number of releases and extensive domestic touring. Over the last two decades she has also been a sought after teacher and composer. 2008 saw her releasing a critically acclaimed solo album, ‘Slåttar på tunga’ (Grappa), and last year she released a recorded version of ‘Draumkvedet’ on a massive double-CD in partnership with Seglem.

In Draumkvedet the audience encounters the dreams and visions of Olav Åsteson. He falls asleep on Christmas Eve and wakes up thirteen days later, after having walked through hell. He then rides to church and talks about his dreams. He tells about his journey through hell and portrays the struggle between good and evil, and how the sinners are punished for their misdeeds. Draumkvedet, which goes back centuries, was officially written down in the mid-1800s. This visionary poem is fascinating as it challenges and provokes the reader, and occupies a position as one of Norwegian folklore’s most central and most important medieval ballads.

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