One of the wonderful things about the annual Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow is the surprises that can delight an audience. My first visit to the festival this year started with a particularly impressive surprise in the form of Danish trio Dreamer’s Circus, who took to the stage in support of The Elizabethan Session at The Mitchell Library on Sunday night.
Dreamer’s Circus are Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen (violin), Ale Carr(cittern) and Nikolaj Busk (piano & accordion). The classical/ folk/ jazz loving trio come from Denmark, forming after an impromptu jamming session in 2009.
Dreamer’s Circus took to the stage on Sunday night unannounced. As is sometimes the case at Celtic Connections, a last minute shifting of schedules meant the band weren’t listed on the bill. However, as the piano / cittern combination produced the initial gently rolling melody it was clear we were in for something interesting. Unmistakably Scandinavian in its outlook, the small opening suite (Ballad of Solitude Street / A Little Symphony) consisted of gentle melody, switching between piano, violin and accordion, interspersed with short, tempestuous bursts of energy. This memorable opening was immediately followed by a set of delicate dance tunes, Snabbsen; and by the time the band spoke up to introduce themselves the audience were already hungry for more.
Introductions completed, the band continued with some selections from their soon to be available second release. Ale Carr’s Fragments of the Sun Village provided both drama and melody in equal measure. While for the more relaxed Couch Piece, the substitution of guitar for violin and ukulele for cittern created a more intimate atmosphere – enhanced by the inclusion of a soft, vocal chant. With each track coming across as a small suite of music in its own right, and the full, rich sound; Dreamers Circus were, note by note, beginning to dazzle their unprepared but delighted audience.
Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen’s violin can be fiery or soothing, but always enthralling – his style providing a fascinating fusion of classical and folk. Ale Carr, from Sweden, wields a cittern with style and passion, providing melody and backing simultaneously with a style very much in the form of a folk fiddle. While Rune and Ale give the impression of having emerged from the world of classical music into folk, piano / accordion player Nikolaj Busk injects unmistakable jazz notes into the performance but still with an over-riding traditional influence.
The end result is fascinating. As the set moved on the audience become more enthusiastic and the trio responded with a performance that will, for those who were present, be one of the highlights of this year’s festival and should secure for Dreamer’s Circus a return visit next year, with a more prominent billing.
The Parisian provided a more dynamic sound before the band closed their performance with Prelude To The Sun – their own arrangement of J.S. Bach’s Violin Partita No. 3 in E Major, Preludio. Opening with an attention-grabbing violin solo, the piece went on to take Bach’s theme on a journey through Scandinavian folk territory that had the audience on their feet.
Inevitably, during the interval the band’s supply of CDs sold out. Dreamer’s Circus have provided Celtic Connections with a memorable surprise, and set in place a fan base in Scotland that’s sure to grow.
Review by: Neil McFadyen