Icelandic Folk Song Suite No. 1 and 2

Purchase Icelandic Folk Song Suite No. 1 from Grand Mesa Music

Purchase Icelandic Folk Song Suite No. 2

Recorded on May 4th, 2015 at Jubilee Place by the Winnipeg Wind Ensemble, conducted by Dr. Jacquie Dawson.

In the repertoire of concert band and wind ensemble music, the folk song suite holds deep meaning and importance. “Icelandic Folk Song Suite” is my contribution to that legacy in our field and is, very much at its heart, a love letter to it. This work endeavours to new musical work set in this traditional structure to celebrate making music in the concert band and wind ensemble settings.

As folk song suites often use national music as a connecting thread through it (like Vaughn William’s “English Folk Song Suite,” for example), I incorporate traditional Icelandic folk music here, and for two reasons. The first is that there isn’t much Icelandic music in our repertoire and there is room for a meaning contribution there. The second is that Icelandic music is very close to my heart. While my nationality is Canadian, my heritage is Scandinavian – primarily Icelandic, with a dash of Norwegian and Swedish.

I grew up in a small town called Gimli, Manitoba in the prairie region of Canada. During the late nineteenth- and early-twentieth centuries, scores of immigrants fled Iceland escaping volcanic eruption, deterioration in the climate and growing conditions, and an epidemic infecting their sheep. Many who chose to leave and many found their way to Canada and established a colony in Manitoba called “New Iceland,” with Gimli as its main settlement – the town where I grew up.

All of the melodic material in this suite stems from four Icelandic folk songs: Ólafur Liljurós (Movement I),
Bí bí og blaka (II), Krummavísur (III), and Á Sprengisandi (IV).

Ólafur Liljurós recounts the tale of a man riding alone who gets lost in the woods and meets an elf-maiden.  She tempts him to stay and live with the elves, but he won’t renounce his life and faith.  Before he leaves, she begs him for one last kiss and stabs him with a knife as he leans in.  Wounded and bleeding, he makes it home to his mother and sister, but dies later that night.

On a lighter note, Bí bí og blaka is a lullabye about children staying up past their bedtimes and sneaking out to the edge of the mountain to see the lambs playing. 

Krummavísur is about a raven who scours the earth for food.  Every time he finds a good meal, something always gets in his way and he remains hungry for another day.

Á Sprengisandi details a man riding his horse down the Sprengisandur trail in Iceland.   He implores his steed to ride faster each verse, as the road is dangerous and full of elves.

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