Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Aarhus Festival

My friend Jens Folmer Jepsen has been running the Aarhus Arts Festival in Denmark for the past few years. Folmer has been kindly inviting me to perform there for a while; but I've been unable to do so until this year. This makes me sad about all previous years missed; I had a blast.

Speaking of 'blasts', Di and I flew in late to Aarhus, after being held up at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, by the discovery of an unexploded WW2 bomb in the airport concourse.

At Aarhus we were picked up by the charming Ruth and Eric who directed us to our hotel then on to an evening spent at Folmer's homely pile. There we were introduced to the Aarhus World Orchestra and were fed in fine style by Folmer's lovely wife Anne who, it turned out, is a TV celebrity chef in Denmark; think Nigella with bells on... It was a wonderful welcome to us all; a grand start to our stay. 

Next afternoon we met up with Folmer who guided us to meet with the 'orchestra' for rehearsals. 
The musicians had been gathered from around the world to perform at the opening gala, effectively the launch of the festival. 
Rehearsals went well, despite my pipes being a bit rusty; I'd spent the summer hollering at kids in my other guise as summer camp director and also, well... it's been a while. 
The players were all top notch, a true inspiration, reminding me how much I've missed hanging out with creative folk, the polite corridors of academia can get a little... dusty sometimes. The generosity and laughter was infectious; there was so much kindness and levity that both Di and I were rendered a bit giddy by it all. 

Our musical maestrodirector Diego Schissi from Argentina, played heavenly piano and did all arrangements. 

Mexican, Francisco Victor Bringas Valdez played perfect percussion and sang amazing deep throat 'Overtone' vocals. 
Our guitarist was laconic Brian C. Lopez, 
the 'dog's bollocks' indeeda real gent who hails from Tuscon, Arizona. 
He's also a talented singer who has just released a fine album, 'Ultra'. 

The rhythm section was rock solid; Thøger Tetens Lund (bass) and drummer Peter Dombernowsky who both come from Denmark but grace Howe Gelb's brilliant band, Giant Sand

The sonic quirk came from the cello of Copenhagen's lovely Ida Nørholm and Italy's charming Francisco Calí who played accordion. 
For me, their interplay was the real surprise musically; a lovely dynamic that 
I'm hoping to tap into on future recordings. 

There were three songs featured, all re-arranged by Diego: I had been asked to sing 'Hopeland'Lisa Hannigan would perform 'Home' from her recent 'Passengers' album (produced by one of my firm favorites; Joe Henry). Sweden's Eva Dahlgren would sing 'This is Our Time' with future star in the making, the young and beatifically piped Simon Strömstedt. The song was written especially for the occasion; indeed it is yet to be recorded, but is sure to haunt my iPod in future days. I bagged Eva and Simon for bvs before I was informed of Eva's stellar standing in the Swedish pop world; she and Simon very kindly elevated my mumblings with their sweet voices.


The gala was performed in front of the Queen of Denmark and 1600 silent citizens who were under orders not to applaud until the end of the show; I wish someone had told me as I was first up; exiting stage left with tumbleweed and the echo of a bloke coughing on row seven! All a bit disorienting until you got the 'concept'; an evening of debate, poetry (written and read by Josefine Klougart, a tall and very beautiful young acclaimed writer who was shortlisted in 2011 for best nordic fictionality), all interspersed with music and song; and compared with consummate ease by that fine Danish actor and fisherman Jesper Asholt, probably best known for his work in the first Dogme film by Søren Kragh-Jacobsen: Mifune
Lisa Hannigan turned up at the 11th hour, a little frazzled after being stranded at Munich airport and sang up a storm. Later Eva and Simon were just perfect together; surely the first of many such duets. A prominent part of the presentation were the designs in paper by Kathy Hinde; we actually flew back with her next day with a hundred paper birds in her suitcase. I was willing customs to stop and search her...
After the show the band got to meet the Queen and eat oysters from her table; all very surreal. 
We somehow picked up the irascible Emilíana Torrini en route. Emiliana's album 'Fisherman's Woman' is a favourite in our house and she was in town to play a show with Giant Sand and Lisa Hannigan on Saturday night: a real disappointment that Di and I had to leave that day and miss two of our favourite singers on the same bill. 
Emiliana is a hoot; no ice maiden she and we are now firm whiskey buddies, as indeed is Eva Dahlgren who was very generous with her special bottle after the rigors of performance. 
Apres Queen we were treated like Kings; Folmer whisked us off to Jimmy Holm's fantastic Spanish restaurant Can Blau for tapas and the finest Serrano Ham and acorn fed Jamón Ibérico de Bellota that I have ever tasted; all washed down with lashings of sweet, sublime 'Tres Picos'. 
We then went on to Bora Bora to cut the rug with the band and drink chocolate beer until 4.30 am; kicking out time. 
Di and Super Simon were officially the last men standing...
If you'd like to see some pictures of the event please visit Di's site:
Be sure to leave a comment; she likes a chat does Di...

Thanks again to everyone for making it such a happy time; there was much work done behind the scenes; Micha and Mie are virtual friends that I wish I'd got to meet.
Thanks particularly to Folmer; like a Prospero on happy pills he pulled the thing together with no seeming effort. It was almost as if he'd done it before...


  1. It was great; well worth a visit next year I'd say to all...

  2. I'm practising the flute as we speak, just in case they only allow musicians to go next year.
    Thanks for the ride Trev... it was a thrill!

  3. Trev, you forgot to mention the bit about how you've now been inspired to tour the UK!

    1. They don't throw hard stuff in Denmark Bazza; just soft fruit...