Vikings on Vacation


Catalogue no.: BBR002

Ensemble Polaris’s third CD, featuring tunes from Scandinavia, Italy, Canada and Galicia, and original tunes by Kirk Elliott, Andrew Downing and Deb Sinha.

Marco Cera, guitars; Kirk Elliott, violin, celtic harp, mandolin, accordions, bouzouki, bagpipes; Margaret Gay, cello; Ben Grossman, hurdy gurdy; Katherine Hill, voice, nyckelharpa; Alison Melville, baroque flute, recorders, seljefløyte; Colin Savage, clarinet, bass clarinet, recorders; Debashis Sinha, percussion.

CD packaging designed by Yesim Tosuner,

La Rumba (N. Rota, arr. Marco Cera)

Price: $14 plus shipping and handling = within Canada: $17.80; to USA: $18.75; everywhere else: $21.00. HST added at checkout. Discounts available if you want more than one!

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‘Hooked by the title [Vikings on Vacation], I took a quick listen to an excerpt and decided I wanted to review this release. I was expecting one of those artfully zany programs of Renaissance music with an unusual emphasis on Scandinavia. I was wide of the mark. Ensemble Polaris makes few nods to the Renaissance, and although it does play Scandinavian music, more often it does not. Instead this Canadian octet achieves its goal of performing ‘category defying’ music by adding polkas, a rumba, originals, and a few other visitors from places many miles from both Sweden and Canada. To further confuse a critic who feels the profession’s need for categories, sometimes the arrangements make one country’s tune sound like it originated someplace else. Take the first track, a Swedish nineteenth century bridal march? Stockholm meets Nashville just in time for the soundtrack of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. The group’s sense of humor and fun in playing is equally evident in this arrangement of a tune from Fellini’s 8 1/2. But not all is free-wheeling. Emotions are as varied as music sources and arrangements. On four tracks Katherine Hill honors Scandinavian melancholy with a sinewy, unadorned voice that would be at home in the folk music of much of Europe and North America…’ Music & Vision, June 2010

‘A most unusual band, Ensemble Polaris, was formed in 1997. Their music is defined as the “Idea of North,” and represents compositions from Scandinavia, Canada and the Baltic countries. Utilizing an assortment of traditional folk and world instruments, the group has developed a stylistic approach, combining interpretations of eclectic international songs with contemporary modality. Exposure through Canadian music festivals and radio play has introduced the company to a widening audience. Their first two CDs, Midnight Sun and Not Much Is Worse, received critical acclaim.The latest project, Vikings On Vacation, continues the exploration of Nordic themes. With a variety of formats, the songs receive articulation by nimble instrumentation. A combination of recorder, clarinet, violin and accordion offer a breezy take on a bridal march (“Dalmarschen”). The addition of a mandolin adds a Western flavor to the piece. Another fresh song is “Nanatsu”, which lends a jazz/fusion aura to the traditional instrumentation. Three separate polkas are interpreted with different combinations. The ensemble is jauntily precise as they cover “La Rumba” from the 1963 Fellini movie, 8½. A moody tango rhythm, with tempo accents, segues into an increasingly accelerated finish. The band is eager to explore various tunes – some centuries old. “I Wish In Vain”, a beautiful melody, is shaped by the aesthetics of violin and Celtic harp (Kirk Elloitt). Elliott, a ubiquitous multi-instrumentalist, contributes an original five-song suite, “Cod’s Anatomy,” that showcases the versatility of the group. A departure from the core themes of the album is “You Lovely Island”, an homage to West Side Story. Katherine Hill lead vocals are featured on several tracks, but most effectively on the ancient ballad, “Visa Fran Venjan”. Ensemble Polaris is talented, and Vikings On Vacation is evidence of that.’

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