Celtic Connections 2023: Dreamers’ Circus, with Frigg and the Kinnaris Quintet

It was essentially a Nordic – or Northern – night at the RCH main hall on Saturday night, Feb 4. With Denmark and Sweden represented in Dreamers’ Circus and Finland in the shape of Frigg, Scotland’s own Kinnaris Quintet fitted in nicely as another member of the Nordic family – premonition of times to come, perhaps…?

As Frigg took the stage to open the evening, this Finn felt a warm flash. This was the first and possibly the only time ever I would see and hear a Finnish act play in the RCH to a practically sold out house.

And they really were very, very good – I was glad to hear our English friends heartily agreed with us after the gig. So, backed by their testimony and the standing ovation much of the hall gave Frigg, I don’t think I’m being overly patriotic and biased in saying that they were awesome.

Compared to the Scottish, Irish, Canadian and English trad bands, I hear the influence of Finnish music schools in Frigg, even as I know the band was formed in the rural region famed for its deep trad music culture (the Kaustinen Folk Festival may ring a bell even with some non-Finns). Frigg can, at times, sound like a classically trained ensemble in trad clothes… but they will let it rip soon enough 😉

And they gave us both high class and Finnish hoedowns during their set, tunes perfectly sequenced to entertain us, with mandolin/bouzouki guy Petri Prauda’s deapan banter making the house laugh out loud between the tunes. We talked briefly with lead fiddler Esko Järvelä after the gig and he was just very satisfied with Frigg’s time on stage – and deservedly so.

Frigg, pic by me

Obviously the Kinnaris Quintet had liked Frigg too, otherwise their opening words “we want to be Frigg when we grow up” would not make much sense 😄

KQ played a very energetic set, concentrating on the trad side of their stuff and leaving the more original tunes to a lesser role (my wife, a dedicated KQ fan, agreed with this). The playing was excellent and they brought much good humor – and lots of bling! – to the stage, but their set worked mainly as a bright and fun trad session after Frigg’s boundary-stretching display.

Kinnaris Quintet, pic by me

2/3 Danish and 1/3 Swedish Dreamers’ Circus have been a Nordic favorite for years now. They simply have a winning hand: music that flows seamlessly from one genre and era to another, three jaw-droppingly amazing players (each one plays several instruments) and humour that at one point in the gig came close to good ol’ Victor Borge’s virtuoso antics (if that name rings no bell, do learn online about the late Danish “music comedian”).

DC are no joke act, though. Their own tunes are brilliant and colorful, their versions of Scandinavian trad tunes are fascinating, and when they bite into Vivaldi, as they did on this gig – and it wasn’t the Four Seasons, either – they build valuable bridges between so-called highbrow and the so-called lowbrow, without tipping the scales to favor either. My wife, always observant, also pointed out how the trio, even when placed far apart from each other, never neefec eye contact from each other; every twist, turn and sharp stop/go moment were in full control, always.

Fabulous, and the roaring standing ovation was more than deserved.

Dreamers’ Circus, pic by me

And as that was not enough, the house erupted when the DC guys invited Frigg and KQ back on stage for one extended piece performed by all 15 musicians together! It was grand and joyful and I must admit to having to clear my throat a bit…

The Grand Finale, pic by me

The finale left the house in high spirits; so many smiles and happy chatter in the crowd leaving the RCH. This is what great music played by wonderful musicians can do, and we are grateful for it. A grand night it was!


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