Irmelin is a Swedish a cappella folk trio with a talent for exquisite renditions of timeless folk songs from Scandinavia and beyond. (Be sure to read the Voice review of their recently released third album, North Sea Stories.) All three women are also music teachers who give workshops in Swedish folk singing techniques.
Recently, trio member Karin Ericsson Back took the time to answer some of Wanda Waterman’s questions about the trio’s formation, repertoire, synergy, and plans for the future. (Read the first part of this interview here.)
The North as Creative Environment
What does the word ?north? signify for Karin? ?Contrasts,? she replies ?between light and darkness, water and ice, major and minor.?
In her case at least, contrasts are rich source of creative inspiration. ?I need contrasts,? she says. ?I live in the countryside, but I need the city’s pulse at regular intervals in order to appreciate the peace and quiet of my home. I like to work with focus and intensity, followed by times of recovery and reflection.?
The Sprout Stage
Karin and the other two original members of Irmelin?Maria Misgeld and Malin Foxdal?joined forces at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm in 1999. ?We attended the same course,? says Karin, ?and started singing together with the basic idea that we were three soloists exploring the possibilities of polyphonic folk singing.?
In 2010, Malin Foxdal left the group and was replaced by Eva Rune.
A Cooperative Art
The song line-up in North Sea Stories is almost as astonishing as the delivery. How do they figure out what to sing and how to sing it?
?For the most part,? says Karin, ?we decide on a theme and then each one of us selects songs that we arrange and process together. Often one of us brings a basic arrangement that we develop through improvisation.?
Such a process wouldn’t be so fruitful were it not for the trio’s amazing synergy, born of a mutual aesthetic and a shared artistic and educational background.
?We’ve all studied at the same music program and so have many common references. We always focus on storytelling in the songs; the lyrics are central and we assume the song’s inherent history.
?As a group, we work very well together. We take advantage of our similarities and differences, we have a well thought-out concept, and we support each other both in our careers and in private. Also, we’re all mothers?a factor that really connects us.?
Spreading the Joy
The members of Irmelin also teach popular Swedish folk-singing workshops.
?We teach our songs by ear and always adapt to the level of the participants? abilities. There’s usually a fantastic atmosphere!?
?Since I work with so many different things?singing with Irmelin and other collaborations, doing solo performances, teaching, leading choirs, composing, producing and more?I see it as a strength to be able to find inspiration in many different sources,? says Karin. ?All music?or really anything that has an artistic expression and which wants to tell me something?gives me new insights.
?The Piano is a movie I return to periodically. ?The storytelling, the music, the imagery, and the mood inspire me and I constantly discover new things in it. I like the slow narration and the fact that the music is so timeless and universal.?
On the Horizon?
?Since we’ve just released our third album, we aim to give as many concerts as possible to get out and meet our audience, both in Sweden and internationally. The songs on the album North Sea Stories have been with us for quite a long time now, so we obviously look forward to new repertoire. We want to develop new songs that we hope to perform in the fall of 2013, when we’ll have a scheduled rehearsal week.
?we’ll also be working on a kind of performance wherein visual presentations and songs are assembled into a whole.?