New Haven native Moira Smiley, a singer and composer, is joining forces with SVER, a traditional and original fiddle-driven quintet from Norway and Sweden, for the one-night-only Epic Little Folk Fest at the Tourterelle Restaurant & Inn at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 in New Haven. This concert promises to be an evening of very interesting and new sounding music.
Smiley has produced award-winning ensembles and recordings of experimental and emotional music. Her approach is improvisational as she marries her study of traditional folk song with an avant-garde sensibility.
How Smiley came to perform with SVER is recounted by drummer Jens Linell. “We met Moira and her music in 2014 when we were teaching at Alasdair Fraser’s Sierra Fiddle Camp, up in Northern California, and she was the vocal teacher there,” he said.
“At the camp, you teach the whole day and then at night you get together, have drinks and jam until the morning and we had a lot of fun.”
Last year the band invited Smiley to perform with them at a show in Berkeley, California, and then she visited the band in Oslo, joining them for a concert at Riksscenen, Norway’s national folk music venue.
“We played each other’s tunes,” Linell said. “We played some of her songs, and then she took one of our tunes, ‘The Doctor,’ and wrote some words for it. Now there are plans for a recording with Moira next year.”
SVER’s performance philosophy is simple, Linell said. “Whether we play for people dancing, or for when people sit and listen, we just love to play. We want to get people to think of great energy when they think of folk music.”
Smiley accompanies herself on banjo, accordion, piano and percussive movement while performing solo, or with her vocal group, VOCO. She has also toured and recorded with indie-pop favorite tUnE-yArDs, Irish super-group, Solas, the pioneering Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project, among others, and on BBC-TV and Radio, NPR and PBS. She is known as a choral composer and arranger, with millions worldwide singing her music, and an upcoming Carnegie Hall concert next spring that will feature her music.
SVER plays Nordic folk music. Since the group’s inception in 2008, the band has played extensively throughout Europe and the U.S., gaining a reputation as red-hot performers whose shows are “sizzling affairs.” The band has recorded four albums, “Fryd” (2015), “Fruen” (2010), “SVER” (2007) and “Reverie” (2018).
SVER consists of Olav Luksengård Mjelva (fiddle and Hardanger fiddle), Anders Hall (fiddle and viola), Leif Ingvar Ranøien (diatonic accordion), Adam Johansson (guitar) and Jens Linell (Drums and percussion). Olav Luksengård Mjelva and Leif Ingvar have played together since 2002.
“We want to bring Scandinavian music out to new audiences. We love it when we get to play in places like a pub or a rock club, before young people,” says Linell, once a punk and hardcore drummer, now a resourceful percussionist as adept with the standard kit as with the cajón.
“A lot of people may be a bit scared off by terms like ‘folk music’ or ‘traditional.’ Who knows what pictures they have in their mind? But that has nothing to do with our music. The cool thing is that this is vibrant music. These are not museum pieces. It’s a tradition that is alive, and SVER is very much part of that.”