Vancouver Folk Music Festival 2019: Norwegian fiddle is Aerialists’ secret weapon

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      In music as in life, hybridity is everywhere. Still, are there mornings when the members of Aerialists wake up not knowing what kind of band they’re in?

      “Oh, absolutely!” says fiddler Elise Boeur, taking a break from “staring out at the ocean and watching baby ravens flop around” on Mayne Island. “I think if we had our druthers, we’d probably use about eight hyphens. But, for us, that’s part of the beauty of it. Like, each of us has a really strong connection with a tradition of our own, and this band is sort of the playground where we get to lean on that background and then do whatever we please, really. I honestly think, you know, that one of the simplest ways to describe it would be Celtic rock, but that means so many things to so many people that it isn’t really quite what we’re trying to convey.”

      It’s telling, perhaps, that the Toronto-based ensemble convened when its core members were all enrolled in Boston’s jazz-oriented Berklee College of Music. Harpist Màiri Chaimbeul hails from Scotland’s Isle of Skye and speaks fluent Gaelic. Guitarist Adam Iredale-Gray grew up on the Gulf Islands and has roots in Irish music, but sometimes switches to an electric instrument with electronic effects for more of a postrock approach. And the Vancouver-raised Boeur might just be Aerialists’ secret weapon, bringing the wildness of Norwegian traditional music into the band’s beautifully eclectic sonic mix.

      “The Norwegian fiddle tradition plays with form in a way that other fiddle traditions I know about don’t,” she comments. “Like, they have these long melodies that are built out of little melodic fragments, and the fiddler actually has the capacity to improvise within that. It’s not really considered improvising; it’s just like playing the tune. But you can find a little segment of melody that you like and just repeat it until you’re satisfied before moving on, or you can go back to it as a part of the tune if you’re like, ‘Oh, I really didn’t say enough with that fragment.’

      “That was a really exciting concept for me that just related more to classical music and to other folk music,” Boeur adds. “There’s also this whole microtonal element that’s still really present in Nordic music, whereas it’s been sort of washed out of a lot of the Celtic musics around. So it’s a really exciting sound.”

      Aerialists play the Vancouver Folk Music Festival’s Stage 4 at 10 a.m. on Sunday (July 21). For more information, visit