Haugaard and Hoirup, Gaestebud/Feast (Go', 2005)

Danish musicians Harald Haugaard and Morten Alfred Hoirup continue to make beautiful music together on Gaestebud/Feast, their fifth release. This time, they've invited a bunch of friends along, and truly created a feast of Nordic (and related) acoustic folk music.

Haugaard plays violin and Hoirup guitar, combining their own compositions with traditional Scandinavian (mostly Danish) folksongs. They sing occasionally, but the true magic of their music comes from the rich, warm sounds they both coax from their strings and the natural, intuitive way they blend their performances into an organic whole.

The other players who contribute to this Feast are like-minded, their skills and approaches sympathetic to the H&H way. Among the best of the group efforts here are four tracks, two that include the Quebecois ensemble Le Vent du Nord, and two with Alasdaiar Fraser and Natalie Haas. The title track, written by Morten for the Canadian group, is the first of these, a jaunty reel with violins galore and an insanely catchy melody, which winds up with an a capella mouth music section with multiple harmonies, that leads into the second, the traditional Danish "Reel Fionia." This one's even faster, with a little swing to it from the guitar's ryhthmic part.

Scottish fiddler Fraser and American cellist Haas play two tune sets, one slow and one fast, with their hosts. The first pairs a stately traditional minuet that verges on the classical in its contrapuntal string trio of two violin parts and cello, with a serene Danish hymn, "Lysets Engel," or angel of light. Together these are one of the most beautiful pieces of instrumental music I've heard this year, the minor-key minuet's tension relieved by the hymn's melodic lyricism. Truly transporting. The second set for these four is a hornpipe-reel set.

The duo is joined on several numbers by a trio of Ruthie Dornfeld(violin), Karen Tweed (accordion) and Helen Davies (Celtic harp), pllus one of their regular collaborators, Finn Tapani Varis on acoustic bass. These include a new tune, "Dinner in the Garden" paired with a traditional waltz, and a really wonderfull set of three dances from Jutland, two reels and a fandango, with lots of accordion.

Irish-American fiddler Eileen Ivers joins H&H and Varis on another interesting tune set, a slow polska, polonaise and jig, her throaty violin nicely contrasting with Haugaard's cooler colors. And traditional Danish violinist Hans Jorgen Christensen plays a waltz-hopsa set with the same trio, his percussive style contrasting with Haugaard's smoother hand. Another tune set that features Niall Keegan on flute and Carl Erik Lundgaard on accordion is guaranteed to get your feet tapping. I'm less enthusiastic about a couple of song sets, including one by Danish klezmer singer Channe Nussbaum and another with non-verbal vocalizing by Karen Mose and Helene Blum. The performances are fine, they just don't seem to me to fit. Fortunately, Harald and Morten give us a couple of numbers just by themselves, one a polka set, the other a traditional waltz.

The overall tone of Gaestebud is just what it says, that of a feast; a musical one, of course, with everybody bringing something different to the table. The spirit of sharing and collaboration runs like a heartbeat through this bounteous 15-track CD. Production by Haugaard and Hoirup themselves is a thing of beauty, and the liner notes are fully informative. A truly generous offering from some of the world's finest traditional musicians.

[Gary Whitehouse ]