Immersed in folk music since childhood, the winding path of Aili Järvelä (Finland) has also been guided by many other genres, including pop, jazz, world music, and art music from different eras. Hailing from Kaustinen, Järvelä is known not only as a singer, but also as a songwriter, composer, arranger, violinist, producer, a teacher of the Näppäri school of pedagogy, and as a freelance musician in many different groups and ensembles. She is in numerous bands, including Aili & Folks, New Better Spring Band, and the children’s music group Mutaveijarit, whose debut album Ympäri ämpäri! was a nominee for Best Children’s Music Album in the 2017 Emma awards (the Finnish Grammys). Järvelä has composed works for the University of the Arts Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy, the Vox Aurea choir, and Nordic Sounds, an international music book release containing educational material for music and dance from across Scandinavia. Järvelä graduated as a Master of Arts in music pedagogy from Sibelius Academy in 2017, majoring in classical singing, and is now a lecturer there, teaching folk music in the Music Education department.
Callum Armstrong is an experimental piper who enjoys exploring the possibilities of the pipes. He studied recorder at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, where for three consecutive years he won the Beryl Maggs Award for recorder and, in his final year, was awarded the Silver Medal for Early Music. He subsequently won the solo prize in 2014 and the ‘Petite Formation’ Prize in 2015 with Cellist George Pasca at the ‘Son Continu’ Festival in France.
As a piper, he performs with Godalming, The Royal British Legion and Help the Heroes Brass Bands. He has also performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall as guest soloist and appeared in Steven Spielberg’s film ‘War Horse’. He regularly works with Ceillidh Bands, and plays at ceremonial occasions and special events.
Callum has recently collaborated with Julian Goodacre to develop a smallpipe chanter with almost 3 octaves. Alongside this, he has created a unique technique for playing the double Scottish Smallpipe chanter, which allows polyphonies, and harmonies to be played as opposed to solely unison playing. This year he won the solo bagpipe competition at Chateau d’ Ars playing his own compositions, and the solo, composition, and bagpipe duo categories at the Lowland and Border Piper’s Society’s Annual Competition on this newly developed instrument.
Christine Cooper (Wales/Finland) comes from the wild west of Wales, where she fashions her songs and stories from the west wind. She uses her fiddle and banjo to gently blow away the thin layer of dust that has settled over old folk songs, drawing the listener into a world of dark and fragile beauty. She has toured internationally as a storyteller, and has completed a Masters degree exploring storytelling at Dartington College of Arts. She has performed in venues from castles to cafes, and in numerous primary schools. She has made two longer pieces for adults: A Fistful of Feathers, based on community research about birds, and The Battle of the Trees. Christine often uses her award-winning musical abilities in her stories, and teaches storytelling to children and adults. She likes to combine history, myth and community in her work. She has run regular storytelling clubs in Sheffield, Totnes, Brighton, and currently Helsinki.
Eyjólfur Eyjólfsson (Iceland) is an Icelandic musician and folklorist, specialising in the langspil. He graduated as a flautist from the Hafnarfjörður School of Music, where he also studied singing. He continued singing at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, completing the Opera Course and an MMus degree. His deep interest in the folk song and folklore of his native Iceland inspired him to build his own langspil and, in 2014, to start an MA on the instrument at the University of Iceland. His principal research interest is creativity and the craft of music, exploring how folklore and cultural heritage can be used to enhance teaching in primary schools. His concerts combine folk song, new composition and Rímur, epic poems from Icelandic literature sung a capella.
Jo Burke is a composer as well as a singer, pianist, fiddle and hardanger player. She has recently composed and recorded the soundtrack for the feature film ‘Armageddon Gospels’ by John Harrigan due to premiere in December 2018 (www.foolishpeople.org). Her work as a composer also includes a collaboration with dancer Victoria McCarte on her piece ‘Eve’s Aquarium’, the sound track to a short film ‘Altar’ by Roland Kemp, music for a London Theatre Production of ‘The Brothers Size’ by Tarell Alvin McCraney and vocal music performed at a Pagan Well Blessing in St Leonards. She also received a New Venture Theatre award for music she wrote and performed for a production of Hansel and Gretel in Brighton in 2012.
Jo is one half of ‘The Cunning Folk of Sussex’ along with herbalist Sara Jane Glendinning. Together they give workshops and take people on herbal walks with folklore and song around Sussex. Jo regularly tours Europe with the Swiss based band, Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp xxl, she also collaborates with Hamilton Yarns and plays with the London Hardingfelelag. Jo is a former member of both Mary Hampton Cotillion and the London Bulgarian Choir. Her vocals are featured on the sound track to Halo 4 and the Smirnoff advertisement ‘Sea’. She also works as an instrumental teacher in schools in Brighton.
The Hardingfele, or Hardanger fiddle, is a special kind of Norwegian violin with extra sympathetic (resonating) strings. It is normally played as a solo instrument for dancing or at weddings, or in concert. Players usually join a group (spelemannslag or hardingfelelag) in order to learn the tunes and the intricate style of playing which typically involves playing two parts at the same time, with some use of notes pitched between the twelve notes of the conventional scale.
The London Hardingfelelag was founded in 2005 and now has seven regular members with a wide range of musical backgrounds. We meet once a month, to play by ear and teach each other the traditional tunes which we have learned from recordings or from visiting Hardanger fiddle players such as Ånon Egeland, Nils Økland, Anne Hytta, Vegar Vårdal, Tore Bolstad, Jan Beitohaugen Granli, Sturle Eide, Loretta Kelly and Sarah Nagell.
Although they play mainly for our own enjoyment, they have performed a number of times in public or for weddings. In 2011 the London Hardingfelelag took part in the Norwegian Landskappleik, a national annual festival and competition of mainly Hardanger fiddle music and dancing.
Photo: Tomoko Minamizaki
Michael Ferrie (Scotland/Finland) is an award-winning guitarist and composer from Callander, Scotland. A former student of Sgoil Chiùil na Gàidhealtachd (National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music) and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Ferrie is currently studying on the MMus Folk Music program at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland. Ferrie was named Highland Young Guitarist in 2010, and his compositions have been performed by Ceol Mor, Aberdeen International Youth Festival’s Folk Big Band (Scotland); Inxa Impro Quartet (Catalonia); Nua (Canada); and The Sunshine Coast School of Celtic Music Trad Band (Canada). In 2013 Ferrie was commissioned to compose for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s ‘Out and About’ week, and in the same year was nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award with Scottish folk band Thalla. Ferrie is now performing with innovative folk trio Reelinki, based in Helsinki, Finland.
Rowan Piggott (England/Ireland/Sweden) grew up in the foothills of the Burren on the west coast of Ireland surrounded by traditional music. Both his father, Charlie (of De Dannan) and his mother, Frances (who taught him the fiddle) were key figures in his musical development.
The author of two successful tunebooks - including Swedish Fiddle Tunes - he has also written articles for several magazines and led fiddle workshops at festivals all over the country. A familiar face in ceilidh bands across the UK and a constant of the Irish session scene, he finds time to play at folk clubs & festivals with the Georgia Lewis Band, with whom he's recorded an EP and full-length studio album. Rowan also plays in a duo with BBC Young Folk Awards finalist Rosie Hodgson with whom he released Rise Aurora ("an impressive debut album...audible magic...thoroughly engaging" – fRoots) and founded the Causeway Céilí Band (available to hire for weddings, birthdays, corporate functions etc.)
His solo album, Mountscribe, was released this year to critical acclaim after winning the "Future of Young Folk Award" at Bromyard Folk Festival. Recently, Rowan received a creative bursary from EFDSS for his SONGHIVE folk project which he set up to raise awareness 0f the plight of the bees; took over the running of Brighton Acoustic Club; and has begun a new project with songwriter-poet Nick Burbridge. All this activity got him featured on the cover of The Living Tradition magazine.