Fiolministeriet, or The Fiddle Ministry, is a string trio comprising Kirstine Sand (violin, vocals), Kirstine Elise Pedersen (cello, vocals), and Ditte Fromseier Mortensen (fiddle, viola, vocals). They draw much of their material from 18th century song collections and their home islands of Fuen and Bornholm. They have a powerful and rhythmic sound with the cello adding a solid underpinning not usually found in performances of traditional material. At times the arrangements sound quite classical in nature, like on “Gottlob Minuet”; at other times, they sound traditional with the two violins playing in harmony.
Harry Belafonte's first album features a solid variety of songs from American folk tradition, learned during his studies of folk music at the Library of Congress in the early 1950s. He had signed with RCA Victor in 1952, recording a series of well-received singles. Belafonte's new-found love for music of the West Indies can be found in songs such as "Man Piaba" (which he wrote) along with songs from English and Scottish tradition such as "Lord Randall" and "The Drummer & the Cook." Songs from African-American tradition include the chain gang song "Tol' My Captain" and the ubiquitous "John Henry." Mark Twain was a good initial effort, but Belafonte's repertoire and delivery would get stronger with the next album.
Norwegian folk musician Sinikka Langeland, singer and player of the kantele (the Finnish table harp) is a distinctly non-traditional traditionalist, redefining "folk" in successive projects. 'Maria's Song' finds her in the company of two distinguished classical musicians - organist Kare Nordstoga and "giant of the Nordic viola" Lars Anders Tomter - and on a mission to restore Marian texts to sacred music, weaving folk melodies in between the timeless strains of J S Bach. Langeland made a lot of friends with her sparkling ECM debut Starflowers: "There are jewels everywhere on this arresting example of ego-free music-making. One of the albums of this or any other year" raved the Irish Times. Where Starflowers brought Langeland into the orbit of jazz improvisers, Maria's Song is a meeting and cross referencing of folk and 'classical' energies, and also a righting of historical 'injustice': Religious folk songs are amongst the most distinctive elements of the Norwegian folk tradition, yet the Virgin Mary rarely appears in them. Once a much-worshipped figure in the Far North she was, as Sinikka puts it, "reformed" away in 1537, so this album brings Maria back into the music. It was recorded in the beautiful Nidaros Cathedral of Trondheim, famous for its Baroque organ heard here.