A new discovery for me:
Helene Blum (born 1979) is a Danish singer and musician who specializes in folk music. Since 2005, when she won the Danish Music Awards Folk prize for her album En sød og liflig klang, she has performed widely in Denmark, North America and Germany, frequently appearing with her husband Harald Haugaard.
Born in 1979 in Gelsted on the Danish island of Funen, Helene Blum was the first singer to graduate from the folk music department at the Carl Nielsen Academy of Music in Odense when she received her diploma in 2004. Together with her husband, the fiddler Harald Haugaard, she has given over 700 performances in Denmark, Germany and North America. Composing most of her songs herself, she combines folk, pop and chanson.
Singing soprano, Blum has also performed in the ballet Medea at the Schleswig-Holsteinische Landestheater in Flensburg and in the opera Konsuma in Odense. The composer, Rasmus Zwicki, wrote a special part for her. She went on to perform in the Helene Blum & Harald Haugaard Quintet, singing and playing the violin. The other players are Kristine Elise Pedersen (cello), Mattias Perez (guitar), and Sune Rahbek (percussion). In 2017, the Helene Blum and Harald Haugaard Band also included Mikkel Grue (guitar) and Mathæus Bech (bass). Now averaging a hundred concerts a year, they have performed together in Germany, the United States, Austria, Norway, Canada, Japan and Denmark.
The Daily Telegraph included her Men med åbne øjne as one of the best folk music albums of 2013. Calling the album “an unexpected treat”, the critic Martin Chilton praised Blum’s “haunting voice”, even if nearly all the lyrics were in Danish.
Harald Haugaard (born 23 February 1975) is a Danish violinist and composer raised on the island of Funen in Denmark. He is best known as a folk musician, having collaborated with musician Morten Alfred Høirup in the duo Haugaard & Høirup, and with folk singer Helene Blum. Together, they perform as the Helene Blum & Harald Haugaard Band.
Haugaard studied general music education at the Funen Music Conservatory in 1998. There, he was a lecturer of folk music education from 2000-2005. He also taught at the Norwegian Music College, the Vestjysk Music Conservatory, Ollerup Efterskole, and the Royal College of Music, Stockholm. In 2000, he played violin on the second studio album of the folktronica band Sorten Muld, entitled “III”.
Together with Morten Alfred Høirup, he formed the duo Haugaard & Høirup in 1998. This act received numerous nominations and awards, winning the title of “Danish Folk Art Artist of the Year” and “Danish People’s Composer of the Year” at the 2004 Danish Music Awards. He released his fourth solo album Den Femte Søster in 2011. This album earned Haugaard the “Instrumentalist of the Year” award, and the album, “The Danish People’s Album of the Year” in 2012. He was also nominated for “Composer of the Year”.
In 2009 he released a solo album entitled Burning Fields. Released by Pile House Records, it received five out of six stars by the music magazine GAFFA. I 2011 he released Den Femte Søster, which GAFFA gave four out of six stars.
In 2012 he joined the folk art festival BALTICA as artistic director with his youth ensemble. He also was an artistic director and teacher at the South Danish Folk Music School from 2012-2016.
Haugaard founded and directs two summer schools: Haugaard’s International Fiddle School and Haugaard’s West Denmark Fiddle School (in 2008 and 2015, respectively).
Haugaard collaborated with the folksinger Helene Blum, and toured with her through their act Helene Blum & Harald Haugaard Band. In 2015, they were nominated for “Singer/Musician of the Year” at the Danish Folk Music Awards. (wikipedia)
And here´s their christmas album:
Atmospheric Christmas concert drawing from the richness of Nordic music.
By placing traditions in an exciting, modern context, singer Helene Blum and violinist Harald Haugaard are among Denmark’s most popular artists. They move between folk, classical, jazz and balladry with delight and confident ease. Whether melancholy songs or exuberant Scandinavian dances, purely acoustic or interwoven with electronic sounds – their music has grace, power, poetry and soul. Haugaard’s grandiose playing on the fiddle and Blum’s sensitive singing are deeply touching. Live, they take the audience by storm with their natural style. Their album “Julerosen”, in German “Christrose”, is about an atmospheric Christmas concert that takes you on a wintry journey through the north: to icy-cold Karelia, where hope sounds from deep flute notes; to Swedish songs of St. Staffan steering his horses through snow-covered forests; to the streets of Copenhagen, where a little girl sells her sulphur woods. Blum and Haugaard have invited some of the best artists from past concerts – Timo Alakotila (piano), Tapani Varis (double bass, overtone flutes), Leo Svensson (cello), Mikkel Grue (guitars) and Sune Rahbek (percussion) – to form a brilliant seven-piece ensemble. The musicians from Finland, Sweden and Denmark are in a class of their own, and so “Julerosen” draws on the whole wealth of Nordic music. (press release)
Helene Blum & Harald Haugaard come from Denmark and the duo has released a new CD for Christmas. Contemplation, tranquillity and cheerfulness are attributes associated with Christmas and this is also true of the album, Julerosen (Christ Rose), by Blum and Haugaard. To record the silver disc, the two Danes got support from other musicians and you can hear that in the variety of instruments. Violin, piano, double bass, flutes, guitars, mandolin, percussion belong to the instrumental line-up, as do cello, dobro, clarinet, flugelhorn and nykkelharpa. Not all instruments are always used at the same time. In Hjemlige jul, for example, only the cello and Helene Blum’s singing can be heard.
A lot of effort has been put into the booklet. Besides a nice introduction to the Christmas season and a poem (in Danish) by Helene Blum, there is information about all the songs. In addition, there is a recipe for a Rye stollen and other interesting facts.
The coincidental timing of listening to the album for the first time couldn’t have been better. I was once again on the road at night by car, about 300 km through northern Germany. The first snow had fallen and I slid the CD into the player as I drove off. The first piece, Julerosen, started to play and there it was, the Christmas mood. And to say it right away, the whole time until I was back home, I enjoyed the music.
On the silver disc, besides studio recordings, four live recordings, Et lidet barn så lysteligt, Fålen, Maria gennem torne går and Polskor are burned. All great songs, all of which have something wonderful about them. The first three are quiet, contemplative works and Polskor is a happy, danceable instrumental. In Maria gennem torne går, I especially like the alternating playing of dobro and clarinet in the instrumental part of the song. Great cinema! The piece originally comes from Germany and is known here as Maria durch ein Dornwald ging.
Now to the works produced in the studio. There is another instrumental piece on the CD. It is called December Polonaise and I like it very much. A cheerful melody, with a beautiful instrumental arrangement, in which the use of the clarinet again appeals to me. There are also two violins, cello, guitar, double bass and percussion. A great song is also Julerosen. A Christmas carol as one would wish for it. Sung and played with a lot of feeling, but also very festive. Julevise 1862 is also fun to listen to and a song that manages to inspire. I could go on like this, because I like all the pieces very much and that doesn’t happen often.
There are two tracks I would like to mention. With a blink of an eye, I must confess, Sikken voldsom trængsel og alarm is my favourite song on the CD. A very beautiful, atmospheric, cheerful piece that takes you along and sticks in your ear. A Christmas song couldn’t be better!
You won’t find Kimer i Klokker on the track list. The eleventh piece on the silver disc is called that and is a bonus on the disc. Very festive and played and sung with a lot of feeling, it is a grand finale to the album. Especially the flugelhorn contributes immensely. I am still very enthusiastic.
I think you could already notice my enthusiasm for this album when reading the review. I am too! What I have here is a masterpiece of high quality and recorded with much love. Everything fits and you want to listen to the CD again and again. If you like Scandinavian music and are into Christmas, you will love this disc. Beautiful melodies paired with the clear voice of Helene Blum make the album something special. It is a mixture of a lot of fresh folk, some classical and jazz. The music enchanted me and let my thoughts drift. And the album still has one thing: a lot of soul! (Jens Peglow)
Helene Blum (vocals, violin)
Ragnhild Furebotten (violin)
Mikkel Grue (guitar)
Harald Haugaard (violin, mandolin)
Sune Rahbek (percussion)
Tapani Varis (bass)
Mikkel Boggild (guitar on 11.)
Sune Hansbaek( guitar on 06.)
Soren Mikkelson (sonics on 08.)
Kirstine Elise Pedersen (cello on 06.)
Rene Hojlund-Rasmussen (clarinet on 04.)
Erik Rydvall (nyckleharpa on 05., 10. + 11.)
Jonas Simonsson (clarinet on 02., 07.)
Torben Sminge (flugelhorn on 11.)
Leo Svensson (cello on 05. + 10.)
Rasmus Zeeberg (mandolin on 02., guitar on 06.)
01. Julerosen (Blum) 3.35
02. Et lidet barn så lysteligt (live) (Traditional/Grundtvig) 3.01
03. Hjemlige jul (Nielsen/Bonnelycke) 1.56
04. December Polonaise (Haugaard/Grue) 3.32
05. Fålen (live) (Traditional) 2.55
06. Julevise 1862 (Blum/Haugaard/Traditional) 3.20
07. Maria gennem torne går (Maria zum Dornwald ging) (live) (Traditional) 3.50
08. Sorte Stær (Blum/Haugaard/Gregersen) 4.38
09. Sikken voldsom trængsel og alarm (Traditional/Haugaard/Faber) 3.09
10. Polskor (live) (Traditional) 5.32
11. Kimer i Klokker (Rung/Haugaard/Grundtvig) 2.43
The official website: