The Alehouse Sessions - Bjarte Eike and Barokksolistene (Rubicon)
"You don't need to know anything about music or what's the difference between baroque music and jazz and classical, or you don't need to behave in a certain way and there are no rules in that way."
And that's what makes the Alehouse sessions with Norwegian violinist Bjarte Eike and his Baroque ensemble, Barokksolistene, so much fun to see in concert.
"And we have created different types of projects or I like to call them creative rooms where we can step in and refurbish … put in new repertory and change the tapestry every now and then," Bjarte explains. "But I like to keep them in in a sort of I like to combine storytelling performing and music making when I'm on the stage."
Ten years ago, Bjarte Eike launched the Alehouse sessions at a festival in Norway. Bjarte and others brought to life music from the inns, taverns and alehouses of 17th-century London. It was an immediate hit, so Bjarte decided to develop it further. Recently, he released a recording that reflects what you might witness at one of these concerts. "We have hours and hours and hours of music now that we can present, and I like to keep it very much a live thing because the communication with the audience is very important and the communication on stage … we don't have any music stands. We talk a lot with the audience. We make them sing and these kind of things. So, I was very careful about making a recording for a long time, but now it's been 10 years and it was sort of a good time to try to present what I would like to call the soundtrack to the film. So it's a representation of the project with a mix of all the different worlds that we like to work with."
There's certainly a mix of it on this recording, The Alehouse Sessions. How did you determine the order in which the pieces would appear on this recording then?
"There was a long process, and I can tell you that we had recorded quite a lot and I liked to keep it in one take, everything, so I couldn't. So if we did one take of 'The Curtain Tune' and then we did that maybe five times, and then I picked the best one. And I wanted to be very conscious to make a solid album that deserves to be listened to and enjoyed because there is some fantastic music from that time. I wanted to make a good representation of the project and be very conscious about picking music that I knew would work as an album and that could stand alone without being live or experienced with all the visual elements happening."
Let's talk about some of the some of the tunes that are found on The Alehouse Sessions recordings. You said you have some of your favorites; would you like to point those out?
"Well they sort of tend to change. One day, it's maybe the 'Lead Me' — because it sort of captures the whole project in one in one track because it's an aria by Henry Purcell that we then do some improvisation on in the middle and then we add a tune from this English dancing master which is called 'Italian Rant.' And one of my musicians is then doing his Eastern European type of singing on top of it. And then it goes back into our own arrangement of Purcell's as a male chorus at the end, so it's sort of has a lot of the elements that we do.
"But then I say I also like the 'Virgin Queen' set quite a lot. I always love to play that because it's groovy and cool.
"And the 'Curtain Tune' is fantastic as well. It's a composition by Henry Purcell that we haven't altered anything, but we do it in our style and it's a bit more swing or rock orientated than most versions you would find of that particular tune, but it just it has such a fantastic bass line that just goes on and on and on. It's fun to play."
I have to say the male chorus really jumps out on this recording, especially on the final track, "Leave Her Johnny." That's a great sea shanty. It just makes you want to sing along.
"Yes. And we invite our audiences to join in and so both that one and 'Haul Away' and others."
To hear the rest of my conversation about The Alehouse Sessions with Bjarte Eike, download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.