Sigmund Groven presents his latest album, Over the Rainbow: A collection of his most requested songs.
Most requested songs
The repertoire we have chosen is almost like a list of ”most requested songs”, so here, at long last, are some of the pieces which we have played over the years in our concerts but had not recorded previously. The title song of the album hardly needs any introduction. During the Millennium year this was voted in America the finest song of the 20th century – and deservedly so. Recalling the magic of Judy Garland I always find it an extremely emotional piece to play. A more recent song from a show which quickly gained status as a ”standard” is Stephen Sondheim’s ”Send in the Clowns”. The harmonica has a haunting, plaintive quality which I think suits the wistful mood of ”Londonderry Air” (also known as ”Danny Boy” or ”Irish Tune from County Derry”). The ”Irish Medley” diplays some of the other typical aspects of the traditional music from the ”Emerald Isle”: the humour, the rhythm, the ”lilt”. James Moody who did the arrangement, was born in Belfast, and made a name as piano accompanist and musical associate of the legendary harmonica virtuoso Tommy Reilly. I have always had a liking for folk music, and often use this showy arrangement of the traditional Jewish melody ”Hava Nagila” to finish my concerts.
We have also included some short classical ”lollipops”: the charming ”Gavotte” from the opera ”Mignon” by French composer Ambroise Thomas, Saint-Saëns serene musical description of ”The Swan”, Bach-Gounod’s well-loved ”Ave Maria”, and the ”Siciliano” from Bach’s Second Flute Sonata. A ”classic” of a rather different nature is Scott Joplin’s tongue-in-cheek ”The Entertainer”, made famous in the Paul Newman-Robert Redford movie ”The Sting”. The remainder of the music on this album are original pieces specially composed for the harmonica. ”Ribbon of Sand” which the outstanding English multi-instrumentalist and composer John Surman wrote for me some years ago has an idyllic English pastoral atmosphere. ”Homeward Bound” is a piece I wrote after having been away on tour for weeks and was anxious to get home. This has been arranged arranged for harmonica with every conceivable combination including brass band, symphony orchestra, disco rhythm, and church organ (!) but here is the original version which I have been using in my concerts with Iver Kleive for over 20 years. The late Tommy Reilly who I was very fortunate to have as my mentor since the age of 14, was not only a brilliant harmonica soloist and one of the true pioneers of the instrument, but also a fine composer. His pieces for harmonica included hair-raising virtuoso numbers as well as such gorgeous melodies as ”Golden Girl”.
Some years ago the Norsemen’s Federation (an organization promoting the links between Norway and North America) commissioned from me a work commemorating the voyages of the brave Viking sailors and explorers who crossed the rough seas of the North Atlantic from Iceland and Greenland in their longboats. These daring Norse seafarers actually arrived at the Eastern shores of North America around the year 1000 AD – almost 500 years prior to Columbus, and named it ”Vinland” (literally ”Land of Wine” or possible ”Land of Meadows” – experts disagree on this). I found this an inspiring commission which triggered my imagination – hence the descriptive titles: ”Across the Ocean”, ”Foreign Shores” and ”Heritage”. I have included a couple of quotations from very old Icelandic traditional themes, also a short humourous reference to Bernstein’s ”America” (from ”West Side Story”) in the last movement. It was a pleasure working with Norway’s gifted keyboard player, arranger and composer Helge Iberg on the recording of the ”Vinland Suite”. ”Song of the Harmonica” (Norwegian title ”Så spiller vi harmonica”) which I wrote with Erik Bye, Norway’s most beloved radio and TV personality, singer, poet and author, has become almost like a signature tune for me. I thought this version in which Ivar Anton Waagaard and I are joined by another old friend and musical associate, Kjetil Bjerkestrand, one of Norway’s most sought-after arrangers/composers, would be a good way to round off my new album of ”most requested songs”.