We have had occasion several times to write about Norway’s Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra. They are interesting and divergent in a number of ways, outside of the band’s unusual name. It’s perfectly fitting, as they are an eight piece group, hence orchestra, and their music is quite carefully arranged.
We first encountered them in 2019 when they were the subject of one of our Bluegrass Beyond Borders, features where Lee Zimmerman conducts interviews with bluegrass artists outside the US every two weeks, to talk about how they discovered the music, and how they play it themselves. Immediately of interest was how Hayde was formed in 2012, as true a bluegrass conversion story as you will ever read.
It all started when a pair of acting students in Oslo, Joakim Borgen and Rebekka Nilsson, began to be drawn to the idea of pursuing music rather than simply drama as a career. Rebekka was already a fan of their native Nordic folk music, as well as folk and Americana from the States, but everything clicked when the two saw the Belgian film, The Broken Circle Breakdown. Based on the play of the same name by Johan Heldenbergh and Mieke Dobbels, the plot shares a love story between two characters which develops and eventually falls apart within a bluegrass band in which they are both members.
Nilsson and Borgen were immediately smitten, and began to put together a group to perform the sort of music seen in the film, and their own original compositions which tended to blend Appalachian and Nordic folk influences.
A debut album was released in 2019, and a followup is just now available, titled Migrants. In addition to Rebekka on vocals and Joakim on mandolin, the Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra (HBO for short) consists of Ole Engrav on guitar, Magnus Eriksrud on banjo, Moa Meinich on fiddle, Jonas Olsen on bass, Emil Brattested on reso-guitar, and Sjur Marqvardsen on accordion.
HBO entered 2020 with the highest possible hopes. They had been selected as an official Bluegrass Ramble showcase artist at the IBMA’s World of Bluegrass convention, and were expecting to include a five-week stint at Dollywood in their US visit. Of course as things transpired, the overseas trip was cancelled, and though they provided a very impressive concert performance on video for IBMA, the possibility of them being able to work live over here was lost.
They had achieved tremendous momentum in 2019 from success on YouTube, where their channel has nearly 30,000 subscribers, and their videos have received more than 5,000,000 views.
But instead of lamenting what could have been, energy was directed into producing a live concert with the music from Migrants, which they were able to edit down into their 20 minute World of Bluegrass showcase. It is now available on YouTube, the full production, which includes many elements from Joakim and Rebekka’s theatrical training. The staging, lighting, and videography are extremely well done, and Borgen told us that they manage to present it before a live audience last summer between the time when COVID restrictions were loosened and when shutdowns were reinstated.
Here is the full concert, which runs just over an hour. If you have watched the Oscar-nominated Broken Circle Breakdown, you will note the homage paid to the film.
Migrants is available now wherever you stream or download music online.