Bára Grímsdóttir is thought by many people to be one of the best traditional singers in her native country. She is also widely respected in Iceland as a composer, especially of vocal music. She grew up surrounded by folk songs, hearing her parents and grand parents singing at the family farm Grímstunga in Vatnsdalur in the north of Iceland.
Bára has a special interest in the old rimur and kvæðalög styles of song, but she is also knowledgeable about and performs songs in a range of other traditional forms, both
secular and religious. She has performed widely in Europe and North America with Sigurður Rúnar Jónssonn and Njáll Sigurðsson and as a member of the group
‘Embla’, of which she was a founder member.
In her role as composer and arranger, Bára continues to draw on the well of traditional Icelandic music, while as a performer she invests the traditional songs that she performs with a natural authority born out of her having been surrounded by them from birth.
Chris Foster is a master of his trade recently described as “one of the finest singers and most thoughtful inventive guitar accompanists of English
folk songs.” In an article in fROOTS magazine (August 2008) Colin Irwin wrote “Chris Foster merits legend status, one of the very best in the second wave of the Brit folk revival,
as important as Martin Carthy, Dick Gaughan and Nic Jones in the way he modernised and invested traditional songs with inventive guitar arrangements and potent vocal delivery.” His new CD
‘OUTSIDERS’ was one of the runners up in the 2008 fROOTS magazine best CD poll of 300 critics and broadcasters.
Chris grew up in Somerset, in the south west of England, where he first heard and started singing folk songs. He takes tales of romance, magic, murder, liquor, love, adultery and cross-dressing; shared experiences of the human condition that are instantly recognisable to all audiences, crossing boundaries of urban and rural experience, of past and present. On stage his fine musicianship is underpinned by his urbane wit and engaging enthusiasm for his music that draws the audience into his performance.
Over the past 30 years he has performed and recorded throughout the UK, Europe, Canada and the USA. In recent years Chris has been increasingly in demand as an accompanist on other people’s recording projects.
Check out their music at myspace.com/funireykjavik & myspace.com/chrisfosterfolk
FUNI(an old Icelandic word meaning Fire) are Bára
Grímsdóttir and Chris Foster, consummate performers of the traditional songs the northern European countries of Iceland and England. Both Bára and Chris are powerful solo
singers, but when they sing together, especially in the unique Icelandic tvísöngur harmony style, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts; and the resulting combination, enhanced
by displays of old and new photographs, is a spell binding mix.
Bára and Chris have been working together since meeting at a festival in England in 2000. They have pioneered the use of English, finger style, altered guitar tunings and kantele to accompany the often modal melodies of Icelandic song. Since 2004 they have also been exploring the musical possibilities of Iceland´s two traditional instruments the Íslensk fiðla and the langspil, a close relative of the Norwegian Langeleik. Nowadays these traditional instruments are only known to be played by less than ten people in Iceland.
Since 2001 Bára and Chris have performed and taught at festivals, concerts and on radio in Belgium, China, Eire, Holland, Hungary, and the USA as well as in Iceland, England, Wales and Scotland. They now live in Reykjavík, Iceland. In February 2009 they ran the first ever degree level course on Icelandic traditional music at Listaháskóli Íslands, the Icelandic Academy of the Arts.
Singly, each singer is a great presenter of the music of a native island, but as a duo with great skill and musicality, they transform the music of their islands into universals.
Review of "FUNI" concert for the Folk Society of Greater Washington, USA, July 2004
They released the acclaimed CD "FUNI" in 2004.
Funi is a magnificent album, not only because of the music that is offered, but also because of the excellent background information, the lyrics and introductions to the songs which are given in a booklet of 36 pages. This booklet and the folding digipak have been filled abundantly with illustrations, mostly old photographs. Funi is not only a feast for the eye, but also for the ears…. the CD remains fascinating from beginning to end. Funi puts the Icelandic folk music culture on the map of world music.
Marius Roeting, New Folk Sounds magazine, Holland
…and then came the chosen guests for the evening - Chris Foster and Bára Grímsdóttir who quite frankly were something else! I know them both and their work very well, but, I'm not going to try and describe what they do, other than it's an authoritative mixture of Icelandic and English traditional singing and music... and it's as good as it gets! If you're a club organiser reading this and you haven't had them (as it were), I am moved to strongly recommend that you fit them in next time they visit these shores, they are just wonderful! …
Keith Kendrick, reviewing a concert in England, September 2008
… I am bowled over. This could be the best album of Chris Foster's long career; thoughtful, passionate, intelligent, nerve-jangling performances.
Vic Smith, The Folk Diary, England
Höggmyndasalur Sigurjóns Ólafssonar var þétt setinn langt fram í anddyri og hvert tiltækt aukasæti skipað, svo nokkrir urðu að standa…. Örugglega besta aðsókn sumarsins á staðnum, a.m.k. að mér viðstöddum….. Foster er afar lunkinn á gítarundirspil. Sérstaklega vakti þó eftirtekt hrífandi samhljómur gítars og kjöltuhörpu (kantele) Báru í fallega laginu Morgunbæn.
Ríkharður Örn Pálsson, Morgunblaðið, Iceland
His singing is both immediate and intimate, and conveys more passion and true understanding through its precision of diction and phrasing than many a more superficially emotive rendition, while the hallmark of his guitar work is its accomplished creation and sustaining of the ideal backdrop for the narratives, unobtrusive yet having a sense of presence that is wholly complementary.
David Kidman, England
… After a song or two, it’s time for Bára Grímsdóttir to sing; the Icelandic repertoire is little known here, but her haunting voice, sometimes accompanied by Chris’s guitar, makes the perfect introduction to this ancient tradition, at once foreign and accessible. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a better presentation, even for those who are familiar with Icelandic song. Icelandic sounds are enough like English that you think you ought to be able to overcome the language barrier, and thanks to Bára’s expressive singing and careful introductions, you often feel like you do.
Charlie Baum, Folk Society of Greater Washington, USA
Chris and Bára interpret the narrative traditional songs of England and Iceland with sublime artistry. Bára’s crystal clear voice and Chris’ exemplary instrumental work are a stunning combination. The music of FUNI has the power to occupy the consciousness of an audience long after the last note from voice or guitar has been performed.
Chris Ridley, Cornwal Folk Directory, England
Chris Foster and Bára Grímsdóttir were stellar members of our teaching and performing faculty in the summer of 2004 and 2005. Student evaluations of the artists' work were very positive, and the duo's performances both in workshops and on festival stages were top-notch and well-received. I would be happy to speak with any venue or promoter in support of hiring Chris and Bára.
Walt Michael, Executive Director Common Ground on the Hill, Maryland, USA
….The performance was scheduled to take place in the coffee bar but weight of numbers forced a welcome transposition to the larger theatre. ….Bára Grímsdóttir possesses a voice of great range, resonance and subtlety. I found it impossible to guess her age. She looked old and young at the same time, just like the music sounded ancient and new.
Patrick Wood , Sandman Music Magazine, Sheffield, England, June 2004
…Lögin endurómuðu því í minningunum og fortíðin varð ljóslifandi. Kannski var það ásæðan fyrir því hve tónlistin var heillandi. …. Mörg laganna fjölluðu um heitar ástríður og sum þeirra voru verulega skemmtileg. Alltént framkallaði glettnin í þeim hlátursgusur meðal áheyrenda….Þau Bára og Foster kynntu lögin líka einkar fjörlega og sá síðarnefndi hefur fallega hljómmikla rödd sem hæfir svona tónlist fullkomlega. Unaður var að hlýða á hann syngja…..Útsetningarnar voru prýðilegar, en þær voru eftir þau tvö. Sjóferðabæn Hallgríms Péturssonar var hrífandi nýaldarleg og litla harpan litaði lagið goðsagnakenndum blæ. Funi, við texta eftir ömmu Báru, var jafnframt sérlega sjarmerandi og harpan gerði lagið tímalaust. Þannig mætti lengi telja.
Jónas Sen, Morgunblaðið, Iceland, February 2006
It’s not every day that an unfamiliar, yet readily accessible new tradition comes along, so check this out.
Nick Beale reviewing the FUNI CD in fROOTS magazine