Zenobia: Blot en Ild

January 17, 2018

Eternal Flame

Listening Post 133. Like campers kindling a fire with logs, twigs and dry leaves, the women of Zenobia stoke their music with every-life elements—joy and folly, love and sorrow, pride and prejudice. For their fourth album, Louise Støjberg (lead vocals), Mette Kathrine Jensen Stærk (accordion) and Charlotte Støjberg (piano), have composed 16 melodies in the Danish folk tradition, with the lion’s share of new lyrics by Martin Rauff-Nielsen, in addition to some classic songs dressed in their new tunes. With exquisite imagery and sound, Blot en Ild (Merely a Fire) is playful and serious, sparkling and touching. The melancholy Sprogø is named for the island that once housed a notorious institution for young women removed from society because they were branded “morally defective” (video 1). Midsummer revelry drives Døber, Sanger, Knægte, Flammer (Baptist, Singer, Lads, Flames), fusing a Protestant nation, a Catholic saint (John the Baptist) a pagan bonfire and communal singing (video 2). The title track muses on whether life is like a fire doomed to expire (video 3), while palpable joy fuels the instrumental Johs’ Bryllupsvals (Johs’ Wedding Waltz), composed by Mette Katherine for her wedding to Johs Stærk (video 4). Album chapters unfold like a page turner—a love story about a rose and a thorn bush (and the gardeners who try to destroy their hybrid offspring); an elderly woman looking back on her life; the cautionary tale of drunken villagers who, based on rumor, take up arms and march against an imaginary enemy; and the patriotic I Danmark er Jeg Født (I Was Born in Denmark), with a new melody for lyrics—written during a real war—by Hans Christian Andersen. Even if the fire of life burns out, the beauty we create survives us. With Blot en Ild, Zenobia knocks on the door of eternity. (GO Danish Folk Music)


Sprogø: “A long way from home, ideally just forgotten, the country should be shielded from them.
One was in a brawl, another too promiscuous, society thought it was best they were gone.
The island in the Great Belt hid the maidens until time erased all the traces.
The island in the Great Belt remembers every name, every story and every sung word.”


Døber, Sanger, Knægte, Flammer: “Baptist, it’s your summer celebration/Your evening sky is open and blue,
Stars know one another best/Above the stretch of thousands of fires
Singer, come with your warm voice/Return, white like a church liming
The song of our common chest/Embraces the summer night’s everything 

Flames, eat from the dry wood/The smoke that rises is pasty grey
Winter waiting after the rye has spread its pollen/As a summer that tries to extend its life.”


Blot en ild: “What has happened in my mind?
Could I lose everything I do not yet have/By wishing that everything is as it has always been? 

Yes, the sun will rise, will rise, this morning/Yes, the sun will rise in the east.
I can count on tomorrow coming/By itself, when the shadows flee.

Is life merely a fire, just a fire of a thought?
You can warm up as long as you have time/But one day the fire will burn out.”





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